2015/07/06

ESPN Tennis Conference Call with Chris Evert, Patrick McEnroe and Pam Shriver

(March 16, 2015) ESPN tennis analysts Chrissie Evert, Patrick McEnroe and Pam Shriver spoke with media on Monday. Currently, ESPN3 is providing live all-day coverage from the three main stadiums at the BNP Paribas Open, with ESPN television joining on Thursday, March 19, through Sunday’s women’s and men’s championships.

Soundbites:

How good is Madison Keys?

· “I saw her at age 12. I think that everybody that saw her at that point thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, there’s so much raw power, that if she could just control it and harness it, she’s going to be a great player.’ Very much like a Serena, she has the second best serve out there, which she’s going to win a lot of free points holding her serve…But she’s got it all. She has natural ease and power in her shots.” – Evert

· “The first time I really came out of a match with my jaw sort of dropping was a couple years ago at the Australian Open when she beat Paszek, beat her routinely. She beat her with two weapons: the serve and the forehand. In my mind, in women’s tennis especially, when you can come through with those two big weapons, it can set you apart….I can tell you from my courtside position a couple years ago, I came out feeling fantastic that the U.S. had a true prospect to get to the top spot.” – Shriver

The strong state of women’s tennis:

· “The women’s game is as healthy as it’s been in a long time, to have Serena obviously doing what she’s doing. You’re finally I think seeing some young players that got some gumption, that got some real attitude that they can compete with the best in Bouchard and Keys, Svitolina and others. I think Coco Vandeweghe deserves to be in that conversation, as well.” – McEnroe

· “The bottom half of the women’s draw — Bouchard, Keys, Jankovic, Bencic, Wozniacki, Ivanovic, Garcia, Lisicki, Errani, Azarenka, Sharapova. That’s the kind of quality draw that in the last six, seven years we haven’t been fortunate enough to have. The recession of women’s tennis that started with Justine Henin retiring is well and truly over.” – Shriver

Q. Madison Keys, she’s really at this point obviously a big-time player, top 20. I know how familiar all of you are with her. Can you tell me why of all of the young up-and-coming players you think she is the one?

CHRIS EVERT: I mean, for those of us who saw her at a young age, I saw her at age 12. I think that everybody that saw her at that point thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, there’s so much raw power, that if she could just control it and harness it, she’s going to be a great player.’ Very much like a Serena, she has the second best serve out there, which she’s going to win a lot of free points holding her serve. She has so much power, more so than any of the other top players, aside from Serena and Venus, her whole game, not counting Maria Sharapova obviously on the groundstrokes. But she’s got it all. She has natural ease and power in her shots. I feel like I think Lindsay and her husband are a great fit for her right now. At the same time, I think we all felt she would achieve greatness sooner or later when she was ready, when she was emotionally ready. I think the emotional and mental part came along a little bit later than the physical part.

PAM SHRIVER: Well, I think for me, I’m not as familiar as Patrick and Chrissie in the development part, I’m just familiar with Madison as I’ve observed her the last few years for my ESPN position. The first time I really came out of a match with my jaw sort of dropping was a couple years ago at the Australian Open when she beat Paszek, beat her routinely. She beat her with two weapons: the serve and the forehand. In my mind, in women’s tennis especially, when you can come through with those two big weapons, it can set you apart. Over two years ago she was really, really young in her professional career. Now I think we see the pathway a little more clearly with a great team around her, what she did at the Australian Open. No big surprises. I can tell you from my courtside position a couple years ago, I came out feeling fantastic that the U.S. had a true prospect to get to the top spot.

PATRICK McENROE: Not to pat all of us on the back, but I think it’s been a wonderful progression for Madison. I think the first people that deserve a pat on the back are her parents. She’s a great girl, a great person. She’s got a great head on her shoulders. And her first coaches. Then Chrissie and her brother John, through her formative years when she was 12 up until she was I guess 15 or 16.

Then I have to give a pat on the back to my team at the USTA for doing a great job with her and taking her as a very talented teenager and turning her into a top-40 player. As Chrissie said, I think this is a logical progression for her to get the great insight of a great champion like Lindsay, someone who really studies the game and understands the game well. Obviously they got along great when they did their trial period out at the USTA training center in Southern Cal, so well that along with her husband Jon, it turned into a full-time thing. To me, as the head of player development for the last seven years, this has been an ideal progression for a talented player coming through, and the USTA helping along the way, Chrissie and her team doing a great job, arguably the most important years of developing her technique and strokes. Now obviously passing her off to a great player and great champion, someone who I think can take her all the way to the next level. The next level is winning majors.

