I enjoy the WTA's All-Access Hour and if I'm ever lucky enough to get to a tournament early enough to attend them, I do. For the most part they give you an opportunity to actually talk to a player, as opposed to shout questions at them, and you can ask some of the more off-beat questions that may not be appropriate for a press conference.
The hour started with JJ, who still sounds like she's been out smoking and partying. The low, gravelly, raspy voice makes it borderline impossible to understand her sometimes. But the one you can never misread is JJ's face. At one point, a journo asked her what she thought of Nole's amazing run and whether she had any thoughts as to why he was so inspired. As she started to answer, a male journo, with a smart-alecky tone, exclaimed "Maybe's it's Ana!" and started laughing at his own joke. I stifled a gasp and literally stepped back five steps. Sure enough, JJ stopped her answer, silently shot him a deathglare for a good 5 seconds, and then kept answering.
JJ, 1, Ignorant and Rude Journo, death. Seriously. So rude.
Next up, after turning to see Bepa in a spectacular Ed Hardy hoodie chatting with a journo in Russian, I decided to lady up and chill by Sam's table. After wiping the beads of sweat from my brow, I finally asked her a question that I've had for her since Indian Wells: What's your take on your year so far?
I haven't had the season that I wanted to yet, that's for sure. I played some pretty good tennis and feel like I'm playing quite well on the practice court. Haven't been able to put it together in a tournament yet unfortunately. But at least I feel like I'm playing well, I'm feeling fit and doing the things I need to do. Hopefully for me it's not too far away and it's just around the corner, getting good results. You gotta go through these times, it hasn't been horrible but it hasn't been what I wanted.
Way to get it all emo, Court! Quite the talent you have.
Next up, Vika. Yes, I know I've been papped repeatedly while talking with Vika. If you read FD enough you might be wondering, "What the hell were you talking to Vika for?" Well the one awkward thing that can happen at AAH is that some players end up not getting talked to, or they get 5 questions and all the journos leave to go talk to Kim or Caro or something. That almost happened to Vika and I just kind of felt bad. So I stuck around with her and chatted about the friendships on tour, the cameraderie, why she thought that was, etc. It was actually kind of nice. I suspect she's a perfectly nice person when she's not talking tennis.
"I think more [cameraderie]. I don't want to sound cocky or anything but I think a lot of us young players brought it. Because we came from juniors and we have the competitors between us but we also have our friendship. We have our rivalries on the court but we're normal people off the court. We see each other at every tournament. I think we brought a lot of that into the game, also from the men's tour. I think it's great. I think for the fans it's exciting to see how we have relationships between all of us, not just the lower ranked players.
It's very exciting. It makes it easier for us to joke around. It's part of the tennis life and it's part of being a tennis family."
And on her groin injury:
"I'm trying get back. Practiced a little bit yesterday, just easy. And it was not a tear but it was still a strain. Trying to recover and hopefully I'll be fine."
From there it was over to Fran's table, where those who were smart enough to ignore Kim and take in the Schiavone Experience were literally on the edge of their seat, leaning forward, listening intently. That's what Fran does. She draws you in, whether she's hooha-ing on court, or dropping truth-bombs in what I can only describe as her bedroom voice. It's a well-articulated raspy drawl that hovers just above a whisper. It's bomb, is what I'm saying.
One thing I love about watching AAH or press conferences is that moment when a player gets asked tricky question, you're silently screaming the right answer in your head, and then they totally nail it. It's like prepping a witness for the stand and seeing your witness totally nail their cross-examination. I had one of those moments during Fran's presser. One of the journos spent most of his/her time asking every single player about Serena and Venus. This was part of his exchange with Fran:
Q: Do you miss them? Do you feel like "this thing is wide open without Serena." More fair for everybody? A better chance to win any tournament you're in?
A: "Well yeah. When I win the French Open, there was Venus and Serena. For sure they are tremendous athletes but at the same time, we are other great competitors. For sure we are gonna miss them."
YES. FISTPUMP. NAILED IT. The minute he asked the question all I could think was "Wait, she won a Slam and Serena and Venus were there. To her *any* tournament is wide open regardless." You go on, Frank.
Also, your hipster glasses are awesome:
(Pics: Forty Deuce)