Mid-match chat slow to catch on with top players

NEW YORK • American Coco Vandeweghe upset her 29th-seeded compatriot Sloane Stephens 6-4, 6-3 in the opening round of the US Open on Monday, but it was her decision to grant the first-ever mid-match television interview that caused a stir.

After wrapping up the first set on Louis Armstrong Court, the 23-year-old was joined by ESPN pundit Pam Shriver for a courtside chat during the changeover.

Vandeweghe admitted she could not remember what she told Shriver but insisted that, although she had agreed to ESPN's request on the eve of the match, she retained the option to change her mind at the last minute.

"I could say it two seconds before I walked out on the court. I gave her the nod to go ahead, and then it happened," she added.

The world No. 45 said that she believed the brief 30-second interview, which covered basic tennis conversation fillers such as being focused and aggressive, could be a winner with fans.

" I think it's a positive. I think any innovation, it is a positive. So I see no harm in it," she said.

But not all players shared her enthusiasm, with former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki dismissing it as a fad as she tweeted: "Surely you would want to focus on the game out there? No?"

Top-ranked Serena Williams said she found the interview interesting, but probably would not do it herself.

"It's great for some viewers - get in the mind of the athletes," the American said.

"For me, I'm really focused the whole time. I'm really trying to think about what I want to do. I don't necessarily want to answer questions about anything. I just want to be in that moment."

Men's world No. 1 Novak Djokovic saw merits in the idea, but he would not be tempted to break his routine, especially in a Grand Slam contest.

"What I think they're trying to do here is kind of implement the same kind of media interaction as in, for example, other sports like basketball after the first or second quarter," said the Serb, who defeated Brazil's Joao Souza 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 in his first-round tie on Monday.

"I don't know how much it can really work in tennis, but the impression of this first interview has been made. Most players in the locker room are talking about it.

"It's going to be interesting to see if somebody is going to follow up and accept to do the same. I will not, definitely for this tournament. But who knows? Who knows what the future brings?"


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 02, 2015, with the headline 'Mid-match chat slow to catch on with top players'. Print Edition | Subscribe