Whether she can do that this year is up in the air. But I certainly think within the next 24 months, two and a half to three years, absolutely she can win a major.

Q. Today at the tournament is Azarenka versus Sharapova, then Roger playing Seppi, then Serena Williams and Stephens. Can you comment on some those matches.

PAM SHRIVER: First off, I think the quality of both draws is phenomenal. I think we saw great balance at the Australian Open. I feel like we’re in for just a great year of tennis at all the majors and all the Masters Series and Premiere WTAs. The draws are loaded. We’re getting fantastic early-round matchups.

Stephens-Williams has a lot of history based on the quarterfinal upset a couple of Australian Opens ago, but it also tells a different story of two different pathways, where Serena has been a dominant player since that loss, but Sloane Stephens has gone the other way, but is showing signs. If Sloane Stephens can feel a little more relaxed with Madison Keys picking up a lot of attention from her generation, other American women playing really well, maybe this is Sloane’s true comeback year. I would expect Serena to win that match. Chrissie, you want to take Azarenka-Sharapova?

CHRIS EVERT: No. You take it.

PAM SHRIVER: One of the reasons women’s tennis is looking better this year is because of players like Azarenka being healthy again. She looked for a while like the best hard court player in women’s tennis when she was winning two Australian Opens, almost beating Serena in two US Open finals. She was pretty much a non-entity last year.

The way she played at the Australian, the way she’s playing here, playing the quality of tennis she played a couple years ago, are great for women’s tennis.

What isn’t great is for people who like a quiet match (laughter). But we’ll have to deal with it. It will only last a couple hours.

CHRIS EVERT: I just think that Sharapova-Azarenka is going to be really telling to see how far Azarenka has come along as far as taking time off. She seems to have had a resurgence and she seems to have reset her career and her inspiration, seems like 100%. I always think that taking breaks for players is such a good deal, such a good decision. It just refreshes you. You just get so flat and burned out playing year after year after year and not taking a good chunk of really four or five months off. I think she’s been better as a result. These two players could end up 2 and 3 at the end of the year. That’s how tough this third round is.

On the other hand, Sloane, I love the way she has played this tournament. I’m very happy that she’s with Nick Saviano. I have a lot of respect for him as a coach, seeing what he did with Genie Bouchard. If anybody can help her attitude and mental outlook on her tennis, it’s going to be Nick with Sloane. So good signs, showing good attitude out there, good body language. These are just two great showcase matches for women’s tennis.

PATRICK McENROE: Maybe one you forgot about, we haven’t mentioned her yet, is Coco Vandeweghe. She’s done a terrific job. She’s seeded, what, about 30 or 31 out there. She’s sort of quietly playing the best tennis of her career. Similar to Madison, we’ve known about her since she was a teenager from Southern Cal. Being a huge hitter of the ball and a good athlete. It’s taken her a little while, but she’s figured out how to get herself in really good condition. I love the way she’s playing. She’s still a little bit up and down. She played some great tennis in Australia, then didn’t play so well when she lost. Taking on Bouchard, who Chrissie and Pam talked about already, that’s the first match out there on the stadium court today. That’s a good one. Bouchard obviously with a new coach, as well. She’s got a lot to prove this year, a lot of pressure on her after an unbelievable year last year.

The women’s game is as healthy as it’s been in a long time, to have Serena obviously doing what she’s doing. You’re finally I think seeing some young players that got some gumption, that got some real attitude that they can compete with the best in Bouchard and Keys, Svitolina and others. I think Coco Vandeweghe deserves to be in that conversation, as well.

Obviously we’re certainly looking forward to seeing Roger take on Seppi. While we would all pencil this in as a routine Roger win based on overall his record against Seppi, losing for the first time at the Australian to him, which was a shocker obviously, I wouldn’t be quite that quick. Seppi is a really good player. He’s had an excellent last year and a half on the tour. I expect him to play well again. Obviously Roger’s antenna will be way up for this. Coming off a win in Dubai over Djokovic got him back on track with his confidence that he can have another great year. Just like the women’s draw, the men’s draw is loaded. It’s a nice early test for Roger to see where he’s at.

