Q & A

On The Line with Julie Rabe

PHOTO: SPH

The Straits Times speaks to the people who work away from centre court and behind the scenes to find out the quirky details of their jobs.

Today: American Julie Rabe, 46, a stenographer who has been transcribing media conferences at the WTA Finals this week.

Q How long does it take to learn this skill?

A Everybody's different. I took 31/2 years. You first learn the language and then you go up in speed increments.

Q So how fast are you?

A You graduate at 225 words a minute. But you have to have an extra turbo in the tank because it can get faster than that for a lot of players. You have to constantly groom your dictionary in the machine.

Q So the stenograph machine is personalised?

A Yes, there are basics and the keyboard is the same but anything that gives you a moment of hesitation, you've got to change it. It goes with me when I travel. Nobody touches it.

Q How long have you been doing this?

A 20 years.

Q Have you always been working at tennis events?

A I started with tennis when I was in court reporting school and worked in the courts for a few years before getting back to tennis. I do some golf over the phone and some football teleconferences.

Q Which accent is hardest to understand?

A Scottish, but not Andy Murray. He's very easy to understand. Indians can have difficult accents too.

Q What are some words you've had to "decipher"?

A Rafael Nadal used to say, "If I'm not coming with confidence, I'm coming with 'doo-bits'." That's 'doubt'.

Tomas Berdych said once, "If you have the 'ree-seep' you will know how to do it". He meant 'recipe'.

Q Who talks the fastest?

A The Americans and Australians.

Q What's the longest day you've had?

A It was Marcos Baghdatis and Lleyton Hewitt one day at the 2008 Australian Open. We started at 11am and left at 5.30am in the morning.

Q How many languages do you speak?

A I speak "Steno" and English fluently. I understand French and Italian but I'm shy to speak it. One of these days...

Q Which player always gets a laugh from the reporters?

A Svetlana Kuznetsova. She's just very open and self-deprecating.

Q What's your turnaround?

A It's usually minute for minute, but it's probably half of that.

Q What's the most disastrous thing to have happened during a conference?

A The software freezing up or you get no audio. The players sometimes say they can't find a rhythm and on Tuesday night with Maria Sharapova I was just all over the keyboard. I had to tell myself, "Calm down, Julie. Mellow out and write."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 29, 2015, with the headline 'On The Line with Julie Rabe'. Print Edition | Subscribe