The Other Side of the Press-Room

Written By: achangeofends - Mar• 22•11

I’ve been thinking about what I wanted to say about my trip to Indian Wells for a couple of days now. It’s tough to put a week like this into words, particularly when it’s about my experience rather than the tennis. However, this morning I read Steve Tignor’s take on his trip to the BNP Paribas Open and I decided the best way to talk about my own experience is as opposition to his. You can read his “Notebook: Press-Room Therapy Edition” here and I recommend that you do because he has a spectacular way with words.

On Sunday the 13th, I stepped into a press-room for just the second time in my life. I’d certainly never seen one of this scale. Perched high up in the main stadium, the press-room at the BNP Paribas Open is a labyrinth of tiny cubicles, each with a monitor, phone, and internet connection, each filled by a world renowned tennis journalist. Honestly, the best thing I can compare this to is a trading floor at a bank, that is, if traders wore shorts and flipflops instead of suits and ties. Let me explain. First, everyone’s got multiple monitors up, and they’re watching all of them. They’re watching the center court match on the wall monitor, stadium 2 is up on their personal screen, and they’re live streaming march madness on their laptop, while they take notes longhand. It may not be stock quotes, but the focus and urgency appears just the same. Second, women are few and far between. I’m guessing that tennis attracts more female journalists than football or baseball, but it can’t be by much. So, I’m fairly certain I stuck out like a sore thumb, considering I was one of maybe five or six women, and almost certainly the youngest person in the entire room. Let’s put it this way, I nearly got carded at media happy hour in the BNP Paribas luxury suite.

Further isolating myself, I didn’t request a work space, so I set up shop on one of the barstools overlooking the main stadium court. I didn’t make the long trip to Indian Wells to watch tennis on a tiny monitor. For the people who do this every week, I’m sure the novelty of live tennis has worn off. This is a job. In Tignor’s notebook entry, he wonders whether players still enjoy playing, saying, “Everyone knows that the minute a hobby becomes a job, the nature of it changes and some of the pure enjoyment goes out of it.” I think it’s the same for tennis journalists. I’m sure if I watched tennis every day for years, I also wouldn’t feel like I had to venture outside to watch every match, but for now, I still want to see every second of tennis.

For the first day, I felt more star-struck in the press-room than I did around the players. My favorite journalists and commentators were all milling around me and somehow I was supposed to fit in. Could I really ask questions in a press conference with these guys sitting next to me? In the first press conference I attended last week, I struggled a little trying to decided whether my question was too obvious or too trivial or too silly. Then, someone asked my question. I guess it wasn’t too silly. After that, I was set. I could be just as journalistic as the next guy. The player doesn’t know if you’re a blogger or if you work for the New York Times, and even if they did, a question is a question.

In case you’re wondering, I did eventually find my own crowd in press-room. It’s a lot more like a school yard than you probably think, but everyone has to make friends eventually, right?

Tignor wonders about the grueling travel schedule of professional players. I have to agree. In the past year, I’ve “lived” in five different cities, in two different countries and visited too many places to count. I feel like I’ve spent more time at airports, in planes, on trains, and in taxis than I have actually visiting anywhere. But, somehow it’s still just as exciting as the first trip. Sure, I kick and scream a little inside every time I hear my flight is delayed (again), but overall, I still love the thrill that comes with a new adventure. This is as close as I think I’ll ever come to the demanding travel of a tennis player. They do this every single week, all year long.

On my return trip from Palm Springs, I happened to be sharing the first leg of my flight with Tomas Berdych and Lucie Safarova. I’m guessing that most people assume a Top 10 player like Berdych would travel in style, but their day seemed to be an awful lot like mine. They had to go through the annoying security line just as I did. They had to sit in the weirdly small outdoor terminal too. Their lunch options were the absurdly crowded sandwich stand and the newsstand as well. When our flight was delayed because they had to fix the PA system, they didn’t freak out about the fact that they would probably miss their connection. Perhaps most interestingly, we were flying on a plane that had a first class section, yet Tomas and posse ended up in coach. Lucie got a seat in first, but the 6’5″ world No. 7 settled for an exit row seat. That certainly made me feel better about squishing into a coach window seat, considering I’m close to a foot shorter. On a completely unrelated topic, they may very well be the most adorable couple I’ve ever seen.

There’s nothing that inspires me to work long hours like tennis does. Twelve or thirteen hours on site would fly by before I realized I hadn’t even begun writing yet. Somehow, I still managed to get six or seven hours of sleep per night which allowed me to function on a fairly normal level, but I often found myself forgetting dinner. Like most things, I think there’s a learning curve when it comes to covering a tournament. You can’t watch every match, and you don’t have to. There are plenty of stories that come from each match and each press conference. Sometimes going to everything just makes it tougher to find the best one.

I sincerely hope you all enjoyed my first attempt at covering such a large tennis tournament. You can find the links to all of my TennisGrandstand articles below.

Next up, I will be covering the Family Circle Cup in Charleston, SC.

Indian Wells Observations: Who Says American Tennis is Weak?

Indian Wells: Upsets Galore at the BNP Paribas Open

BNP Paribas Open Preview: The Round of 16

Indian Wells: Mid-Week Blowouts and Quasi-Surprise Winners

Breaking News: Victoria Azarenka Retires Against Caroline Wozniacki and Tommy Robredo Withdraws

Nadal Pulls Out the Win and Advances to the Semis

Four Grand Slam Winners Headline the Indian Wells Semifinals

Surprise Doubles Champs in Indian Wells

 

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