CHRIS EVERT: Is Bencic playing Wozniacki?

THE MODERATOR: That’s second on.

CHRIS EVERT: That’s another one to watch, 18-year-old Bencic. Patrick was talking about the young ones. She’s 18 years old, had a slow start, but had a great year last year.

PAM SHRIVER: The bottom half of the women’s draw, Bouchard, Keys, Jankovic, Bencic, Wozniacki, Ivanovic, Garcia, Lisicki, Errani, Azarenka, Sharapova. That’s the kind of quality draw that in the last six, seven years we haven’t been fortunate enough to have. The recession of women’s tennis that started with Justine Henin retiring is well and truly over.

CHRIS EVERT: Good point.

Q. I wanted to talk about the event you’re at. Obviously players want to win at every event. This has the aura of a fifth major. Do you see players and advertisers, media, putting this on a higher shelf than other events on the tour?

PAM SHRIVER: From a Southern California standpoint, to think this is the only professional tournament in one of the great tennis hotbeds in the history of the game is kind of a shame. But it also makes it, for this region, because living here, hearing the buildup the last month, you can feel this is a big-time Southern Cal event.

CHRIS EVERT: You look at next week, Miami, this week Indian Wells. You talked about hotbeds. California and Florida are the two biggest tennis dates, I feel, in the country, and have really come up with some great players, play all year round. There are a lot of tennis enthusiasts. It’s only apropos that these two big tournaments are held in these two states. You could say the fifth. I would like to say the Road to Singapore, the WTA Finals, in the players’ mind is the fifth one. But then you have this one and Miami right there with it. It’s probably the most popular with the players. What’s not to be great to come out here in this weather, in this atmosphere, this facility, this venue. I think it’s definitely one of the players’ favorites.

PATRICK McENROE: There’s no doubt that these Masters events in general have been elevated to another level. You might get the same argument from a Cincinnati or even some of the European clay court events, which are tremendous as well. The nice thing about these two events, obviously Indian Wells, the facilities are phenomenal with Larry Ellison, what he’s been able to do to take it to a whole other level by building a new stadium. The grounds are tremendous. I was out there this past weekend. The buzz around the grounds, it’s electric to be out there.

The weather doesn’t hurt out there, as well. I think the time of year. There’s really no major that it conflicts with. You get towards the end of the major clay court tune-up, people are thinking about the French. In the summer, people don’t want to tire themselves out too much leading into the US Open. These two are just great events. This one, where it’s located, what Larry Ellison has been able to do. Ray Moore and Charlie Pasarell starting out had an amazing vision of what this event could be. I think it’s turned into that and a lot more.

Q. Patrick, what do you think of this picture floating around of your brother sitting between Bill Gates and Larry Ellison?

PATRICK McENROE: I thought I was the one in the McEnroe family with a low net worth (laughter). A little reality check for him there, you know.

CHRIS EVERT: Patrick, he was a little intimidated.

PATRICK McENROE: Who wouldn’t be, I’ll tell you.

Q. I have this theory that they made McEnroe pick up the check that night.

PATRICK McENROE: That would be okay. He could afford it (laughter).

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Tennis Hall of Fame Holds Annual Legends Ball in New York City

 

(September 6, 2013) NEW YORK CITY –The International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum held their annual Legends Ball, presented by BNP Paribas, on Friday, September 6 at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City. The Legends Ball will paid tribute to the Hall of Fame Class of 2013 and honored will honor several additional people and organizations who have contributed greatly to tennis by presentation of special awards.

Proceeds of The Legends Ball, which has been held annually since 1980, will benefit the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum and support the mission of preserving the history of the game, honoring the legends and inspiring the future.

