umpire

Legg Mason QFs: Press Conferences & Analysis of Berdych, Verdasco, Baghdatis, Nalbandian

It’s quarterfinals Friday here at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington, DC and the last eight singles players were all in action today vying for a spot in the semifinals. Two upsets were in full-effect as we saw the #1 seed Tomas Berdych go down as well as #3 seed Fernando Verdasco.

The first match of the day was between top seed Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic and Belgian Xavier Malisse.

The match saw a surprise winner in Malisse, ranked #62 in the world, topping Berdych in three sets, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2. The wind seemed to be the biggest factor in the first set for Berdych as he couldn’t rely on his serve, getting broken twice before going down 1-5. Malisse also outplayed Berdych hitting more winners off both sides. The second set was much closer statistically before Malisse double-faulted allowing Berdych to serve the set out, which he did, fist-pump jumping in the air.

The third set saw two breaks of serve and a bit of drama in the second game. Malisse hit a cross-court forehand that just clipped the line. Expecting it to be a bad call, Berdych challenged. Hawkeye review showed it ‘out’ by less than 1 millimeter, but recall that Hawkeye is only accurate within 3 millimeters. Berdych was, of course, surprised and started walking up to the umpire exclaiming: “That is not accurate! It’s not in and you know it!” Played continued but Berdych was visibly frustrated even into the following point when he pointed again to the mark with his racquet and shook his head. However, Berdych stayed collected enough to win the game. Berdych lost his next service game, followed by three backhand down the line misses bringing the score to 4-1 for Malisse. Berdych has a strong backhand and it seemed to be working for him more than his forehand during the match. But he continually would run around his backhand to hit a forehand and then send it straight into the net because of insufficient backswing. An easy forehand volley into the net by Berdych gave Malisse match point and that it all he needed to break Berdych again and win the match.

Malisse’s press conference was light and quick. He is quickly becoming a favorite presser of mine because of his unexpected easy-going personality. During the first set and some of the second, he was intentionally twisting his right leg and foot as if something was bothering him. I asked him about it and he replied that it was just a small bone under his big toe that flares up from “time to time” but that it wasn’t anything to worry about. It’s more of an “annoyance” than any real injury. He also reflected that he was “returning well” in the first set and that the “third set was one of the best sets I’ve played.” He responded to a question asking about the quick time turnaround from yesterday’s matches lasting until the early morning hours and starting today already at noon. He replied that he much more preferred to play at noon than at 3 P.M. when the heat was stronger.

Berdych was up next and his interview was much more telling of his condition. He came in sulking and looked disappointed. I thought it was because of his performance today. It was, but there was more to the story. He said that he felt “sleepy” in the entire first set and that’s why his serve was broken twice. Mind you, his match yesterday finished around the same time as Malisse’s but he did say he finally got to bed at 2 A.M. His next comment then stopped me in my tracks because of it’s honesty. He was hoping that being the #1 at a tournament you would have a better schedule than this. Being up first today after playing so late into the night yesterday frustrated him and he expressed his disappointment in the tournament. He was then questioned if he had taken this issue up with the staff and he simply said: “No. But maybe I’m not going to come next year. If you like the tournament, if you like the place, then you always want to come back. But if you get an experience like that, we will see.” I have to agree with him here. He was the #1 seed and he wasn’t even scheduled on stadium court or grandstand because other Americans were still in the draw. He was on an outside court and the atmosphere is very different there, more intimate but trickier with the noise. Recall that yesterday he stated he doesn’t enjoy night matches because of the lights. But he didn’t like being up first either. The best solution would probably have been to put him up first for the night session instead.

The second matchup of the day featured #3 seed Fernando Verdasco and #8 seed Marcos Baghdatis, who dueled it out in a tight two sets before Baghdatis come out on top, 7-6(3), 6-4.

