Category Archives: Interviews
Before I arrived, I told you all I just wanted to sit around the courts and watch a load of tennis. Well, so far that hasn’t really happened. As soon as I got here, I was practically dragged, kicking and screaming, into the press room for the WTA-Oriflame press conference.
As you all know, at the WTA Championships last year, Stacey Allaster took centre stage to announce 3247438934 new sponsorship opportunities of the WTA, ushering in a new WTA Era. One such partnership, of course, was the Swedish makeup company Oriflame. This week in Paris marks the beginning of their partnership, and so they sat down to announce it to the world, accompanied by Nadia Petrova and Andrea Petkovic.
The first part (the presser) was actually pretty uneventful. I came in prepared to record everything, but apart from a couple of typically funny lines from Andrea Petkovic, and then a few iffy lines from the Oriflame rep, it was pretty dull. They just introduced the partnership, showed a couple of videos which suspiciously lacked the champions (Venus, Serena and Kim), in favour of the “pretty” girls, and then took some questions. The best part? I got big goodie bag of Oriflame makeup products. I’m pretty sure it must cost around £250 at the very least. That’s my mum’s birthday present sorted for another year.
After a brief interlude, a round-table session began with Stacey Allaster and Michael Cervell, the Oriflame rep. Surrounding Allaster was a load of cosmetic journalists who clearly knew nothing about tennis (one of the questions I heard from afar was “what year did the tour begin?” I wouldn’t be surprised if they also, at some point, asked her to explain the rules of tennis to them.), and so I snuck into the centre seat for a rare opportunity to speak the CEO of the WTA tour.
Obviously I didn’t come prepared but it was all pretty interesting. We spoke about the WTA’s aims outside of corporate success, and she was quick to point towards Asia and establishing the WTA as the ATP’s equal partner as the main pillars for the future.
The WTA’s love of Asia has always been interesting because, from a lot of people’s point of view, it has been at the expense of popularity in Europe and particularly America. However, she was quick to refute that, stating that of the USA’s traditional sports, tennis is the only sport currently growing in the states, with more people playing it etc. And she believes that the current tour, with the events pretty balanced between the USA, Europe and Asia, is the right course of action.
We also touched on ‘the MSG Question’. As I asked, she smiled, saying that it was the one question asked wherever she went. I guess that’s a testament to the popularity of the event. She said that, while the business fit is not right, returning the Championships to Madison Square Garden is a no-go. But if there does come a point when it all adds up, then MSG will definitely be a possibility.
Finally, we chatted about the actual players, and their role on the tour. She was adamant that their views are most important, and that the WTA is a “joint partnership” between the players and tour. She accredited a lot of the positive changes of recent times to both Venus and Serena, and painted Wozniacki as someone who may follow in their footsteps in time, with La Borz enthusiastically attending her first meeting with a list of around ten things she wanted changed.
All in all, it was a pretty good experience. On the corporate side, the WTA seems to be thriving in a climate when other sports, both male and female, are moving backwards. Let’s hope the actual tennis can follow suit accordingly.
In the end, Ana cruised to victory. Though Patty was pretty useless, Ana played some awsome tennis throughout the match. She dominated with her forehand, served well and (*gasp*) hit some stunning backhands. Can’t really say much more than that. Total Domination.
And now for the videos:
Ana’s Match Point
I said I would ask more questions in the next Ivanovic press conference, and I did. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t nervy. It’s odd, I’m never nervous when speaking to players. But it just feels really strange to go from being a lowly fan to actually speaking to players as a real journalist would. I found myself more nervous about fucking up my words and not being assertive enough, which of course meant I did both of them. But it was weird in a good way.
But yeah, the presser, it was pretty fun. I can’t even lie when I say that at the beginning of the tournament I disliked Ana. But sitting in these pressers have really changed my view on her. One thing I really liked is the fact that always gives you direct eye contact. Didn’t ask about twitter though, it just seemed so weird to do so. Everyone was talking about the match, her form and the actual tennis so for me to then randomly chime in with “ANARRRRRR WE WANT YOU ON TWITTER!!!!” would be pretty foolish of me. With that said, if she does win the final tomorrow then I’ll try to ask it. Enjoy!