Here are a few photos of the event:

2013 Hall of Famers – 19 Hall of Famers were on hand

2013 Hall of Famers – 19 Hall of Famers were on hand

 

Tommy Hilfiger & his wife Dee

Tommy Hilfiger & his wife Dee

 

Emcee Lara Spencer of Good Morning America welcomes HOF’ers Pam Shriver, Chris Evert, Monica Seles

Emcee Lara Spencer of Good Morning America welcomes HOF’ers Pam Shriver, Chris Evert, Monica Seles

 

Tennis Channel’s Ken Solomon, Collette Bennett of Rolex and Mark Stenning, CEO of the International Tennis Hall of Fame

Tennis Channel’s Ken Solomon, Collette Bennett of Rolex and Mark Stenning, CEO of the International Tennis Hall of Fame

 

Hall of Famer Charlie Pasarell, HOF Board Member Robb Bunnen and Hall of Famer Stan Smith

Hall of Famer Charlie Pasarell, HOF Board Member Robb Bunnen and Hall of Famer Stan Smith

Rod Laver joins Hall of Fame Chairman Chris Clouer and his wife Patsy

Rod Laver joins Hall of Fame Chairman Chris Clouer and his wife Patsy

 

Chris Evert with Jamie Reynolds, Vice President, Event Production ESPN

Chris Evert with Jamie Reynolds, Vice President, Event Production
ESPN

 

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“Battle of the Sexes” Pro-Celebrity Doubles Match will Feature Actors Rainn Wilson and Jason Biggs

ustalogo

USTA CELEBRATES 40 YEARS OF ACHIEVEMENTS OF WOMEN IN TENNIS

1973 SAW THE FORMATION OF THE WTA; EQUAL PRIZE MONEY FOR WOMEN AND MEN AT THE US OPEN; BILLIE JEAN KING’S TRIUMPH OVER BOBBY RIGGS

“Battle of the Sexes” Pro-Celebrity Doubles Match will Feature Actors Rainn Wilson and Jason Biggs Taking on Tennis Greats Chris Evert and Monica Seles

In Arthur Ashe Stadium on the Evening of Thursday, September 5

Match to be Broadcast Live on Tennis Channel

  Al Roker to Serve as Chair Umpire

FLUSHING, N.Y., September 4, 2013 – The USTA today announced that as part of its ongoing celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the WTA, of equal prize money for women and men at the US Open, and for the historic win by Billie Jean King over Bobby Riggs, it will hold a “Battle of the Sexes” doubles match featuring actors Rainn Wilson and Jason Biggs taking on tennis greats Chris Evert and Monica Seles. The match will be broadcast live on Tennis Channel.

 

Prior to the doubles match, the USTA Chairman of the Board and President Dave Haggerty will be joined by Billie Jean King, and WTA Chairman and CEO Stacey Allaster to look back at the historic year of 1973, a year that  brought radical change to the sports world and the sport of tennis.  The formation of the WTA, led by Billie Jean King, gave woman a voice for the first time in their sport.

 

Wilson, best known for his role in the hit TV series “The Office,” currently starring in “Orange is the Black,” Biggs, and is known for his role in the “American Pie” trilogy.  Evert and Seles, will be joined by the Today Show’s Al Roker, who will serve as chair umpire for this fun exhibition that will put a contemporary spin on the King-Riggs classic.

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Oz and Ends – Day One at the 2013 Australian Open

Melbourne park grounds

Oz and ends  and bits of news from the Australian Open for January 14, 2013

 

Bagels and breadsticks

Maria Sharapova won her first match of the Australian Open 6-0, 6-0 in 55 minutes over fellow Russian Olga Puchkova. It was her third career “double bagel” in a major tournament. She only needs a double bagel at Wimbledon to complete a “double bagel slam.”

Three women have completed the “double bagel slam” – they are Hall of Famers Chris Evert, Steffi Graf and Monica Seles.

Venus Williams added to the bagel set count with a 6-1, 6-0 demolishing of Kazakhstan’s Galina Voskoboeva.

 

Win streak continues

Agnieszka Radwanska has extended her 2013 win streak to 10 by defeating Australian wild card entry Bojana Bobusic of 7-5, 6-0 on Monday.
Twitter News

Maria Sharapova has officially joined twitterverse. Follow her at @MariaSharapova

[tweet https://twitter.com/MariaSharapova/status/290778598774829058]

 

Tweets of the day

 

 

Lucky Loser is a winner
Tim Smyczek is lucky loser was a winner on Monday with a 6-4, 7-6, 7-5 victory over Ivo Karlovic. The American it into the draw thanks to housemate John Isner who pulled out of the tournament with a right knee injury.

 

Tough day for Aussies

Matthew Ebden, Ashleigh Barty, Olivia Rogowska, Sasha Jones,  John Millman, Lleyton, Hewitt and Casey Dellacqua all exited on day one of Australian Open. Sam Stosur was the only victorious Australian on Monday.