The match lasted just 1 hour and 42 minutes, but it felt much longer with the heat and inconsistent play from both players. Considering how long these two players have been on tour, it was surprising that this was their first meeting. Neither player went on any real ‘run’, neither served well and the changing wind didn’t help either. The first set tiebreak alone saw several double faults from both players. In the second set, Verdasco seemed frustrated as he sent ball after ball either straight into the net or flying past the baseline.He couldn’t quite find his rhytmn in his return game either, especially on the backhand side. Play was inconsistent and it was very tough to read tactics. The turnaround point came when Verdasaco sent a deep forehand down the line to pull Baghdatis back — almost to the stadium banners — which Baghdatis retrieved and sent across the net. Verdasco then moved in on the ball to send flying, but at the last minute changed his grip and tipped a drop shot across. Baghdatis, however, read the shot (almost before Verdasco had made up his mind), and began running for the net. He guessed correctly, made contact with the ball and put away the crosscourt winner. Baghdatis then broke Verdasco to go up 5-4 and serve out the match, which he did successfully. The best part of the match was something that came right after the last point was won. Baghdatis walked over to the other side of the net, got down on his hands and knees near the service line and kissed the court. He truly loves this game and there is no denying it.

In Verdasco’s press conference, there were a few things of note. He felt that he “didn’t play well” and that it was “tough to play” because the “wind was changing” and the “bounce of the court was irregular.” All in all, he was “not feeling the ball good.” He was asked how last night’s late end affected him today and if he felt tired. He responded that it was indeed a factor with not enough rest. He went further on and said that all week the earliest match starts at 4 P.M. so you wake up, eat, and get to bed much later. Then today, the time was pushed up to the early afternoon and he needed to change when he got up and ate. That change is never easy when your body gets into a rhythm. He also talked about how much he enjoyed the D.C. crowd and that he felt the support right away. He said there are a lot of Spanish-speaking people in this area and it felt great to hear them cheer for him. The last thing he talked about was his upcoming schedule and his plans post-US Open. He talked about wanting to do well in Toronto next week and improving on his first round loss in Cincinnati last year. He also wants to make a better appearance at the US Open by going beyond his quarterfinal appearance last year. “I push myself to be in [the] best shape.” He then went on to say that he will take some time off after Flushing Meadows to workout. And hopefully take a well-deserved vacation, but he didn’t say.

Baghdatis’ press conference came after his doubles’ loss with partner Stanislas Wawrinka, but he was still in a happy mood. Even in the doubles match, he was enjoying the absolutely packed stands on Grandstand court and he flourished with the cheers from the crowd. In the interview room, he was candid and smiling, making eye-contact with each questioner. He was first asked about what was tough about the match. He responded: “Everything.” He said that playing at night was not the same as the day because the humidity changed in D.C. He also said it different playing on Stadium versus an outside court and that “today I felt like the balls were flying a bit so I couldn’t control them very well.” He also recently changed coaches and has been in the ‘new’ partnership for only two weeks now. I put ‘new’ in quotes because it is the same coach he had when he was 17-20s years old, “so it’s not a big change for me.” In fact, he said, it’s “perfect.” Something that players have been getting asked since Andy Roddick crashed out last night was their thoughts on the American men falling out of the top 10 for the first time since 1973. He gave a heartfelt answer saying that playing this high caliber tennis is very tough and takes a lot of energy. But this was golden: “I didn’t know it was th first time since 1973 … That’s a long time!” He feels fit and healthy and ready to move on to the next challenge.

The third singles match of the day was between Roddick-killer Gilles Simon and wildcard David Nalbandian, who was playing in his first tournament since April due to an injury.

Nalbandian came out on top with a score of 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 but not without plenty of drama and superb shot-making. Simon came out swinging and took a commanding lead to go up 3-0, breaking Nalbandian’s service game easily. Nalbandian was only able to win one point on Simon’s serve. It seemed that this match would be over quickly. However, Nalbandian pushed it up a gear and won the next three games. Things were starting to heat up, but Simon was still playing more solidly and moving better than Nalbandian. Nalbandian had only lost 9 games in the entire tournament going into today’s match, so the scoreline was staggering when Simon took the first set 6-3 in just 33 minutes. But, just as quickly as Simon had won the first set, he lost the second. There were four breaks of serve before Nalbandian went up 4-1. He was starting to look like the strong precise hitter we know, and the points won on his first serve nearly doubled in the second set. He began to play more freely and was very solid at the net. Nalbandian understood the pressure he put on his opponent and knew when to execute approach and drop shots. He also found the angles exceptionally well flustering his opponent to start yelling in French into the sky. In fact, both players were yelling and cheering themselves on, bringing more inspiring play onto the court, and getting the crowd even more involved.

