Posts Tagged ‘Mary Carillo’

PostHeaderIcon The Best of 2013 from the Press Room, Part 1: SAP Open & Sony Open


At my workstation in the Sony Open press room

It’s that time of year where I look back at my tournament travels, and pluck out some of the jewels from my time in the press room to share with you all. I was on the ground at four events this year: SAP Open, Sony Open, Bank of the West Classic, and the Western and Southern Open. For easier reading, I’ll start with the first two tournaments I attended earlier in the year, then finish in Part 2 with the summer tournaments.
So without further ado, here’s my 2013 “backstage tour”.

SAP Open


Lindsay Davenport and Steffi Graf

The SAP Open ended its’ run with a Milos Raonic three-peat, and way too many empty seats. A notable bright spot was the mixed doubles exhibition match featuring Steffi Graf, Lindsay Davenport, Andy Roddick, and Justin Gimelstob. The best moment for me came when I was sitting in the press room afterward lobbing questions at Lindsay and Steffi. Sitting there, I couldn’t help but think about their ’99 Wimbledon final; their only meeting in a Slam final. They, however, had a different take on past matches. Listen to their press conference, and try not to laugh at their answer to the first question from yours truly.


Justin Gimelstob and Andy Roddick

Longtime friends Andy Roddick and Justin Gimelstob put on a command performance in their post-match press conference. What hopefully wasn’t lost on those in attendance was a serious discussion of the problematic business model for the modern-day tennis tournaments. The SAP Open struggled with attendance issues, but so do many others. So while players are demanding a bigger share of the revenue, tournament directors are struggling to fill sufficient seats for said revenue and sponsorship monies. Moving tournaments to new markets (other countries) may seem like a good short-term solution, but they’ll probably face the same attendance issues as here in the states. I just hope we don’t lose anymore.

I love pumping veteran journalists for info whenever possible. I ran into Vern Glenn, a prominent Bay Area sportscaster, while he was trying to get his Wi-Fi working on his laptop. He gave me this nugget in reference to working in (and getting paid in) this business: “Always make sure they keep you on scholarship!” I’m trying Vern, I’m trying.

sap-tennis-ball-cookies-editGoodbye SAP Open! I will miss your lemon-flavored tennis ball cookies! There were NEVER enough to truly satisfy my desires, but I enjoyed the few I got. 😉

(BTW, I have absolutely no idea who’s hand that is across from mine. I know I just turned 50, but is my memory getting THAT bad already???)

Sony Open


Maria Sharapova listens to a question

My personal feeling has always been that you get better answers from a player when you’re clear about what you’re asking, and aren’t antagonistic in doing so. This is especially true when that player is named Maria Sharapova. This was a small part of Maria’s answers to one particular journalist who didn’t get that memo:

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Why are you asking me if you saw it? Why are you asking me if you heard it yourself? I mean, I can’t remember exactly what he said. I mean, there’s a tape. Maybe I can get you a copy.

You can read the full exchange here, and also listen to the full press conference audio.

Goran is in blue warmup on my left

Goran is in blue warmup on my left

Some of the best moments at tournaments happen when you least expect it…like the conversation I had with Jelena Jankovic’s hitting partner, Goran Tosic, in the shuttle back to the hotel one night. Though I certainly could have tried, I didn’t pump him for info on Jelena’s condition after her late-night victory over Roberta Vinci. But I did get a nice insight into the hustling that a lower level player must do in order to make ends meet as a pro tennis player. Nice guy too. I wish him well in 2014.


Mary Carillo and I in Miami

Mary Carillo is one of the main reasons I make the yearly trek to Miami. I ran into Mary within my first 10 minutes on my first trip, and got a great picture with her that meant the world to me. Fast forward 5 years and I’m sitting with Mary in a post-match presser for Maria after her quarterfinal win over Sara Errani. I re-introduce myself, tell her the “Mary story”, give her my card, and was ready to savor the moment just as it was. The following day, Mary grabbed my arm as she walked by me and said, “Hey Kevin. I went to your site this morning. You kept me very entertained.” Those words continue to mean more to me than almost any other compliment I’ve received.