 

Two seeds falls

The 11th seed Juan Monaco was the only seeded played not to win on Monday. The Argentine who withdrew from last week’s Kooyong Classic exhibition tournament with a hand injury was clearly stuggling clearly struggling on the court in his straight set loss to Alex Kuznentsov, was applauded by spectators for not retiring from the match.

Monaco told Reuters: “My leg tightened up at the start of the second set and it was very tough for me,” pointing to his right leg.

On the women’s side Ksenia Pervak  stopped 32nd seed Mona Barthel 7-5, 2-6, 6-4.

Federer out of Davis Cup

Roger Federer will not participate in Switzerland’s first round Davis Cup tie versus the reigning champions, the Czech Republic

 

Five set marathons

[22] Fernando Verdasco def. David Goffin 6-3, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4
[10] Nicolas Almagro def Steve Johnson 7-5, 6-7, 6-2, 6-7, 6-2
Edouard Rogers-Vasselin def. Ruben Bemelmans 6-3, 6-7, 2-6, 7-5, 11-9
Daniel Gimeno-Traver def. Lukasz Kubot 6-7, 6-4, 6-0, 4-6, 6-4
[23] Mikhail Youzhny def. Matt Ebden 4-6, 6-7, 6-2, 7-6, 6-3
[28] Marcos Baghdatis def. Albert Ramos 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3
Roberto Bautista Agut def. Fabio Fognini 6-0, 2-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1
[31] Radek Stepanek def. Viktor Troicki 5-7, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 7-5;
Brian Baker def. Alex Bogomolov 7-6, 6-3, 6-7, 3-6, 6-2.

 

Karen Pestaina for Tennis Panorama News

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Chris Evert – A Life Devoted to Tennis

NEW YORK, NY – From hoisting 157 singles trophies during her career on the court, to her current role as tennis commentator for ESPN, tennis hall of famer Chris Evert continues to be very active in the sport.

 

Evert was ranked No. 1 in the world for seven years, won 1309 matches, captured 18 majors titles, and won one slam each year for 13 years in succession.

 

Not resting on past laurels, the Floridian has stayed involved in the sport since she retired in 1989.

 

On Friday night the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum honored the Class of 2012 at the “Legend’s Ball”  at Cipriani – the inductees included Jennifer Capriati, Gustavo Kuerten, Manuel Orantes, Mike Davies, and Randy Snow (posthumously).

 

Also among the award recipients was Chris Evert, inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame back in 1995. She was being honored for her dedication to tennis and the positive impact she has made on the sport with the Eugene L. Scott Award. Scott was a US Davis Cup player, tournament director and the founder of Tennis Week magazine. He wrote a column for magazine called “Vantage Point.” Many referred to Scott as “the conscience of the game.”  He died in 2006. Former winner, Billie Jean King presented Evert with her award.

 

“I don’t win any trophies anymore for tennis on the court so it’s nice to receive a service award to put me back into the game and I never really retired,” the 57-year-old Evert said.

 

Past recipients of this award which were selected based on their commitment to communicating honestly and critically about the game, or has had a significant impact on the tennis world have been John McEnroe (2006); Andre Agassi (2007); Billie Jean King (2008); Arthur Ashe and his wife Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe (2009); Martina Navratilova (2010); and Dick Enberg (2011).

 

“I stopped playing professional tennis but it’s still my life and I still talk about it on ESPN and I write about it in Tennis Magazine, Evert said, “and I have a tennis academy. It’s been a great livelihood for me.”
Evert also reflected on this years’ US Open.

“It’s kind of a sad, bittersweet US Open,” Evert said due to the retirements of Kim Clijsters and Andy Roddick.

“It’s not really a happy US Open with those two players gone because they’re very well-liked and they had a lot of presence on the court lot of personality. But that’s how life is. We also saw the emergence of Laura Robson and some other young players. And we’re going to see some young players not. It’s kind of like the changing of the guard right now.”

Speaking of young players, Evert noted the success of a player in her own academy in Boca Raton, Florida. “We had one girl Anna Tatishvili get to the round of 16,” Evert said.  Tatishvili lost to Victoria Azarenka 6-2, 6-2.

“So she had been training with us for like 10 years. We have a lot of young kids and if their goal is to get a scholarship to college or to win their local tournament or to be on their high school team, it’s the same to us as if they’re going to be on tour.”