The beginning of the third set saw the best tennis of the day so far. As quick and adept as Simon is, it was surprising that Nalbandian came out the winner on the night’s longest rally. Both continued hitting the ball incredibly low and quick, Nalbandian penetrating the back corners with precision each rally. On one rally Simon sent a deep shot that would normally be a winner and followed it up to the net. Nalbandian read his movement and sent a beautiful overhead lob past Simon that hit the baseline. Simon scrambled to get back but the ball bounced out of his reach. Nalbandian was on fire, taking a 2-0 lead, and couldn’t miss. But then, he did.Simon put away a tricky forehand volley and Nalbandian seemed to be running out of steam. The score evened at 2-all. Then, all momentum was lost seeing each player dominate for a few points before being easily defeated the next, and on each other’s serves. In the ninth game, Nalbandian was serving for the match and he started hitting forehand bombs and took a chance on every shot. He closed the match with two aces. This is Nalbandian’s first time in a semifinal this year and it was well-deserved.

Gilles Simon unfortunately never made it to do the press conference, but it came as no surprise. He was fiery and irritated with himself in the second and third sets and clearly his head was not in the right place at the end of the match. He has great shot-making abilities from the baseline and his backhand finds angles on the court to stress his opponents. His serve was inconsistent and probably proved to be his downfall as he became more agitated with himself.

Nalbandian was caught up with the television crews, but eventually made it over for an interview with the media. He was easy-going even playing with his phone when he first came in. He joked about having to actually HOLD the microphone as he spoke. It was entertaining. He then got down to answering questions. He spoke about picking his game up in the second set and serving better: “When you’re serving good it is much easier to play more offensive.” He also mentioned that although he is not 100% healthy, he is “feeling good enough” and takes it as a positive. “I try to win every match I play.” It was also his first time in D.C. and he was asked why he decided to come back here: “I wasn’t playing enough tournaments and I needed to play matches to be prepared for Toronto, Cincinnati and the US Open. I just enjoy every time I play.”

The last match of the day was between Serb Janko Tipsarevic and Croat Marin Cilic.

Cilic held the 4-0 head-to-head prior to coming into the match and he followed it up with a 7-6(4), 6-4 win tonight. Both players held their serve in the first set and were pretty even. For a guy that measures in at just 5’11’’, it was surprising to find Tipsarevic still getting even lower on his backhand side. Tipsarevic let the tiebreaker slip away from him when he loss a crucial point at 3-all that ran both players into all corners of the court for the most exciting rally of the day. In the second set, Tipsarevic continued playing more defensively but putting an insane amount of topspin on his forehand. But it was to no avail as he seemed to be just trying to keep up with Cilic’s movement and coverage. At 3-4 ad-out, Tipsarevic challenged a ball still in play that he thought was long, but he was wrong and lost his service game. Both players then held serve before Cilic held three match points before he finally converted on the fourth attempt. Since the match finished late and because of the tough scheduling from yesterday, neither player came for media interviews. Both players put in a valiant effort that saw Cilic come out the victor.

The day was full of suspenseful matches that saw the top two seeds go down in surprising fashion. The top seed left in the tournament is Marin Cilic who will face David Nalbandian Saturday evening at 7 P.M., while Xavier Malisse will face Marcos Baghdatis at 1 P.M. for a spot in the finals.

IT’S NOT ALWAYS A WALK IN THE PARK FOR UMPIRES

When does it become not acceptable to play tennis in the 21st century where TV scheduling and pleasing the sponsors appears now to take precedence over the welfare and requests of the players?

Now this is an oversight criticism of tennis itself. It may not relate fully to the situation on Wednesday where Gael Monfils and Fabio Fognini slugged it out in near pitch-black conditions on the hallowed clay of Roland Garros.

While many have slated the officials for bowing to crowd pressure to continue at 4-4 in the fifth set while other matches had long since ceased to continue, I feel that they may have been worried about the kind of weather-induced backlog that has haunted Wimbledon through the 1990s.

Fabio Fognini, of course, refused to take part in this farce and was handed a point penalty for his troubles, which lasted for over five minutes. After Monfils failed to capitalise on a match point Fognini clawed it back to 5-5 before the match was carried over to the following day.