The elusive and rare Ivan Lendl smile

Before heading to the airport, I made one last trip out to the Crandon Park to get some photos before the men’s final. And while watching Andy Murray warm up prior to his match with David Ferrer, I caught a rare glimpse of a tennis unicorn: an Ivan Lendl smile. Who knew? And not only was he smiling, he was also joking around with a couple of young Murray fans who were watching practice. I had to rub my eyes a few times to make sure I wasn’t seeing things… 😉

At the airport, my Miami trip ended on a very odd “Twilight Zone” moment. For those familiar with the situation of Kevin Ware the college basketball player, you must surely understand how words can’t express what it was like to check my twitter feed one last time on the plane home only to read about “Kevin Ware’s horrific injury” when your name is Kevin Ware and you aren’t horrifically injured…
(On the advice of one of my twitter followers, I avoided watching the video of his injury — and still haven’t seen it to this day. Thanks Alice!)

*** Next up is The Best of 2013 from the Press Room, Part 2: Bank of the West Classic and the Western and Southern Open

PostHeaderIcon The Best of 2013 from the Press Room, Part 2: Bank of the West & Western and Southern Open


One final picture at the Western and Southern Open

I started my “backstage tour” with the SAP Open and the Sony Open. Now it’s on to the Bank of the West Classic and the Western and Southern Open, my two summer tournaments.

Bank of the West Classic


I needed a moustache like this at the Bank of the West Classic

I pulled double duty at this year’s BOTW, starting my week at Stanford first as a line umpire during the qualifying rounds, and then moving into the press room for the start of main draw matches. It was a great experience, and not one player threatened to shove a tennis ball down my throat. But a part of me really wanted to put on a fake moustache or something during my line umpire stint so that players wouldn’t recognize me once I made the switch to media.

This year’s tournament got off to a rough start with the non-participation of defending champion Serena Williams, and the late withdrawals of Marion Bartoli, Sabine Lisicki, Kirsten Flipkens, and Maria Sharapova after Wimbledon. I hate to think the worst, but this wasn’t a good sign for a tournament that’s been struggling to re-discover the deep fields it once saw. I’d hate to see it fall by the wayside like the now-defunct SAP Open, the ATP LA event, and the WTA Carson event.

Western and Southern Open


Vika Azarenka, relaxed and chatty in Cincy

20/20 hindsight is a wonderful thing. While looking back at my WTA All Access hour notes from Cincinnati, it’s easy to see in hindsight every clue for how the tournament would ultimately unfold. Serena came into the event healthy and focused, but a little tired. Vika Azarenka came in feeling no pressure. Marion Bartoli came in as glib as ever, but not particularly motivated. And Maria Sharapova came in with her cap pulled down low and tight-lipped about her work with Jimmy Connors. (For the record, Serena lost in the final, Vika won in the final, Marion retired, and Maria canned Connors after an opening loss to Sloane Stephens.)

Speaking of Maria and Jimmy… I was given a chance to chat with Milos Raonic in the Player’s Lounge with another journalist. While waiting for (a very late) Milos, Jimmy comes over to chat with the other journalist. The only thing I here is “So, what did you think about that?” referring to Maria’s loss. I would have given almost anything to follow up with him on that one!

BTW, the Milos Raonic mini-interview was okay too, but can we talk about the lack of proper and timely apology to Juan Martin Del Potro for your “touching the net” malfeasance at the Rogers Cup?

(Click the arrow to play Milos’ pre-tourney presser audio. He addresses the Rogers Cup incident after the 6:00 mark.)


Jack and I grabbing food before Rafa v Roger

Covering a tournament can be a solitary experience, which is why it’s great when you can have positive interactions with the other folks in the press room. But more than the interaction, these moments also give one a chance to share ideas and expand your knowledge: something I love to do. I had a few of these in Cincinnati, but one stands out above the others. After one particular post-match press conference, I found myself watching a WTA stadium match with Courtney Nguyen on one of the main interview room monitors. I don’t know how it happened, but the on-court action led to a fascinating discussion of the issues and miscues facing the WTA as it tries to broaden its’ appeal. So here’s a shout out to Courtney for helping my expansion. Honorable mention goes to my press room neighbor, Jack Adam, for sharing a great evening quarterfinal between Nadal and Federer.