On top of her academy, her broadcast work for ESPN and her work as publisher and contributor roles for Tennis Magazine, Evert also hosts a charity event each year since she has been retired. Over the years, her philanthropic endeavors have raised more than 20 million dollars to fight against drug abuse and child neglect in Florida.

Her playing days may be long over, but it doesn’t stop her from serving the game that has been her life.

 

Karen Pestaina is the founder and editor of Tennis Panorama News.

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New Haven Open Preview: Wozniacki’s Drive for Five is Alive

By Jack Cunniff

NEW HAVEN – For the fifteenth straight year, several of the top Women’s Tennis Association professionals will be at the Connecticut Tennis Center in New Haven the week prior to the U.S. Open.  And defending New Haven Open champion, Caroline Wozniacki from Denmark, hopes to be holding the winner’s trophy for the fifth straight time.  As always, the path to the title has a lot of obstacles, with eight of the Top Twenty ranked women entered in the draw.

When Wozniacki defended her title last year, she was holding seven other tournament titles and ranked No. 1 in the world.  Her form has dropped off in the last 12 months; she’s been unable to win a title since the 2011 New Haven Open.  As a result, her ranking has dropped to No. 8, and she’s seeded third.  But Wozniacki still has to be considered a title contender.  She holds a perfect 17-0 record at the event, and nine of those wins have come against opponents ranked in the Top Twenty.  Is that enough to snap a streak of twenty straight events that Wozniacki has lost? She will make history if she can win her fifth title; only three other women in tour history have won an event in five consecutive years, Chris Evert (Charleston), Steffi Graf (Hamburg), and Martina Navratilova (Wimbledon, Eastbourne, and Chicago).

The top seed at the 2012 New Haven Open is Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland.  Radwanska had her best career result just a few weeks ago, reaching the finals of Wimbledon before losing to Serena Williams in three sets.  She’s improved her world ranking to No. 3 on the strength of five titles in the last 12 months, including three Premiere events (Miami, Tokyo, and Beijing).

The hottest player coming into this year’s event is Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic.  She is the only woman who has reached the quarterfinals at each of the 2012 Grand Slam events.  More recently, she won the Canadian Open in Montreal last week, and reached the semifinals in Cincinnati this week.  But on the downside, that’s a lot of tennis for Kvitova, and she could be feeling the effects here.

Rounding out the Top Four seeds in New Haven is the Italian who made a surprise run to the French Open final a few months ago, Sara Errani.  Since moving off of clay courts, Errani has found things more difficult, winning only four matches on grass courts or hard courts since June.  She has been able to show winning form on hard courts earlier this year, reaching the quarterfinals of the Australian Open.

In looking at title contenders, recent history in New Haven shows that you must look past the seeded players.  While the first nine New Haven finals did not feature an unseeded player, there has been an unseeded surprise finalist in four of the last five years.  Some names who could continue that trend in 2012 include Andrea Petkovic, Sloane Stephens, and Laura Robson.  Petkovic, the entertaining German player, reached No. 9 in the world last year, but has played only a few events this year because of injury.  New Haven marks her return to the tour after a four month absence.  Stephens, from the United States, has made her breakthrough this year reaching the fourth round of the French Open.  She is also the youngest player ranked in the Top 50, at age 19. Robson is even younger, at 18, and is coming off a silver medal win in the London 2012 Summer Olympics, where she partnered with Andy Murray in Mixed Doubles.

It’s a difficult field to handicap, but one thing is for sure: whoever is holding the trophy next Saturday will have a great chance of making a run at the U.S. Open title as well.  In the last fourteen years, the New Haven champion has reached at least the semifinals on ten occasions.

Around the Grounds – Saturday August 18th: Nicole Gibbs, the Stanford sophomore who swept the NCAA singles and doubles title this year, defeated her first Top 100 opponent Saturday, dispatching No. 77 Lourdes Dominguez-Lino of Spain in the second round of qualifying… Melanie Oudin, the surprise 2009 U.S. pen quarterfinalist, continued her comeback by ousting Silvia Soler-Espinosa in three sets.  After her win, Oudin confirmed that she and Jack Sock would be attempting to defend their 2011 U.S. Open Mixed Doubles title… Andrea Petkovic isn’t the only player on the comeback trail at New Haven; 2007 runner-up Agnes Szavay of Hungary is playing in her first WTA main draw of 2012. Szavay also played in The London Summer Olympics this month as she returns from a career-threatening back injury.

