Q & A

On The Line with Julie Rabe


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'. Subscribe