I’m starting to write this instead of watching Jankovic/Petkovic doubles. That’s how much I love you guys. That’s also how cold it is, and how far behind I feel I am on writing. It’s been a while since I’ve been to the early rounds of a tournament, so I completely forgot how guilty you feel 24/7 because there is just no way to be everywhere at once, or to get everything done.
Still, it’s all pretty amazing, and I’m still so new to this that the amazingness isn’t at all lost on me. To indulge you guys and to help myself, I’m going to dump all of this information I’ve learned in one place so I can remember it all forever. Sound good? Cool.
Okay, so the last time we talked I was dealing with the fading battery on my computer, and was getting ready to go to downtown Charleston to have some drinks with some press friends. I must say that the group that is here from the “Twitter” crowd–Courtney, Ben, Steph, Nick, and Erik–are all so nice and wonderful, and it really does make this whole experience that much better. The only problem though? Spending time with awesome people is super distracting! Because I went out on Sunday night, I didn’t transcribe my 20-minute Vania interview that night, and since play in Charleston begins at 10:00 a.m, I was automatically way behind schedule. Awesome.
Monday was all about WTA All Access Hour. It was off-site, so the van picked up the media at 12:30. This meant I really didn’t get to watch a lot of tennis during the morning, because I was trying to get a few articles submitted to 10sWorld before All Access Hour started. (A side-note is that the 10sWorld site happens to be down right now, and so things keep getting rewritten to be timely, and then scrapped because it is still dealing with a bug. Frustrating for all, trust me.)
Unfortunately, I really didn’t get to watch any of the morning matches, but that was okay because soon enough, I was packed into a cargo van and on my way to a gorgeous country club in Charleston to talk with Lucie, Serena, Caro, Vicki, Venus, Sam, and Sloane. Yeah, don’t feel sorry for me. I’m a lucky duck.
From what I heard from my more experienced press friends, every All Access Hour is different. Sometimes all the players come out at once and it’s a free-for-all, and sometimes they are more staggered. This time they pretty much came out one at a time, as they were passed off to us after they talked on WTA Live. I still haven’t gotten through transcribing all of the interviews (I’VE BEEN BUSY, I’M SORRY), but I will go through person by person and quickly share my impressions and summarize interesting things they said.
-Lucie sat down with us first. She had a big smile about coming back to Charleston, where she had so many great memories–last year she made the final and won the doubles title.
-She said that she split with her coach Biljana Veselinovic after Paris indoors in February, and is here working with Rob Steckley.
-She laughed a lot when I brought up the “Call Me Maybe” dance video from Fed Cup. She said they had music on every morning in the locker room and would sing and dance, and one day her team doctor surprised them by filming it and posting it on Facebook. She said so many comments made them promise to dance if they won the trophy, and they were happy to oblige.
-I was very pleasantly surprised by how friendly and open Lucie was. She was very easygoing and calm, and completely different from her nervous on-court persona. She’s also one of the few players who doesn’t look thinner in person–she looks really healthy and wonderful.
-Sam was also very friendly and lovable in press, nothing at all like the tense player she is during matches. She seemed completely at home in Charleston, and gushed about staying with a family who supports all the Australian girls.
-She said she saw Sofia Vergara when she was out for her birthday dinner, and even though she’s a big fan of Modern Family she didn’t bother Sofia for an autograph. She said she’s not bothered when fans come up to her though, that she finds it flattering and meaningful.
-She laughed a lot. That was awesome.
-Vicki was a part of All Access hour as a rookie, and she stole the show from all the stars. I’m not even exaggerating. She is the most adorable and fun-loving person I have ever met in my entire life, and she was completely at home talking to the press. Ben Rothenberg asked her about her love for SpongeBob that she documents over social media, and she went wild. This is all I’m going to say because I actually might transcribe the whole three minute interview at a later date.
-Sloane was the most guarded during All Access Hour, and it was pretty clear that the past few months have taken a toll on her. She is not relishing the pressure at all, and talked frequently about how excited she was to get to Europe and get some distance from everyone, including her friends and social media.
-Her Charleston restaurant recommendation? Cracker Barrel. She was serious. She loves the chicken friend steak. She also likes Waffle House.
-I really enjoyed talking with her, and it does feel like she’s grown up a lot. She talked for a while about how she’s decided to live her life on her own terms like any girl her age would, and said she doesn’t pay attention to what the media is saying anymore. As crazy as it sounds, her relationship with Rory seems to have grounded her.
-I was shocked she didn’t pull any April Fools pranks on the media, but apparently she did pull one on her manager–she told him she was engaged. Creative.
-Serena was in a great mood in press, and was surprisingly easy to talk to. She played with her hair a lot, but if you know me you know that I do that too, so I felt completely at home. She also sat on her knees in the chair during the whole interview, which could not have been comfortable at all.
-She has so much PRESENCE that it’s absolutely frightening. She is just a star. She also is insanely fit right now, and looks much smaller in person. Her waist is TINY.
-She described her condo in Paris as, “really, really, really shabby chic.”
-She revealed that she still has to give herself shots before she travels, and that’s only one of the ways that she’s still feeling the effects of the pulmonary embolism that had her scared for her life.
-OMG you guys, I got to talk to Venus Williams. This was a huge moment in my life. SHE WAS SO AMAZING.
-She kept talking about how difficult last year was, because she really did not feel good at all on court but she wanted to get to the Olympics so badly that she just fought through all the pain. She said it was “one of the toughest and craziest and most exhilarating times in my life.”
-She said that coming back to Charleston was great: “I fought really hard to get back to where I was. Coming back to these tournaments reminds me of the triumphs.”
-She also said this: “You have to focus on what you can achieve. It’s important for me to focus on what I can accomplish and not what I can’t.”
-I asked her about what she thought about the fact that the equal pay issue keeps coming up over and over again. Her answer? “I tell them, ‘‘No, no more!’” So fabulous.
-In all seriousness, she was so friendly, down-to-earth, ditzy, and self-deprecating that I was even more charmed than I was before I met her. When she first walked up to our table she was carrying her dog Harry, but she handed him off to her assistant after we all joked about interviewing him. Then the first thing she did was say hello and shake hands with Courtney, who was going to be playing with her in an exhibition later that evening for her clothing line EleVen. Venus joked with Courtney that she had been practicing for their exo, not for the tennis tournament. Courtney might be mad at me for telling you guys this, but I just thought it was such a sweet moment that really showed how humble Venus is, and how much she genuinely puts into her clothing line and the events they put on to promote it.
-She walked out of All Access Day arm and arm with Serena, and it was just the cutest thing I have ever seen.
Okay, so as you can see, this blog is already very long, and since I started it I have been to three pressers, watched a match, come back “home,” and drank a beer or two. So I’m going to cut things off here, and continue diarying–new word!–tomorrow. I’m still figuring out the best way to cover events for The Changeover, so thanks for being patient with me and the rest of the gang as we experiment. With all the business, I keep dreaming of the day where I can be at a tournament with JJ and Amy, and we can all spread out and attack the tournament from multiple angles and post like 10 things a day. Yes, these are my dreams. Don’t laugh.
If you haven’t done so yet, please also check out my interview with Vania King, the first exclusive interview here at The Changeover. It was so great to talk with her and have her open up so much about her struggles. I think her story is an important one for tennis fans to know, so I’d appreciate if you’d pass it around the community if you like it. We’re hoping to get more exclusive interviews, but it’s a lot easier to make that happen if we can prove that there’s an audience for it.
Thanks as always for the support. I’m going to go get more than four hours of sleep so I can be up and ready to write a lot more tomorrow! This is the life.