Jack Cunniff is covering the New Haven Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his updates on twitter @TennisNewsTPN. His personal twitter is @JRCunniff.

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Jamie Reynolds of ESPN on Approach Shots

Jamie Reynolds (Photo by Rich Arden/ESPN)

Tennis Panorama News had the unique opportunity to visit the ESPN broadcast compound  and spend time in the control room in Melbourne during coverage of the Australian Open back in January. Senior Vice President of Event Production for ESPN Jamie Reynolds took time out from his extremely hectic schedule to speak to us about the logistics, technologies, philosophy and personalities of ESPN’s Australian Open coverage.

Karen Pestaina for Tennis Panorama News: How are the logistics of planning different for the Australian Open versus the other slams?

Jamie Reynolds: The way that we approach the Australian Open is similar in the way we do all four majors. And ESPN is unique in the aspect that we literally take apart our entire operation, our entire family, our entire circus and we take it three continents and an island.

We go to Australia and then go on to Paris, we then go up to the UK for Wimbledon and them back down to New York at the end of the summer. The nine month rip is pretty aggressive. So we probably pick up 115 people, and literally land on these hotspots for these events, move them in for three weeks. And I think we are probably the largest broadcaster who does all four majors at that level of commitment or the magnitude of the production assets that we bring. So it’s pretty challenging.

The biggest thing, the hardest thing for us, relative to the Australian Open, candidly is that we are upside down on the time zone to our audience and the fact that we don’t start until 9pm and we run the overnight hours, that’s great, but when we are trying to grow the sport, it’s a little challenging. How do you get people to stay up all night long or want to get invested, either TIVO, record, DVR the matches, because they are that much of a tennis fanatic to take advantage of what we are doing versus what they getting immediately either texting, news reports, Morning wheel of the news, they can get all that social currency to get up to steam.

So our challenge really, for this particular event is probably more editorial that logistic.

 

TPN: What is the biggest technological challenge in covering the Australian Open?

JR: This event is technically, is one of the easier events for us to handle technically. We’ve got a partnership going with Channel 7 Australia, who is also the host broadcaster. So ESPN comes in and effectively we are a world feed embellisher. We put our own character, our own personality, our own voices, graphics, music. Pick the asset that can actually tailor the world feed presentation to look and feel like a standard ESPN product.

So perhaps our biggest challenge is what if we don’t necessarily agree with you on covering a match? Or perhaps the isolation plan for Tomic or for Federer or for Roddick or for Rafa perhaps. That assignment of cameras may not be perhaps the level or the rate or philosophy that we might bring to a match. So how do we cover that chasm?

Technology wise we continue to push the envelope by bringing assets like the Spidercam, the aerial system that you see out on Rod Laver, that’s a device that we on ESPN brought to the tennis world and introduced at the majors at the US Open three years ago, convinced Tennis Australia, Channel 7 that it might enhance their coverage, convinced all the parties to come together and bring it down and fly through Rod Laver.

This year we’ve been very aggressive in trying to help Channel 7 understand how that could be an asset to enhance the coverage package. I think that everyday we chip away at it and get a little bit bolder with its flight pattern and we kind of rely on it a little bit more. I think that it enhances the value of its coverage.

 

TPN: Now that we are down to one American left in the singles draw, what are your angles going to be?

JR: Without the Americans doing well for the first time in the open era and not get to the round of 16, that’s challenging for us. Because we’ve got a lot of personalities and lot of what we do look at from the access to a lot of these players, what the interest is back home. Our particular productions have migrated to a new way of thinking. Specifically this is truly an international event with so many great personalities form around the globe, and because we do reach a lot of countries with ESPN, we think a little bit broader in how we are actually in going after a Hewitt story, a Roger or a Rafa or a Raonic or Tomic and any of the ladies as well.

That our goal now is to make that as personable, as desirable, in terms of wanting to understand the back story, getting our audience invested inn them, just trying to figure out the best way to convey that to our audience so they don’t mind that there are no Americans. We don’t have to put the red, white and blue all the time but there’s really great tennis out there that is fun.

 

TPN: Any new technology being implemented at this year’s Australian Open.

