Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Press vs. The Players: Shadow Boxing - Part 1

My translations of parts of Anders Haahr Rasmussen's terrific book "Én bold ad gangen: Wozniacki, US Open 2009" The press conference referred to below occurred after Caroline beat Melanie Oudin.

"Questions please," says the moderator.

10 minutes of questions follow in English, then 5 minutes in Danish, then a couple of brief remarks in Polish. Caroline Wozniacki answers the questions willingly. She also answers most of them meaninglessly.

About her match with Melanie Oudin:

"I mean Melanie she beat some great players, no doubt about it. I knew it was going to be tough, I knew that she was going to fight to the last point. So I just ... yeah, I just thought about one point at a time and one ball at a time, triying not to think too much about the score even though it's difficult and ... uhhhh ... I'm a fighter so I don't give up so I fought to the last point."

About playing on Centre Court:

"It's an amazing feeling, especially when you play at night. Playing in Arthur Ashe Stadium with 23,000 people looking at you when you go on the court, I mean it's --you can't really describe the feeling. It's just -- magical. It's amazing."


One needn't have heard many interviews with professional athletes to recognise the style and to know that it hasn't been invented by, or exclusively used by, Caroline Wozniacki. At the most, she's an illustrative example of that special kind of obligingness that characterises the behaviour of most sports stars in the media. A behaviour that one can criticise for being impersonal and filled with clichés, but is very understandable when one witnesses the conditions under which it happens.

It's only been an hour since Caroline Wozniacki was in the middle of a backhand rally that secured her the victory over Melanie Oudin. She has neither had the chance to eat or see her family. But she has to field more than 50 questions from 20 different people in three languages, and it's not over yet.

After the press conference -- which is a free fire zone of questions ranging from what her tactical plan was, to a question about how many boy friends she has, to what it's like to play on Centre Court --it's time to give one-on-one interviews to the media who have booked them in advance, which typically is Denmarks Radio, Danish TV2, Eurosport, the Tennis Channel and in some cases Swedish and Norwegian TV, and the local TV stations in the country of her next opponent. 

(Footnote: Here are the questions Roger Federer had to answer after his win over Philipp Kohlschrieber in the third round of Wimbledon earlier in the year, in almost the exact order in which they came. "How do you see today's match?" - "Where where you when Michael Jackson died?" - "What parts of his performances did you like best?" - "Nelson Mandela will be honoured here in a few weeks, what do you think of him?" - "What do you think of his legacy?" - "How do you feel about meeting [Robin] Söderling again? Is he more dangerous on grass than on clay?" - "As we know, your wife is pregnant. Would you be happy if she gave birth in England?" - "Fabrice Santore has played his last match here. Are there some shots he has in his arsenal you'd like? What's it like playing against him?")

As usual, they ask her the same questions she's already answered, but formulated slightly differently by their own reporters and recorded with their own cameras and their own microphones, so their listeners and viewers get an "exclusive" interview with the popular tennis star, who knows the routine and turns the record player on and plays the oldies but goodies about fighting to the end and taking it one ball at a time.

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