Andy Murray

Taylor Townsend, Monday post-match press conference:

Taylor Townsend

Venus Williams, press conference after her loss to Lucie Safarova, Tuesday:

Venus Williams

Andy Murray answering questions about the court conditions in Toronto, strategy for playing on quick surface, texting with Amelie (“Her spelling is not that good so on messages I correct her quite a bit”), how well Jo played in Toronto (recited various serving speeds), crowd noise, and how Mason is different than other Masters cities (staying in downtown Cincinnati; goes to Whole Foods a lot; went out for steak).

press conference

Novak Djokovic joking with media members about not inviting them to his wedding and how he should have brought chocolate.

press conference

Madison Keys, Monday post-match press conference:

Madison Keys

Sloane Stephens:

Sloane Stephens

Sloane Stephens

Roger Federer, Tuesday, 5:30 pm (after his 2nd practice, the day before his opening match):

Roger Federer press conference

Roger Federer press conference

Roger Federer press conference

Roger Federer press conference

Photo credit: Peg

Check out all our Cincinnati 2014 coverage.

Taylor Townsend

Peg is covering the Western & Southern Open for Tennis Buzz. Enjoy her behind the scenes of the tournament (more to come!):

At the Western and Southern Open, interviews are conducted in a variety of settings, including on the ESPN stage, which was set up Sunday morning:

broadcasting stage

By mid-week, swarms of spectators crowded around the broadcasting tent whenever a post-match interview was in progress, craning their necks to see Serena and other stars:

crowd craning to see Serena

There are also on-court interviews, interviews in the mixed zone (which I’ll report on in a separate entry), and the WTA All Access Hour (a time — in this case, Monday at noon — when the top eight seeds were all present for interviews, prior to their opening matches), as well as “one on ones” (interviews between an individual journalist and an individual player) and other configurations.

Jelena Jankovic

The scheduling and location of press conferences is dictated in part by the requests submitted to the ATP and WTA before the start of the day. To quote from the instructions reiterated within in each morning’s e-mail from the media center manager (Pete Holtermann), “Each request should clearly state if the interview is for match coverage or for a feature interview, and if the request is win-only or win/lose.” The WTA interview form also specifically asks the requestor to indicate the need-by time, the duration of the interview, and the subject of the interview. The ATP fields requests primarily via e-mail.

Near the end of the first Saturday (i.e., the first day of quals), the Sunday schedule of pre-main-draw press conferences was released, with Isner scheduled for 2 p.m., Murray for 2:30 p.m., Djokovic at 2:45 p.m., and Azarenka at 4 p.m. When these conferences took place, there were also second-round qualifying matches taking place on six courts, as well as practice sessions on eight other courts. On Monday and beyond, the day session featured main draw matches on eight courts and practices on all the courts. In other words, there were times when I wanted to be in fifteen or sixteen places all at once. Since that wasn’t feasible, I sketched out Plans A, B, and C in my notebook and revised them on the fly throughout the day. On the first Sunday, this meant I caught part of Tomic vs. Ebden (second-round qualifying), part of Goerges vs. Wickmayer, and most of Hewitt vs. Melzer (the first main draw match) but missing other matches in order to attend the Murray and Djokovic pressers:

Andy Murray

Novak Djokovic

The Sunday pressers were not transcribed, but on Monday, the ASAP team was in place:

ASAP transcriptionists

The media center volunteers distributed some transcripts as soon as the hard copies were made (“Anyone for Isner? Anyone for Ivanovic?”), particularly during stretches of heavy production (i.e., when the media center was populated with many writers, videographers, and editors hunched over their laptops, racing against deadlines) . Other transcripts were obtainable via the handout wall, where OOPs, press releases, scorecards, and other documentation could be found.

Madison Keys

Sloane Stephens

In the course of attending multiple conferences, I was able to pick up on some trends in questioning (and thus what those writers or producers had in mind for their features). A USTA writer asked several players about language skills. (Madison Keys: Christina McHale speaks Spanish fluently and she also knows some Chinese.  So I strive to be like Christina, but it probably won’t happen. . . . I want to learn like Chinese so Christina and I can start speaking Chinese in front of another person and just totally confuse them.”) A Cincinnati journalist asked every player about bad tosses when on serve. Ben Rothenberg asked several players about crowd noise (and when Ben wasn’t present, I did). Being a strategy nerd, my go-to questions were about court speed and conditions.

