I remember vividly the day David Law whatsapped me suggesting we start our own podcast. In fact, he didn’t ‘suggest’ it, he just told me we were going to do it. It went something like this:
David: I’ve had an idea. [I get a message like this from David roughly twice a day]
David: We’re going to start our own tennis podcast.
I really think it was as simple as that. As soon as he suggested it, it felt so obvious, like something we should have been doing all along.
At that time I had very little broadcasting experience. I’d interviewed players a fair bit on the ATP Champions Tour, but never really for broadcast, and certainly never with the prospect of anyone hearing my voice.
I have to make a confession here, I have never gone back and listened to the first episode of the podcast. David does it all the time, and remarks to me with great pride how far we’ve come, but I can’t bear to. I got over that cringey thing of listening to your own voice ages ago (not that it’s not still cringey, just that I’m used to it), I just can’t bring myself to listen to my voice as it probably was five years ago; nervous and tentative.
I know without listening to Episode One how far we’ve come though. And not without some challenges along the way. There was the time we recorded a whole podcast, only to realise that we (yes, we. David and I have implemented a no-blame policy when it comes to technical errors) had failed to press the record button, and so had to produce the whole thing again, making all the anecdotes sound spontaneous and original. That may have happened more than once come to think of it. Thank goodness for that no-blame policy.
And there was the time David and I had a row over my use of slightly too derogatory a word to describe Roger Federer’s decision to wear that jacket for the Wimbledon final in 2009. David was right of course, and we edited that bit out. David will occasionally suggest minor edits to ‘save me from myself’, and he’s always right. I really did hate that jacket though, what a plonker* he looked (*not the original word).
There have been other cataclysmic Whitaker errors that I wish had been edited out but weren’t. The time I confidently proclaimed that Serena Williams winning the 2013 Wimbledon title was the biggest foregone conclusion in tennis history, and she promptly lost to Sabine Lisicki in the fourth round. That really was a low point for my credibility, one I’d like to tell you I learned from, except that only a few months ago I told listeners that there was 'no way’ Andy Murray would get back together with Ivan Lendl…
Not all the low points have been my fault. There was the time my Dad told me that Simon Briggs was the real star of the podcast and we should get him on more. I think he was joking about the first bit, but he does bloody love Simon Briggs. Speaking of which, remember that time Simon used the phrase ‘warp and weft’ with a completely straight face? That’s why the Telegraph pay him the big bucks.
And speaking of big bucks (note the excellent podcast-esque segues), you may remember at Queen’s last year we had Liam from One Direction on the show, and we thought we’d scored a massive coup by getting him to tweet about it. Big mistake. Huge. 18 months later our podcast twitter notifications are still dominated by daily tweets from crazed ‘Directioners’ declaring a variety of hysterical feelings for Liam. A minor, terrifying glimpse into the life of an A-List celebrity. And into the horror that social media can be.
This year at Queen’s I practically prostrated myself before Goran Ivanisevic, begging him for an interview. He was just in one of those contrary moods, and wasn’t having any of it. That was until David Law marched right over to him, stooped to his eye level, produced some colourful language, and forced the 2001 Wimbledon Champion to give me an interview. No-one messes with the Law. Apart from me, whenever Poll Vault is mentioned.
And yet in spite of the abomination that is Poll Vault, and other blights on our credibility, about 10,000 of you tune in every week. That’s pretty amazing, and it’s all the more amazing when I look back and think of myself and David, in a dining room in Solihull, excited and nervous in equal measure, recording that very first episode, certain in the knowledge that no-one would be listening, but not really caring. Because talking about tennis is fun, regardless of whether anyone is listening (we’re very glad you are though).