But you know all this already. Is it an isolated case? Definitely not. How does this compare to tennis mishaps from the umpires of yesteryear? We take a look back through the annuls of tennis to find out.

Hearing Aid for the Umpire Please

During the third round of the 1977 US Open at Forest Hills John McEnroe was facing Eddie Dibbs when there was a large commotion in the crowd. The umpire called the two players over and informed them that somebody had been shot, before announcing that he had heard wrong and that somebody was in fact in shock. McEnroe went on to win the match and the umpire then admitted he had been right first time round. A spectator had been hit by a stray bullet from the streets of Queens. It was a sad end to the Open’s stay at Forest Hills before it shifted venue in 1978.

Mass Peer Pressure

Mr. McEnroe was involved once more but, again, it was not his temperament in question. This time he was fighting Ilie Nastase in the 1979 US Open at its new home at Flushing Meadow. During the fourth set McEnroe served and Nastase held up his hand to motion he was not ready. The umpire awarded McEnroe the point and Nastase, backed by 10,000 vocal fans, complained. Nastase continued his vocal crusade and was finally docked the game. The crowd exploded and rubbish rained down from the stands on to the court and the cops were called. After seventeen minutes Nastase was asked to resume and after refusing for the one-minute service time period he was disqualified and McEnroe handed the match. Again there were mass complaints and, fearing a full scale riot, the umpire was replaced by tournament officials and the match continued. Unfortunately for Nastase, McEnroe went on to win this one too.

Gentleman Tim Accidentally Sets Record

Of all the people you never thought it would be, in 1995 Tim Henman became the first man to be thrown out of Wimbledon. During a doubles match with Jeremy Bates Henman lost a crucial point in the fourth set tiebreaker and frustratingly smashed the ball downcourt. Unfortunately, standing in the way was the face of sixteen-year-old ball girl Caroline Hall who was running cross-court to resume her correct position. The umpire didn’t even hesitate and disqualified the pair. Still, Hall got a huge bunch of flowers and a kiss from Tim for her troubles the next day.

A Really Aggressive Wife Doesn’t Win You Tennis Matches

Obviously peeved that Henman had beaten him to that Wimby record a few days previously, American Jeff Tarango took particular umbrage to umpire Bruno Rebuah continually ruling against him. His outburst of “That’s it, I’m not playing” is now pretty famous as was his pleas to officials to remove the umpire. After telling an angry crowd to “shut up” he packed his bags and stormed off court, disqualifying himself. To make matters worse for Rebuah, Tarango’s wife Benedicte then stormed on court and slapped him twice in the face. Tarango was heavily fined for his troubles and banned from the next two Grand Slams.

Father Doesn’t Always Know Best

This could relate to a number of people here but we are in fact talking about Damir Dokic who was famously ejected from his daughter Jelena’s match in the pre-Wimby tournament at Birmingham’s Edgbaston Club in June 1999. After a string of decisions went against Jelena, Damir became increasingly agitated in his chair. A string of outbursts towards the umpire ended with him shouting to everybody present that “they were fascists” for which he was finally ejected. Once outside, he proceeded to lie in front of traffic in the middle of the road and eventually spent the afternoon in prison.

Of course there are many others. A lot have come from the mouths of that pesky Mr. McEnroe and Madame Serena Williams. But for now we return back to the present day and to the current happenings in Paris. It’s a Slam which is shaping up pretty nicely so far. We hope that continues, and more for the tennis than the likes of the difficult situations umpires find themselves in like those listed above.

“NO MORE DJOKING ABOUT MY STRENGTH” BLASTS NOVAK

Serbian Novak Djokovic and the big Croat Ivan Ljubicic take to the court Wednesday once more to do battle in the fourth round of the BNP Paribas Open ATP Masters 1000 tournament at Indian Wells.

It is the fifth time the two will duel over the net and the second this year, Djokovic coming from a set down to win 2-6, 6-4, 6-0 in Dubai.

In fact, Djokovic has won all four encounters between the two and that first set in Dubai is the only one the bald eagle of Croatia has managed to nip off his younger and more flexible opponent.

I watched match-up number three between these two, the first round of the 2009 US Open in New York. Sitting courtside in the blazing mid-afternoon heat I watched a man many were tipping as favorite dismantle his older foe without too much trouble in straight sets.

