Eve of Wimbledon atmosphere at Tennis Podcast towers is akin to the night before Christmas (also at Tennis Podcast towers) - giddy, excitable, and full of unrealistic expectation of what might follow. At least on my side of the pod. Catherine Whitaker is slightly more grounded.
There are so many delicious storylines to get stuck into over the next two weeks. The return of Petra Kvitova and Victoria Azarenka, the rise of Jelena Ostapenko, the fact that five women are in with a chance of ending the tournament as the World No.1 - current No.1 Angelique Kerber, Simona Halep, Karolina Pliskova, Elina Svitolina and even Caroline Wozniacki. That’s before we get into the form of Johanna Konta, and the fact that Serena Williams’ absence levels the playing field more than ever.
On the men’s side, there’s Roger Federer, nearly 36, casually sailing his way through the year and picking up titles when he can be bothered. Rafael Nadal looking like the 2008 version of himself at the French Open - you may recall what happened on grass that year… Novak Djokovic going to Eastbourne and winning the title, and World Number One Andy Murray struggling for form and fitness. That’s just the Big 4. There are so many other players that will have their say over the next two weeks. And the No.1 ranking on the men’s side could go to Murray, Nadal, Djokovic or Wawrinka by the end of the event. Needless to say, we can’t wait.
Catherine has been speaking to most of the big names over the last week for Eurosport. Her interviews with Federer, Nadal, Azarenka and Kvitova will be in our preview edition of The Tennis Podcast, which will be up on Sunday night UK time.
As part of our partnership with Eurosport, we will also be doing a Facebook Live on their Facebook page on Sunday afternoon/evening ahead of Wimbledon. Possibly from the queue, which would take me back a bit. Twenty years ago (1997) I spent four nights in a tent (on the Somerset Road concrete rather than the fancy grass field they now have) in order to get tickets. Every day we got in. Every day it rained. I saw two knock-ups - one involving Mary Joe Fernandez. The other involving Cedric Pioline. That’s it. Then it rained again. Then I went home.
I still haven’t done my predictions for the quarterfinals and onwards. I’ve not even looked yet - mainly because I haven’t a clue what will happen, and I’m hoping some sort of cartoon lightbulb is going to illuminate my brain, just in time. Likely.
Podcast-wise, we are doing rather better. Thanks to the generous crowdfunding that you gave us in our Kickstarter at the start of the year, we have been able to hire editors to help us put the show together. It makes a huge difference. We often record late in evenings, and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve fallen asleep, head down on laptop, while trying to edit the show. Not a great look.
Because of the level of crowdfunding, we had promised 45 Grand Slam daily podcasts to go with the 45 weekly shows. We came up with that number rather than 60 because we assumed we wouldn’t be able to do them daily from the French Open because it’s not a tournament I attend. That was calculated before we knew how much of an impact an editor could have, and before I realised that Catherine was going to kick off if we didn’t do them daily. So, we did them daily, and it was great fun. Hope you liked them, and those from Queen’s last week.
We will be doing daily shows from Wimbledon as well, and the plan is to do the same at The US Open.
We have also just opened the official Tennis Podcast Shop. So if you fancy a t-shirt, hoodie, canvas bag etc, in all sorts of colours, with The Tennis Podcast logo on it, you can get them. They’re all made from organic cotton (apparently that’s important) and there’s free delivery in the UK this weekend. We’ve kept prices as low as they will let us. The reason for opening a shop is that quite a few listeners have said they would like merchandise, and frankly, anyone wearing our logo is effectively a walking advert for the show, which will hopefully introduce more people to the fact that the podcast exists.
During Wimbledon, both Catherine and I will be part of the BBC Radio 5 Live tennis team. This will be my 16th Wimbledon commentating for them. Catherine will be making her debut. Both of us have spent our lives listening to great sporting moments on 5 Live, and it is a huge privilege to be part of their tennis coverage.
That, and nightly editions of The Tennis Podcast, should keep us out of trouble.
Thanks again for your support of the show, and we hope you enjoy a fantastic Wimbledon.