Rafa Nadal in the press room

Rafa played amazing tennis to win the Cincy title, but the wear and tear of his phenomenal season was starting to show on his battered body. As the week progressed, Rafa would sometimes take the stairs one at a time to get to the interview table at his press conferences.Not a good sight! So when asked to write about Rafa’s chances at winning the US Open, I had serious doubts that he could withstand the two week hard court pounding. He proved me wrong, of course. But as the folks at reminded me, that’s not a bad thing to be wrong about.

Memorable 1-on-1, #1: Grigor Dimitrov finally started to realize the potential in his game this year, but still lost a heartbreaker to Rafa Nadal 6-2, 5-7, 6-2. After the loss, I asked for and received a 1-on-1with Grigor outside of the men’s locker room. Yep, these are the moments that make the work worthwhile! Click arrow to listen to the audio.

(click the arrow to play Grigor’s interview audio)


Novak Djokovic in the press room

Memorable 1-on-1, #2: Novak Djokovic completely destroyed David Goffin in the R16. Roger Federer, on the other hand, was pushed to the wall against Tommy Haas in a gripping 3-setter. Because it was my first chance for press with Novak, I went to the main press room when his time was announced. Everyone else in the press room stayed to watch Roger’s match. So when Novak arrived in press, he was greeted by yours truly and the transcribers, and no one else. Though he wasn’t happy with the situation (understatement), he sat down and answered a handful of questions. And that’s how I got my first 1-on-1 interview with a world #1. Click here to read the transcript.

*** That’s all for the tournaments I covered. I could write more, but you get the picture. Have a great Holiday Season, and a safe New Years! And a very special Thank You to Karen P./Tennis Panorama for my media credentials in 2013. See you at Indian Wells in 2014.

PostHeaderIcon Bob Hewitt’s Long Overdue Removal from the Hall of Fame

As tennis’ International Hall of Fame was preparing to announce its’ induction class for 2012, information was coming to light about a previously-inducted Hall of Famer and abuse allegations that seemed too hard to ignore. But that’s exactly what officials at the Hall of Fame appeared to do, infuriating many in the tennis community.

The subject of this firestorm was Bob Hewitt; a standout doubles player in his day who won all of the Grand Slam doubles titles for both Men’s and Mixed doubles. In later years, he went on to become a junior coach. This is where the story goes horribly wrong. Instead of coaching his young charges, he preyed on them sexually. Some of the victims, all young girls, were as young as 12. By all accounts the abuse was widespread and systemic.

A criminal probe was launched in early 2011. By the fall of 2011, word had spread of the allegations, and several witnesses had come forward against Hewitt. Mary Carillo even did a “Real Sports” story on the Hewitt allegations. But that’s as far as it got in terms of the tennis world.

Hall of Fame officials initially declined action because there was no criminal complaint on the matter. Finally, Tony Trabert, then president of the ITHOF, promised to conduct an investigation on the matter. But he never followed through. By the time the 2012 crop of inductees was being named, the matter had reached the boiling point because of the ITHOF’s inaction.

Mark Stenning, Hall CEO, publicly admitted in May that no investigation had been conducted. When an investigation was finally complete, it resulted in Hewitt’s suspension from the Hall of Fame on November 15, 2012. His plaque has been removed, as well as all other to him on Hall of Fame materials. Hewitt is “suspended” because they felt that expulsion was only appropriate if he were found guilty in a criminal proceeding. But for all practical purposes, Hewitt has ceased to be a Hall of Famer.

Stenning said afterward, “In hindsight, we certainly could have handled this more swiftly.

You think?

Better late than never, I guess. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for “due process”, but it took the Hall of Fame well over a year to take action on this matter, in spite of the pleas of many respected members. To their credit (because I do believe they should be given some credit) they spared no expense to investigate the matter once it became clear that Trabert had dropped the ball.

I’m not sure their late-game heroics can make up for their earlier inactivity, at least not for the victims. It’s easy to say you’re sorry after the fact when there are consequences. But it would have been much better if someone at the Hall of Fame had done the right thing from the outset, especially since the Hall of Fame is supposed to embody the best of tennis. And there was nothing “best” about this.