I had been talking the match up beforehand citing it as one of the potential big upsets of the early tournament matches. How disappointed I was when play came to fruition. Not so much with Djokovic. His tantalizing service game was too much for a man who often uses that weapon himself. But on this occasion Ljubicic’s serve was abandoning him and nearly every drive and volley was dropping an inch too long.

But it was the controversy with which the match finished that struck me most. With Ljubicic serving at 3-4 a ball dropped questionably close to the outside tramline to hand Djokovic a break and the chance to serve for the match at 5-3. Ljubicic challenged and we all sat with baited breath awaiting the all-seeing Hawkeye’s decision.

And waited.

And waited.

Hawkeye was asleep. So the players took up their positions once more to replay the point. “Game Djokovic,” came the booming voice of the umpire over the tannoy. Djokovic wasn’t going to argue and trotted to his seat. But Ljubicic was seething and launched in to an angry protest which lasted a good few minutes.

After the Croat was finally pacified play resumed and Djokovic served out the match.

Interestingly, I noticed that for the rest of the tournament the message “In the event of Hawkeye failing the official’s call will stand” was emblazoned on the big screens during breaks in play. I’m not surprised after that drama.

At 30, time is getting on for Ljubicic and his quest for a Grand Slam is coming to an end. His semi final placing at the 2006 French Open remains his best result and based on his much younger opponents these days I will put my money on it staying that way too.

Djokovic, however, is still desperately trying to add to his 2008 Aussie Open crown. At 22 he is still very young and with time and improvements on minor aspects of his game he will surely do so.

That victory over Ljubicic last autumn was a welcome one for the 6 ft. 2 in. Serb. Having received criticism for his perceived feigning of injury, too many early retirements from matches and a lack of respect shown for opponents through his jibes and impressions on court, he won over a lot of fans with his new more serious on-court demeanour.

“I’m in the transition,” Djokovic had said earlier that year. “It’s not easy because I’m very emotional. Some things really hurt me, and maybe I express myself a little bit too much – people didn’t get used to that. But at the end of the day, you sit and think to yourself, ‘I’ve reacted the way I felt that’s right.’ Maybe it’s wrong, but you learn from your mistakes. That’s why life is testing us all the time.”

It seems the media and crowds may be warming to him again somewhat. And for a player who obviously takes so much to heart that can only help him take his game back to the level which led him to that first Slam two years ago.

If he keeps this run over Ljubicic going then it will be the winner of Guillermo Garcia-Lopez/Juan Monaco in the quarters before a possible semi final against Rafa Nadal.

It’s tough going in modern tennis and only the headstrong survive. Only Novak knows if he has the mental stability to march onwards and upwards and that semi final could see a battle of two men that some corners of the media are already beginning to slate as finished despite their tender ages.

Advanta WTT Pro League announces fines for Sportimes and Kastles

New York, N.Y. (July 23, 2009) — The Advanta World TeamTennis Pro League has announced additional reprimands for the on-court incidents involving members of the Washington Kastles and the New York Sportimes during a match on July 16 in Washington, D.C.

Following a League investigation, including review of the video and the umpire’s report, the League issued fines to the Kastles and Sportimes for the unprofessional conduct of several players – Leander Paes, Rennae Stubbs and Olga Puchkova from the Kastles; and John McEnroe, Robert Kendrick and coach Chuck Adams for the Sportimes.  In addition, Puchkova and Kendrick received individual fines for their actions.  Puchkova was fined for leaving the bench to come onto the opponents’ side of the court and verbally confronting another player.  Kendrick received a fine for his unsportsmanlike conduct when he hit a serve at the Kastles’ Leander Paes as he stood at the net while Paes’ partner was set to receive serve.

Previously the League had fined and suspended Sportimes Coach Chuck Adams for one match for violating the Coaches’ Code of Conduct.

Pacific Life Open: What the Fans Don’t Get to See

Debra covered the 2008 Pacific Life Open in Indian Wells for TennisGrandStand. In this second part in a three-part series of her reports from the tournament, Debra gives a behind-the-scenes look at the workings of the media center.

Something about coming back to a familiar place instantly puts me at ease. Knowing where to go, what to do, and how to do it is comforting. But going somewhere familiar in a different capacity changes everything. So when I stepped onto the grounds for the 2008 Pacific Life Open as a member of the Media for the first time, in some ways it was as if I had never been there before.

