The first day of the US Open was a bumpy ride for big names, as Serbian sisters Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic, both former top-ranked players, crashed out, the 2004 singles champion Svetlana Kuznetsova and former junior champion Heather Watson are also out, as well as this year’s US Open Series winner Karolina Pliskova, who was destroyed by Anna Tatishvili. However, even though the opening of the US Open said goodbye to quite a few notable players, there is something else that this day will stay remembered for in the long run – the first mid-match interview in tennis history took place on Monday, when Pam Shriver interviewed Coco Vandeweghe in-between sets of the American’s match against compatriot Sloane Stephens.
ESPN’s commentator Shriver approached Vandeweghe with the idea before the match and the world No.45 American accepted the challenge. Of course, Shriver ensured that the interview would not interfere with Coco’s match focus, so she gave her free rein to opt out if it would turn out that the interview would crack her concentration.
After winning the first set against Sloane, Coco nodded to Pam that she was OK and went on to answer two quick questions: “What were you most happy with in the first set?” and “What do you need to do in the second set to close out the win?”
This may now become a trend, as I’m sure that other journalists would also like to arrange such exciting interviews. Actually, Jamie Reynolds, Vice President, Production, for ESPN has already said that they are going to continue with this during the US Open fortnight: “We’ve received positive feedback within the sport, and look forward to continuing with them these two weeks. It’s one more avenue in which we seek to bring fans closer to the athletes.”
With all the media demands, it’s becoming increasingly difficult being a tennis player, but then again, tennis is there because of fans. Actually, Coco said that players have so many on-court distractions anyway, so they have to be masters of their concentration and one short interview shouldn’t make it collapse.
But there’s lots of distractions that go on during a tennis match. At the same time, we have on-court coaching during WTA events. You could also lose focus in that way because you’re speaking to someone. If you aren’t able to put those distractions aside, then you need to kind of definitely work on that aspect of your game.
Nevertheless, even though this was a good experience and Coco actually recorded one of her biggest career victories, upsetting seed No.29 Stephens 6-4 6-3, she can’t say for sure that she’ll do such an interview again:
Maybe another time I’ll be not feeling it as much, and I’ll tell Pam to go sit back down, which might be equally as fun.
All the players, both ATP and WTA, having been buzzing about this and reactions are mixed. Generally they find it interesting, but the fear of this becoming mandatory must also be there.
Very brave. I kinda like the idea. https://t.co/SdvYhOIypK
— Anne Keothavong (@annekeothavong) August 31, 2015
Wow, have you seen Coco giving mid match, after first set, interview on court 😂 ?! Very interesting 👌
— Jovana Jaksic (@JaksicJovana) August 31, 2015
Caroline Wozniacki is not so fond of this novelty:
Did I just see Coco do an interview on court, mid match, after the first set?? Surely you would wanna focus on the game out there? No? — Caroline Wozniacki (@CaroWozniacki) August 31, 2015
Caro’s bestie Serena Williams is sort of neutral:
Being a vintage player from Lord knows what decade — and I’m old-school, so I don’t know if I can say that’s something I would do, per se — but I found it quite interesting. […] Maybe that’s the future of tennis, the future of where it’s going. You know, hopefully they don’t make that mandatory. […] I don’t necessarily want to answer questions about anything. I just want to be in that moment.
Something tells me that this will not turn out to be just a one-time event. What do you think? (photos: Getty Images, USTA/Garrett Ellwood, Sloane’s Twitter)