Following her 6-2 4-6 7-5 victory over Andrea Petkovic, we had a chance to sit down and talk to Patty. Well, no, rather we stood up and crashed a private interview. That’s what it felt like, anyway. But I recorded it all the same.
Pretty uneventful and very short, but ‘ere you go. More than anything, this press conference hit home how hard it can be to ask questions. I mean, it was a pretty uneventful match and not much has changed from yesterday so what else is there to ask her?
If you guys have any questions for the next one, then feel free to tweet me or comment here.
After her straight sets victory over Sorana Cirstea, Ana sat down for yet another presser. This time she spoke about her friendship with Sorana, the clothes she wore in the player party and the same ol’ same ol’.
Oh, and yes, that was me sounding a little odd while asking that (useless) question, and saying “years” instead of “months”. She has that effect on you.
Earlier on today, Ana Ivanovic sat down in-between practice sessions for a small Press Conference here at the Generali Ladies Linz event. She touched on a number of topics, including Caroline Wozniacki, a possible career in design, Serbia at the Davis Cup and more.
The video cuts out in the middle of the conference because I came in late, not having a clue where it was being held. As you can see, she was in a very chilled mood and answered every question (yes, even the ones about her private life), and she seemed genuinely happy to be at the event. If she was tired from 4 straight weeks on the road, she certainly didn’t show it.
Though there wasn’t much we haven’t already heard, her answer to the question about jealousy around the lockerroom was pretty interesting. I remember around Wimbledon last year she was talking about how a lot of the girls on tour are jealous and she has been unable to form any attatchments with her fellow players. However, this year she seems to be singing a completely different tune. Maybe her reaching out to her fellow players a little more is a factor in her increasing form? However, there is a line, Ana, and you crossed it when you agreed to play doubles with Yanina Wickmayer at Luxembourg next week.
(Sorry about the sound, I was standing quite a distance away)
The Women’s Semifinals may have been rained off in Montreal this week, but it didn’t dampen the players spirits as they sat down in twos to do press conferences.
Firstly here’s Sveta da Joker.
JOURNALIST: How was your day?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: I had the best day in my life. We were competing in soccer. Who kicks the most amounts in a row. I was losing to Vickie so I couldn’t stand it so I had to beat her up. I ended up taking forever but I did manage to (win).
Q. The rain is scheduled to stop at exactly 10 a.m. tomorrow. That’s the hourly forecast.
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: I think if it was to happen in Moscow, we would have a huge vent, they would do someting to stop the rain forever. They have special planes to move the clouds away. That is why it never rains in Moscow.
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: That is why if you plan your vacation, come to Moscow in August.
And then Karolina and Vika engaging in some friendly banter:
JOURNALIST: Having fun?
CAROLINE WOZNIACKI: Great fun! We love waiting! Not really
Q: Are you concerned about your upcoming schedule, and the delays here?
CAROLINE WOZNIACKI: I am playing in New Haven and I have a bye in the first round. I will not play before Wednesday. I always like playing bye.
VICTORIA AZARENKA: It’s the best opponent.
Q. All of this waiting, going on, getting off, waiting. I don’t know how much anxiety or nerves this creates. It’s not like this is U.S. Open, or anything. Do you get kind of emotionally ready and then on edge, up and then down again?
CAROLINE WOZNIACKI: Of course, we want to win. It doesn’t matter if it is the U.S. Open, or… this is a big tournament for us as well and we want to do well and we want to win. We want to be mentally ready. And when it rains, you look at the radar and you look to see whether it will be a lot of rain. After that you try to relax a bit and try to put the intensity down, relax, and when you see the sky opening up a bit… you prepare…
VICTORIA AZARENKA: (Imitating snoring sounds, followed by laughter)
CAROLINE WOZNIACKI: You know, I am going to pretend that I didn’t hear that! (laughter) Can you believe we are staying in the same hotel in New York? And I have to put up with this? (laughter) Every single day? And actually, she is the one who was late for the press conference because she could not put the balls in the pool table.
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Yeah, but I won in the end.
Q. So the plan is if it rains tomorrow, they have to decide whether to play Tuesday or split all the money into the points.