A preliminary schedule of interviews was distributed each morning, with additional interviews announced via closed-circuit TV (and sometime via intercom or walkie-talkie or volunteer walk-throughs) during the course of the day. Because the timing of 95% of the interviews depended on when a match ended (and sometimes on the result of said match), there were periods where I felt compelled to remain at my carrel in the media center instead of going out to the courts, the better to race down to the mixed zone or the main interview room upon the conclusion of certain matches. I also took to annotating my order of play in order to reconcile who might be available (and in what format) vs. practices and matches I hoped to cover:

game plan

My assignments were the top priority in my planning, of course. One of my tasks was to photograph Stefan Edberg. Having seen the Timberland deck packed to the gills on Sunday for a Stan-Novak practice — as well as fans lined up not only along the top rail of Grandstand, but along the edge of the Svensk Vodka lounge as well — and, having chatted with Cincy regulars who reminisced about a four-hour wait for a Nadal practice, I knew that I had to stake out my spot at least an hour in advance. (Not having access to the Center Court photo blind, I had concluded that a Federer practice would provide me with the best opportunity for good pictures.) The stands of Court 15 were already packed when I planted myself on the back row of Grandstand, seventy-five minutes early; by the time Federer, Mahut, and their people arrived, there were at least two more rows of people standing behind me, and I didn’t dare cede my spot, even though I could hear oohs and aahs of appreciation for the show Wawrinka and Becker were putting on for the folks actually watching their match. Part of me desperately wanted to see the actual match in progress, but another part of me was engrossed in capturing the interactions among Federer, Edberg et al., including the post-match pleasantries, which (among other things) featured Federer taking a photo of Edberg and a kid-minder on Mahut’s team:


Federer’s pre-competition interview was scheduled for 5:30 p.m. On my way back to the media center, I parked myself in the mixed zone, since I knew that Stan would arrive shortly:

Stan Wawrinka

I didn’t stick around for the English questions posed to Stan, but I was still a hair late to Roger’s presser — he was already answering a question about his new racquet by the time I reached the third floor:

Roger Federer

The French broadcasters approached the dais after the conclusion of the English questions. As I left the room, I could hear Roger saying to the moderator, “Yes, we go back a long way…”

Roger Federer press conference

More reports from Cincinnati:
On the way to the Western & Southern Open
The Western & Southern Open main draw party
Friday evening at Lindner Family Tennis Center
Seeking relief from the heat

Another day another huge upset in the women’s draw: yesterday Serena Williams was defeated by Ana Ivanovic and today it was Maria Sharapova’s turn: Sharapova was ousted by 20th seed Dominika Cibulkova.
No problem for Victoria Azarenka and Agnieszka Radwanska who proved too strong for Sloane Stephens and Garbine Muguruza.

In men’s action, Rafael Nadal struggled to get past Kei Nishikori as a rejuvenated Roger Federer made a quick work of Australian Open 2008 finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Stat of the day: 11

Roger Federer will make his 11th straight Australian Open appearance

Tweet of the day: Nadal’s shoelace


Matches to follow on Day 9:

Li Na (4) – Flavia Pennetta (28)
Eugenie Bouchard (30) – Ana Ivanovic (14)
David Ferrer (3) – Tomas Berdych (7)
Stanislas Wawrinka (8) – Novak Djokovic (2)

Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka, Jelena Jankovic, Simona Halep, Sloane Stephens and Dominika Cibulkova advance to the fourth round.
The only surprise came from Garbine Muguruza, who won her first WTA tour event in Hobart earlier in the month as a qualifier and has knocked out 10th seed Caroline Wozniacki in the third round. She’ll play Agnieszka Radwanska next.

Grigor Dimitrov beats Milos Raonic in 3 sets to reach his first ever 4th round at a Slam. He next faces Roberto Bautista Agut who followed his upset win over Juan Martin del Potro with a straight sets victoy over Benoit Paire.
Andy Murray defeats Feliciano Lopez for the eight time in eight match and will meet lucky loser Stéphane Robert in the last 16.
Roger Federer advanced to the fourth round for the 13th consecutive year following his win over Teymuraz Gabashvili. He’ll face Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who beat countryman Gilles Simon for a place in the quaterfinals.
Kei Nishikori beat Donald Young, the last American man in the singles draw in straight sets. His next opponent: Rafael Nadal who dismantled Gael Monfils 6-1 6-2 6-3.