In years past, I would get to the grounds early each day, but I would still not be able to get into the gate before all the other fans. But with a media credential, I could pretty much come and go as I wanted. Getting to the grounds before the gates opened gave a totally different picture that I had never seen before. Marat Safin, the first player I saw upon my entry on Friday morning, ambled past me without any security. Even Roger Federer could take the court for his 10am practice without the need for security. Somehow, it felt as though the players knew that the gates weren’t open yet, and they were savoring those last few minutes of “safety” before the hordes were let loose upon them.

So when I got there on Friday, my first day covering the event, I had no idea what to do. The day before when I picked up my credential, the kind older man showed me where the media entrance was. I went into the media area and saw a desk. Hooray, someone to answer my questions! She asks where I’m from, I tell her I’m with TennisGrandStand, and she hands me a booklet: ten dollars in meal coupons for the player/media cafeteria each day… excellent. In this small room, there is a large Coke fridge with hundreds of cans, a water cooler and a couple of folding tables, one with coffee and a TV showing the stadium and the other with donuts and healthier snacks like apples and bananas.

To the left of the room there is a small almost-hidden staircase that leads up to where the magic really happens, the media room. There is a reception area, with all of the necessary information – the draws for each tour, the order of play, tournament programs, other tennis-related magazines, a file folder with all of the interview transcripts, and a stack of clippings from the night before written by people covering the event. Behind the desk, an older, inviting woman decked out in hundreds of tennis pins from around the world asked if I needed anything. I admitted to her that I had no idea what to do. Since I was intent on covering the event “from the ground” (as you read about in Part One of my reports), I didn’t request a desk or locker; I knew if I brought my laptop up there that I’d miss great tennis if I spent time on it. I wanted to be out there covering the event like a fan, to give the best view. To do that, I needed to not spend much time in the media center.

The pinned woman kindly showed me around the media room. The media room is a long skinny hectic place. Little computer stations are everywhere – at each one is a phone and TV that seemed to get a variety of cable stations (I saw someone watching the Food Network…). There must be close to 100 Along the right side of the room, there is a bar of sorts with a great corner view onto the stadium. Outside some doors is the “Press balcony,” where members of the press go out to watch stadium matches.

After my little orientation, I took a seat outside the player/media cafeteria in a lovely covered section so that I could jot down some notes. A few tables over, Richard Gasquet sat with his coach Eric Deblicker, who lit a cigarette and looked rather aloof. Players, coaches, player guests, other members of the press, tournament officials, started whizzing by. Being a part of the press is definitely different. As I went to Stadium 3 to see some tennis, I found the media seating. Four seats right at the edge of the box seats area were reserved for the Media. Let’s just say that in four days, I am the only media person who I ever saw sitting in a “Media Only” seat. But more about that in Part Three of my reports.Novak Djokovic Press Conference Friday 3/14/2008

I figured a good way to indoctrinate myself to what being a part of the media was like would be to attend some pre-tournament press conferences. First up was Novak Djokovic at 12:30pm. Members of the media started arriving in the interview room right on time. Djokovic was a few minutes late. Sitting in the front row, Matt Cronin of tennisreporters.net was whining about Djokovic’s tardiness and I could not help but wonder what the big deal was about waiting ten minutes. So Djokovic finally enters a couple of minutes later and the questions pretty much just start coming the moment he sits down.

Fans get to read all the questions and answers in the transcripts that are released at big tournaments. But what fans don’t get is the little side comments that aren’t included in the transcripts and the facial reactions of the players. Near the beginning of Djokovic’s press conference, someone who clearly – like myself – had not attended many press conferences in the past asked a rather ridiculous question:

Q. Who would you like to play in the finals?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Excuse me?

Q. Who would you like to play in the finals?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I think it’s still a long way to finals. Still playing first round. Second round, actually. I won’t talk about the finals yet.

What the transcript doesn’t evoke is the look on Djokovic’s face, and the chuckling amongst the more experienced media that someone would have the gall to ask something so dumb.