Articles for further reading and discussion:

PostHeaderIcon Miami or Bust: Heading To The Sony Ericsson Open In A Few Weeks

Session tickets have arrived, my flight is booked, and my hotel is all set for a return to the Sony Ericsson Open on March 26th. Though I won’t be covering the event as official media, you can still expect a ton of posts/pictures, as I will be in attendance for 4 straight days. Tennis-palooza is what my partner calls it. He knows I’m lost to him for this entire time. But he also knows that it’s for a worthy cause!

I’m not sure why I have embraced this tournament in the way I have… Miami is an okay city, but it’s not like I’m hitting the town every night after tennis. In fact, the only thing I hit after tennis watching is the bed in the hotel (so I can get up the next day and repeat the cycle).

The first year I stayed in South Beach. Though the beach access was great, tournament access was a pain in the ass! BUT… I ran into Mary Carillo on my very first day there within the very first hour. That made any travel hassles more than bearable!

The following year I stayed at the InterContinental…and ran into Tommy Robredo in the elevator immediately after check-in. In fact, I ran into Tommy pretty much all over the joint at the hotel and at the tournament. I hoped he wouldn’t think I was a stalker. His buddy took me into the hotel gym for this picture.

Last year, the Conrad provided great access to the tournament shuttle AND an opportunity for a breakfast picture with Daniela Hantuchova. My pleasant chat with Daniela more than made up for slipping in the shower on the second day and kind of hurting my arm and already injured ankle.

(Note: the hotel tried to make amends for the fall by sending someone out immediately for a shower mat, and delivering a “please-don’t-sue-us tray of cheese and fruit the next day. I think that a discount on my bill would have been a better option…just sayin’.)

What will 2012 trip to Miami and Key Biscayne bring? We’ll find out soon enough. All I know is that this year I’m taking my own shower mat. 🙂

PostHeaderIcon A Few Final Aussie Open Thoughts…Okay 15 Final Aussie Thoughts

Fifteen always seems to be about just right for this kind of thing… 😉 So without further ado:

– Congrats to Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Taylor Townsend, the last Americans left standing in mixed doubles and the junior girls draw respectively. Taylor has a lot of potential that I hope she can continue to develop without too much hype! As for Bethanie, check out her shot that began the match tiebreak online if you can find it!

– The Bryan Brothers were unable to add another slam title to the 11 they already have, keeping them in a tie with “The Woodies” for number of grand slam doubles titles.  But with the way these guys continue to play and try to improve it can’t be long before they get to 12.  Nice guys too.  Congrats to Bob Bryan on the (soon to be) birth of his first child.

– Vika beat Maria for the women’s title.  I prefer the nicknames of Hootarenka and Shriekapova.  Unfortunately there was not much for Maria to shriek about in her lopsided 3 and love loss.

– Novak is consistent!  In each of his semifinal and finals matches, he had a set that lasted 88 minutes:  one hour 28 minutes.  I’ve had matches that lasted less time than that with change to spare…and I mean A LOT of change.

– I hope Kim Clijsters 2.0 can stay uninjured for this, her last year on tour.  It was nice to see her so fired up.  Girlfriend wants to go out in a blaze of glory… I wish her luck.

– I hope Serena can get it together by Miami.  Not just because I’ll be there, but because the WTA tour is infinitely more interesting with her around.  She just needs to commit enough to not look like the Serena of her Makarova match ever again.  On a special note, I hope Andrea Petkovic gets back from her injury soon.  I don’t miss the Petko dance, but she is an interesting character on the tour as well.

– It was sad to see Fernando Verdasco so lost out there on court in his match against Bernie Tomic.  Not sure if he’s gonna be able to right his mental ship that seems to be listing badly.

– Bernie will be a no-show in San Jose after his post-Aussie loss “driving incident” in his hometown which ended in a standoff with police.  Would suck big-time if a potentially great career was sidetracked by these kinds of silly shenanigans.

– The Tennis Channel commentary was good (thank you Martina), the ESPN commentary was pretty awful.  Commentators were all over the place, commentary was all over the place, they would leave a match to do a studio interview and then cut back as though the match had waited for them EVEN WHEN the players were already back in the locker room.  Chris McKendry???  They could have left that spot at the desk open.  Chris Evert?  Disappointing.  I’ll stop with those two.  A little harsh, but justified when you have live coverage on the website that is better and live coverage on Tennis Channel that’s wayyyyyyy better.  Mary Carillo, we miss you desperately!!!