JR: The Australian mindset is very unique. They are gregarious fun loving good folks down here. They tend to be incredibly open-minded in terms of progressive introductions of new ideas to help convey the event and one of the initiatives they’ve helped us achieve is what we call our behind-the-scenes franchise. And that behind-the-scenes franchise as effectively as I describe to our teams is this: “Take behind the velvet ropes. Give me discovery and access. Take me places I couldn’t get to if I had a ticket or if I had the ability to watch every hour of what ESPN puts out, I need to feel like I actually in the event and going somewhere where no one else can go.”

And with that kind of mindset and philosophy with Tennis Australia, “where can you give us access to?” Well we can go to the workout room, we can go to the locker room, we can go to the hallways, the waiting rooms for the players, the player lounges. We can go to the car park area, where a lot of them just go and out their headsets on and just get into a zone and just kind of shut the world out to deconstruct their match. They’re very open-minded, progressive in terms of allowing that access. With that comes the ability to kind of shape the way we convey this event as opposed to just a rectangle on a screen, two players back and forth, three-hit rally or a 17-hit rally. It’s a little sexier, a little bit more valuable, more attractive presentation. I actually feel like I’m part of it, a part of the community, behind the velvet ropes and going somewhere where I couldn’t even go if I were on site.

 

TPN: What would surprise tennis fans about being behind the scenes?

JR: There’s an incredible amount of camaraderie and I think that what doesn’t convey that whether it’s the ATP or the WTA, these athletes and personalities do travel the circuit week after week and what you actually see behind-the-scenes is the feeling of family amongst the players themselves. As combative or as aggressive as they can be with each other out on a court there is sincere appreciation, chemistry, commitment to one another, whether they are having a good year or a poor year. There’s respect but there is a dynamic that these athletes share with each other. It’s not as adversarial as it might convey over an 11-hour show window where we are just showing guys beating back and forth with each other.

 

TPN: What is a typical day for you and the talent?

JR: This is probably the most challenging because of the sheer number of hours that we televise. When we say first ball to final ball, it is a very solid commitment to coverage of the most important matches from front end to back end. That really requires commitment of literally hours per day. So when you look at the first ball starting at 11am and often times ending like New York ending after Midnight, if not later, keeping people motivated through that 14-day stand is challenging. And with a roster of  personalities, our talent roster, keep them enthusiastic, keeping them invested and focused on being “on” for that 10 hours a day waiting for a match, getting ready for one that is coming up tonight,  and you really gotta go through your head for 2 hours and come back with the same enthusiasm, that’s challenging. You are asking a lot of people.

So what happens behind the scenes to help that? It’s the sense of community, family and respect for each other we all try to create. This isn’t just a group of specialists, assassins coming into do a single job. We’ve got to keep everybody working with the chemistry and taking advantage of that. So we’ll rotate teams. You might see Chris Evert working with Pam Shriver today or you will see Patrick McEnroe and Darren (Cahill) or Patrick and Chris Fowler so we can actually keep them involved with each other because they don’t have to always rule out “ Oh God I’m just sitting with my partner for this match and I’m doing every single match him for the next 14 days.” It changes up the dinner table a little bit.

 

TPN: Who are the practical jokers behind the scenes?

JR: I think that those in the tennis community and those of us who are running the sport know what kind of personality a Brad Gilbert brings. And we know, we look loving and fondly at Cliff Drysdale. He’s the godfather of our team, the elder statesman. As a perspective, he is the longest running talent on ESPN, bar none. He’s been with us since 1979, so we look at that history, having done Davis Cup that year, he is the man who is the franchise longer than anyone.

And then you look at Darren Cahill. Cahill with the Aussie wit, terrific personality. Patrick McEnroe, that’s pretty good – an acerbic wit. And McEnroe has a pretty good timbre to work with. Look at the gals – Mary Joe (Fernandez) and Pammy (Shriver) are well respected. Pammy can be polarizing, she’s got a great personality, she will go off on a flyer and make us all laugh and look at things a way many of us would never think about. She connects the dots on a lot of different stories and a lot of personalities. So that’s kind of like a really valuable spark. It’s a good roster.

Follow ESPN’s tennis coverage on ESPN2, ESPN3.com, on twitter @ESPNTennis and @ESPN10S and online on their tennis home page.

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