Seeds upsets:

Garbine Muguruza def Caroline Wozniacki (10), Roberto Bautista Agut def Benoit Paire (27)

Video highlights:

Video of the day: Famous. Favored. Fallen.

Matches to follow on Day 7:

Serena Williams (1) – Ana Ivanovic (14)
Fabio Fognini (15) – Novak Djokovic (2)
Stanislas Wawrinka (8) – Tommy Robredo (17)

The Australian Open 2013 has been an eventful one on the women’s side, including controversy, breakthrough performances, shock results and one of the more bizarre Grand Slam finals you’re ever likely to see. So who leaves Melbourne with their head held high, and who has had a tournament to forget?

Here are three WTA players who rose to the occasion down under…

Victoria Azarenka

Yes, she may have drawn the ire of both seasoned observers and casual fans following her mega-dubious decision to take a medical timeout at a tense moment in her semi-final match, but the controversy should not take away from the fact that Victoria Azarenka won the tournament. Facing a blizzard of media pressure, a quasi-hostile crowd (“Cheatarenka” said one of the banners) and one of the trickiest opponents on tour, Azarenka was a paragon of mental strength. She came from a set down to defend her title, keep her top ranking and set herself up for another hugely successful season.

Victoria Azarenka

Li Na

Beloved by the Australian crowd – as well as anyone who watches her post-match interviews – Li Na proved that she could still hang with – and beat – the best in the world. The 2011 French Open champion had struggled to make an impact at recent Grand Slams, leading some to bemoan her inconsistency and label her a “one-slam wonder.” But last summer, China’s best ever player got a new coach (Carlos Rodriguez, the man who led Justine Henin to seven Grand Slam titles), and got to work. She outwitted Agnieszka Radwanska and out-blasted Maria Sharapova on her way to the final, and but for two untimely and painful-looking falls, she may well have lifted the trophy. It wasn’t to be, but hopefully Li can take this form forward and become a serious contender again.

Li Na

Sloane Stephens

Along with Li, Stephens became the darling of this year’s Australian Open. Smiling all the way to the semi-finals, and entertaining us with her brand of tactically aware and courageous tennis, the 19-year-old hit the big time with an unforgettable victory over Serena Williams. Granted, Williams was injured and far from her best, but even a hobbled Serena is good enough to beat most players. Stephens stepped up and played the big points brilliantly, proving that she really can live up to the hype. Melbourne was undoubtedly a life-changer for the Floridian, and it will be fascinating to see how she makes the transition from up-and-coming challenger to bona fide top player.

Sloane Stephens

…and two women who made noise for all the wrong reasons…

Petra Kvitova

Petra Kvitova has no shortage of admirers. The legendary Martina Navratilova said she saw shades of herself in the 2011 Wimbledon champion, and her game has been hailed as one of the most complete in tennis: she has a big lefty serve, great volleys and power from the back of the court. Which makes her second round exit at the Australian Open all the more disappointing. Kvitova lost a scrappy but enthralling battle to Laura Robson 11-9 in the third set, hitting far too many unforced errors and looking, at times, like a shadow of her former self. At her best, she could dominate the rest of the field, and possibly even give Serena a run for her money, but Kvitova needs to rediscover her confidence fast before an ignominious rankings spiral beckons.

Sam Stosur

The curious career of Sam Stosur took another turn for the unfortunate in Melbourne. Her poor home record is well-documented, but after winning her opening match and leading Jie Zheng 5-2 in the third set of their second round match, it looked as though Stosur might have finally put those demons to rest. Alas, the Aussie lost the next five games and tumbled out of the tournament, a situation she later described as “a bit of a choke.” Like Kvitova, Stosur has an elite game when on form: her stunning victory over Serena Williams in the 2011 US Open final is proof of that. Yet her confidence, mental clarity and consistency can utterly desert her, leading to ugly, head-scratching losses to players she should beat as a matter of routine. Where she goes from here is anyone’s guess, but it would be a great pity to witness such a talented player suffer an extended slump.

Steven Webb writes for an award-winning sports, news and live stream website.
Photos by Tennis Buzz (French Open 2012)