– The only thing worse than the ESPN commentary was the line calling at this year’s tournament.  I have never seen so many out balls called in and in balls called out.  The players looked to have absolutely no faith in the linesmen by the end of the tournament, the challenges were flying.  I hope there is a peer review going on after that abysmal showing.

– I lied… the thing that was worse than either of the previous two items were the Adidas outfits and shoes they had the guys wearing.  I don’t know who it was, but I hope whoever cam up with the idea of sherbet colors for men’s clothing should be fired.

– Ivan Lendl might be adding something to Andy Murray’s game and mindset, but the poor guy ain’t aging so well.  Bad aging aside on Lendl’s part, Andy played the best I have seen him play in a very long time.  It was nice to see such heart from a guy who can go away so easily.

– I hope Sam Stosur returns from the outback with her game intact and head in the right place.  She deserves better than a first round defeat.

– I hope Mardy Fish returns from Australia with a better attitude than he displayed while he was there.  Or maybe he could just leave the bad attitude there.  That would be acceptable too.

– Lastly, I will earn my gay blogger “props”  by listing the hottest guys I saw in the entourages of the top 4 men’s players.  You know when the camera flashes to the players’ box, there are all of these people.  Some are staff, some are friends, some are family.  I did my research and will give you my top 3.  Feel free to add your own in the comments section:  Miljan Amanovic (Novak’s physio), Dani Vallverdu (Andy Murray’s hitting partner, Miguel Angel Nadal (Rafa Nadal’s uncle).  Miguel made the list when I saw him in that yellow shirt while watching Rafa’s match against Berdych… that is one heck of a good-looking slightly older Spanish man. 😉 And no, there was no hotness to be found in the Federer box…

And there you have it.  The first slam is done.  More to come…

PostHeaderIcon Isner, Nalbandian, Nouni, And The Issue Of Timely Challenges

Okay, I’m gonna wade into this one thought I know my POV might be in the minority…

I feel bad for David Nalbandian that he got hooked on the line call for John Isner’s serve. The serve was actually out, but was called good in an overrule by Kader Nouni. Subsequently, Nalbandian tried to challenge and was denied in doing so by Nouni because he had taken “too much time”. The call was incorrect, but I completely agreed with Nouni!

Before making his earlier challenges in this match, David had gone through this basic routine:

  • walking up to the line
  • looking for a “mark”
  • looking at his box
  • looking at the “mark”
  • asking the chair about the call
  • and then finally deciding to make the challenge

This is way too much nonsense for taking an action that is supposed to provide immediate remedy if you are wronged on a call.

Challenges are supposed to be made in a timely manner.  The definition of timely gets murky though.  Some players will immediately challenge without hesitation:  Federer, Ferrer, Roddick, Serena (when she challenges, which is rarely), and a host of others.  No quibble, no walking around, no looking at their box, and in under 2-4 seconds.

Others go through way too much time and shenanigans.  DelPo is infamous for doing so, and annoyed Roger greatly during their US Open final.  He’s a big guy, and one such stroll to the mark and subsequent challenge decision took almost  10-15 seconds.  Caroline Wozniacki does it a lot too, and it seems almost as a way of trying to intimidate the line judge for future calls i.e. if the line judge doesn’t want to receive “the treatment” on their call again they should make the correct one next… in the player’s favor, of course.

But back to Nalbandian…
He loses the point on the (incorrect) overrule and has no ability to challenge the call because he didn’t do so in a timely manner.  It’s not how we would like to see these kinds of tense matches play out, but those are the rules of tennis.  It went against David this time, and it’s tough, but those are the rules under this system.

I have always agreed with Mary Carillo on this point:  if we have a system in place to correct errant calls that are off by only centimeters, then we should have the ability to use it indiscriminately or as standard procedure.  It shouldn’t be on the shoulders of the aggrieved player to decide on a challenge if the technology can easily show everyone else that the call was wrong.

For the record, I think David got screwed by the overrule, not by his denied challenge. This was a great match that shouldn’t have been decided by this type of bad call and subsequent controversy.  But, if we know the ball was out anyway via replay, he should still have won the point. Right?

If the rules ain’t fair, then maybe we need to change the rules.

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