I thought I’d do something a little bit different for my blog today by opening up the floor for a good old Q&A. I appealed for questions on Twitter and quite a few came in, so thanks for that. I’ve answered some of them below.
What is the best thing about being on the job with the Tennis Podcast in Melbourne? What’s the hardest part of media work at the Aus Open?
The two are connected to be honest. Being able to live every day of a Grand Slam in the flesh is an immense pleasure and privilege. Each day brings stratospheric levels of excitement. And the hardest part has been adjusting to the mindset that I don’t need to see every single second of every single match. This is not something I’ve had to contend with covering other events – Queen’s, ATP Finals, Davis Cup. The amount of tennis on offer at those three competitions is a lot more manageable, and there are natural breaks built in to the schedule. At a Grand Slam, I’m learning that you have to pick your moments to take some downtime and step out from the bubble.
Biggest surprise in the tournament so far?
Well, prior to this afternoon, I would have said the lack of upsets. All Top-8 women reached the third round for the first time in almost a decade at a Grand Slam, and most of the men too. We’re not used to that, but I think it’s made for a good tournament. There have been so many must-watch matches.
But then Danielle Collins went and obliterated Angelique Kerber 6-0, 6-2 in under an hour. And I think that now has to be considered the biggest surprise so far. Kerber was among the title favourites for a reason, but the fearless Collins just stamped her authority on the match right away, with powerful hitting and a sense that Kerber’s forehand and serve were off. It was Kerber’s most lopsided defeat (not including retirements) since she lost 1-6, 1-6 to Schiavone in Antwerp 2015. As for Collins, she came up with a great line: “I might not have won a Grand Slam match before this week but, I gotta tell ya, I think it’s going to keep happening.” This is Collins – bullish, feisty, competitive. She freely admits that she has no problem getting in opponent’s faces. You may not like it, but you’ve got to respect it.
Another surprise has been the surge of Frances Tiafoe. He’s had an awesome week, playing at a higher level than I’ve ever seen from him. His story is awe-inspiring (check out Mary Carillo’s RealSports documentary) and his tennis has been too.
Do you think Kyle has the grit/metal/ whatever we want to call that, to challenge for grand slams consistently in the next 5 years?
The stat surrounding Kyle Edmund which most concerns me is that whenever he’s lost the first two sets in a best-of-five set match, he’s always gone on to lose in straight sets. There’s never been any hint of a fightback. It’s happened 13 times in his career, and it does suggest an inability to problem solve, and perhaps a lack of grit in matches.
Predicting a player’s career arc is not easy. But, no, I don’t see Edmund “challenging for Grand Slams consistently”. I think he will be a fairly consistent performer, though, and possibly make a few more deep runs. The Grand Slam where he has the most room for improvement is Roland Garros – he’s never been beyond the third round there despite having a game which suits clay.
While Andy Murray’s admission that he should have rested more in his career might be ringing in Edmund’s ear, you can be sure he will do everything he can to guarantee that he maximises his potential.
Should all the courts dispose of allocated seats and be on a first come first serve basis to create better atmospheres on the show courts, especially when so many empty hospitality seats early in day?
That’s never going to happen, but this question does raise an interesting point of comparison between the four Grand Slams when it comes to unreserved seating.
Having sampled them all, I think the US Open does it best. There is no unreserved seating on the Arthur Ashe Stadium, but there is on every other court. This means that buying a cheap ticket for Ashe (in the first week, not much more expensive than a Grounds Pass) allows you to watch every single match during the session, with Louis Armstrong and Grandstand both having large swathes of unreserved seating. That’s a very good deal.
At the Australian Open, the two main show courts are for ticket-holders only, but I like the fact that Melbourne Arena has unreserved seating. This is an improvement on both Wimbledon and Roland Garros, where none of the main three courts have unreserved seating. Wimbledon offsets this by holding back some tickets for troopers in The Queue, but that’s not an altogether satisfactory solution in my opinion.
I’ve always wondered – What is Grad Matt Grad of?!
I studied French and Spanish, and I desperately want to avoid neglecting my language skills. It’s actually been rather nice to be sat alongside French radio journalists in the media centre this week - I’ve been making a conscious effort to tune into their reports every half an hour.
No amount of French was required, however, to pick up on the fact that they were all absolutely raging at Lucas Pouille last night for losing sets three and four, denying them the opportunity of a much sought-after early night.
Tennis’ elaborate scoring system means the length of a match is indeterminable. But this is an unwritten truth: when you’re watching tennis purely as a fan, you want every match to be as brilliant and epic as possible; when you’re working at the event, you want some matches to be over and done with quickly. That’s just the way it is.
Anyway, French players have been involved in quite a few late-night matches with an awful lot of faffing around this tournament (Thiem vs Paire, Zverev vs Chardy, Popyrin vs Pouille), and it’s not gone unnoticed with my work neighbours for the week.
When will you be allowed to be just ‘Matt’?
I’m working on it.
Need an assistant?
I have one! Shout-out to Andrew Brydges, one of the podcast’s interns, who’s been doing God’s work this week by helping out with some of our social media posts from his home in New York.