Roddick looks in disbelief But this was nothing compared to what happened a few hours later. Andy Roddick, pretty much right on time for his 4:30pm press conference, bounded in and started answering questions immediately. While Roddick’s stellar press conference performances are well-known, I don’t think any of us have ever seen anything like this (do watch, if you haven’t seen it already). Thankfully for all of us, it’s crystallized on video for all to experience, because the transcript would never do this justice. Of course, what that video does not capture is the aftermath. Despite the fact that the press conference continued on without drama, the air contained a distinct buzz, as if all hell could break loose at any moment, even though it didn’t.

Afterwards though, the young woman who somehow procured a Media credential, had to face her actions. The head of the Media Center, a very kind and busy young man who spent most of his time running between the media center, interview room, and press balcony like a controlled chicken with his head cut off, spent some time speaking to this woman about what she had done. He’s not stupid: anyone who runs a big tournament knows full well that the cooperation and support of the US’s #1 player is vital. Not that Roddick seemed upset in any way, but you can see his point. A professional press conference is no place for, quite bluntly, an idiotic fangirl who somehow got in there. Anyway, she got quite a talking-to. To be fair, it seems she meant no harm, but clearly did not ponder the effects of her actions or realize that this kind of thing was tactless and unacceptable.

Unfortunately, my three remaining days at the tournament did not provide this same kind of drama. But I still have some things to share.

The press balcony gives a fantastic view of the Stadium Court. I watched bits and pieces ofView of the Stadium from the Press Box several matches there over the days – some men, some women. It’s a little hard to tell when balls are flying out, but it’s excellent for watching spins and speed of the ball as well as players’ movement and court placement. The only thing missing from the press balcony was… well… members of the press. But more about that to come in Part Three of my series. The thing about the press balcony – and I do feel that anyone with any common sense would realize this – is that it’s supposed to be an unbiased area. It doesn’t look good if members of the media and press are cheering for a player. So, during Andy Roddick’s second round upset to Tommy Haas, a nice enough local photographer covering the event for a Palm Springs area magazine was screaming and loudly whistling for Roddick; it was one of those whistles that in between serves when it’s quiet and one spectator makes a loud cheering noise from way up in the stands, you can hear on TV. He did not understand why he was not allowed to cheer and why the Press Box was supposed to remain an impartial area. I’m not even really sure how to explain something like that.

One of the most interesting things to me is how “out in the open” the players are at Indian Wells. Their outdoor eating/relaxing/warmup spaces are all in plain view of throngs of fans. It is not like this at other tournaments I have been to. I was catching some tennis (an exciting match between Fernando Gonzalez and Mario Ancic) on the TV in the player/media cafeteria; Nicolas Massu was there with his team, watching his friend; when Gonzalez lost, Massu left. Later, Mario Ancic and his team sat at the next table over. They ate their meal just like any normal group of people would, all the while a member of the media was sitting with them chatting. The beloved umpire Mohammed Layanhi came and sat down at the next table over, and what ensued was quite interesting. After normal friendly greetings, Layanhi started complaining to Ancic about something that happened during the David Nalbandian/Ernests Gulbis match that he had just finished umpiring. I couldn’t help but find this scene bizarre. Aren’t the umpires supposed to be completely impartial, and is it really proper behavior for an ump to complain to one tour player about the actions of another? it seems to me not, but the two didn’t act like this was abnormal interaction. After Ancic and his team left, Layanhi commented to the reporter that Ancic was “one of the tour’s good guys” – again, I found this fairly surprising behavior for one of the sport’s top umpires. Donald Young Press Conference

The free entrance, parking, and meal tickets aside, the most fascinating and valuable aspect of attending a tournament as a member of the media is that I got the wonderful opportunity to see these players as the normal people that they are. They hang out with their family, they read, they eat, they relax, they chat, and they support their friends; they just happen to be blessed with a particular talent and have a high-profile job that attracts Beatles-esque fan hysteria. This was no more apparent than in Donald Young’s press conference on Monday; he had just lost a match to Rafael Nadal. It was his first match on a huge stadium against one of the game’s big big stars. Young gets a bad rap sometimes for saying arrogant things and for not always being that tactful. But this day in his press conference, he was humble, thoughtful, articulate, and good-humored.

I hope this has given you a bit of a better idea of what it’s like behind-the-scenes at a major tennis tournament. Unfortunately, some of what I saw was very discouraging in terms of how the tennis executives and media relate to the fans and the sport. I will address that in my third and final part of the report.