CAROLINE WOZNIACKI: Can they do that? Really? Can we play poker or something? (laughter) We can put all the prize money into a poker tournament.
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Rain, please, rain! (laughter)
Q. Would you play on Tuesday?
CAROLINE WOZNIACKI: We haven’t thought about that yet. Hopefully tomorrow we will have good weather and finish the tournament.
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Yeah. (laughter)
CAROLINE WOZNIACKI: Vickie is already thinking. I can see that. It just takes a while. (laughter)
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Yeah. (laughter) You just said so much that I don’t know what to add.
All I have to say to that is: STOP MAKING ME LIKE YOU, KAROLINA.
Here is an interview with WTA CEO Stacy Allaster. I picked out the most interesting answers, but you can read the full interview at macleans.ca.
Q: What’s the most challenging aspect of running the WTA?
A: Probably that it’s a very political sport, and we’re fragmented. You have the WTA, the men’s governing body, the four Grand Slams that are each independent, the International Tennis Federation—seven independent organizations trying to govern the sport and playing, at times, on the same stage.
Q: So each one is jockeying for position?
A: Sure. We have different agendas, different interests, so for me, it’s balancing all of the political interests while trying to advance women’s tennis. For example, in 2011, we have 52 events, and 25 of them will be combined with the men or back-to-back. But the men’s organization, the ATP, is completely separate. We sell our television rights to a separate group of broadcasters, they sell theirs to a different group. One of my strategic goals is to try to find a way to combine our television rights. Right now, for the fans, it’s disjointed. You could be watching a women’s match, and it’s, “Coming up next, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer”—then the screen goes dark. I don’t think we’re making it easy for fans to follow us, as a sport, and we’re cannibalizing each other in the marketplace.
Q: Combining TV rights sounds like a no-brainer. Why do you have difficulty convincing the ATP?
A: I think there’s a willingness to sit at the table and look at this, but in some ways, we still have the same locker-room mentality we had 37 years ago when Billie Jean founded the WTA. I think we need to do what’s right for our fans and sponsors, and find a way to co-operate. And we are doing some things together, but we’ve just got some heritage, some guys-versus-girls dynamic.
Q: Sponsors have been pulling out of pro sports because of the recession. One of your big accomplishments was convincing Sony Ericsson to re-sign in March as the lead WTA sponsor for the next two years. What’s your secret?
A: It comes down to making sure you truly understand how a marketing investment in women’s tennis is going to meet a sponsor’s business objectives. And I’m lucky, because our athletes understand the importance of this. When I needed to go renew Sony Ericsson, Venus got on a red-eye and joined me for the meeting. I did not pay her to do that, she did it because it was the right thing to do to help us renew and extend sponsorship.
Q: At least one Williams sister has played in the Wimbledon final for 10 of the past 11 years. Can you tell us something about them that we don’t already know?
A: They’re incredibly bright young women, and they’re very giving of their time. Venus has given 10 years of her time to the Players’ Council to provide leadership. We meet with the council, always, right before Grand Slams, when she’s under tremendous pressure to go to her sponsors, to do media. But she’s there, she’s read her materials, and is insightful and thoughtful. And Serena, she’s a very good businesswoman. She can be sitting in a meeting, tweeting away, but then she pops right up and says something—she’s been listening the whole time.
Her vision of working as closely as possible to the ATP is very interesting. On one hand it would strengthen the brand of tennis as a whole and joint tournaments are certainly far more popular for players and fans than separate ones. The ATP tour is generally better at bringing tennis fans to their events, but the WTA tour creates far more media interest and publicity.
However, could it ever realistically work? At the end of the day they are two separate sports and although there are many who enjoy both equally, there are also people who despise one or the other. ATP-only fans tend to think that Women hit too many errors, and WTA-only fans think the Men are boring as the ATP is far more serve-dominated. Personally I would love it if more and more tournaments did combine.
I also thought her comments on the Williams Sisters were very interesting. Not only are they two of the most celebrated figures for the sport, but they (and especially Venus of course) seem to have a huge impact behind the scenes too. Which is why last week’s comments from the Rogers Cup Twitter Page were so ridonk.