Diary of a commentator

I do love the early release of the next day's Order of Play! I've got my match assignments for tomorrow in Miami already: Marie Bouzkova vs. Arantxa Rus, and then Jil Teichmann vs. Paula Badosa. I called Teichmann twice in Lexington last year, and Badosa once in Istanbul, so this should be relatively straightforward.

I got another assignment today as well: down to Leeds again for a single match at 11 a.m. on June 21, in the first round at Eastbourne. My first grass-court gig! I was about to decline it, actually - before this year, if you only called one world feed match on a given day, you got half pay for the day, and you had to call two or more matches to get the full day rate. But after checking with Agent Tim, I learned today that you now get the full day rate for calling a single match, so this is actually the best gig one can get in terms of value for money relative to effort and time expended. (Somewhat annoyingly, Agent Tim has actually been getting higher profile tennis commentary gigs than I've been getting - in part because he lives near enough to Leeds to commute there, but also I think it's evidence of the production team's bias in favor of English-accented commentators.)
 
Well...for the first time, a tennis match I was commentating on finished in an injury retirement. Jil Teichmann and Paula Badosa played some sparkling tennis and had gotten to 5-all in the first set when Teichmann called for the physio, complaining about one of her quad muscles. We've all seen it happen a thousand times where the physio comes out and applies some spray and does a bit of massage, and then things carry on as normal - but Teichmann, despite winning her service game to take a 6-5 lead, did not respond at all well to the treatment. She played three points of the next game, pulling up more noticeably at the end of each one, and then walked to the net to offer her hand in concession.

This is supposed to be a commentator's dream - I still get paid the same, and a match which easily could have lasted for two-and-a-half or three hours was cut short inside 50 minutes. But I was really enjoying myself both as a spectator and as a commentator, particularly as I was already ahead of schedule: Arantxa Rus had upset Marie Bouzkova 6-3, 6-2 in less than 1:30 in my first match, and the two matches on court before mine had been pretty quick as well. And Teichmann has been in great form - I enjoy her game and want to see her do well, not have to sit out for any length of time with an injury. So, even though my gig was done by 9:30 p.m. when it easily could have lasted well beyond midnight, I'm a little bit sad....particularly given that my Miami commentary experience is now done already.
 
So...this is curious. Apparently there's a power issue at the facility in Leeds today, with the result that our producer has contacted me and asked if I can be on standby to call the Andreescu vs. Muguruza match on the main (Grandstand) court in Miami tonight, at like 1:30 in the morning - or probably later, if the Tsitsipas-Nishikori night match before it runs long. (Originally it was going to be Barty vs. Azarenka and then Osaka vs. Mertens, but the other guy she called - Adam Fielder, who is a legitimately good tennis commentator - apparently can't do a late shift.) So that would be an interesting way to pull me back in, and a really nice match to get to call! I can't imagine this power issue would persist into the night, but I'll be ready if required.
 

tmracht

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I can see why they would want to secure a backup option even in the unlikely event of a power issue lasting 12 hours or so. But good on you for having the proper mindset!
 
Tomorrow I'm calling one match at the WTA 250 event in Bogota. I'm on Court 4 - the last of the four courts at the facility - and given that only five of the 32 players in the draw are ranked in the top 100 in the world, there's a very good chance I'm going to be calling a match between two players I've never heard of. And then I have two more first-round matches on Court 4 on Tuesday.

This might be a great chance to practice commentating without the extensive research notes I normally prepare, given the paucity of information I'm likely to have at my disposal! In fact, as an experiment, I've prepared my own stat sheet to record winners and unforced errors, stats I'm almost never given but which I think will be particularly useful in this context. (I wonder if I'll be able to record the stats and still be able to speak coherently?)
 
In fact, as an experiment, I've prepared my own stat sheet to record winners and unforced errors, stats I'm almost never given but which I think will be particularly useful in this context. (I wonder if I'll be able to record the stats and still be able to speak coherently?)
Yeah...so, this was a disaster. Turns out I wasn't even able to record the stats coherently, never mind speak about them. I need to be focused on each point, what I'm going to say next, and how I'm going to transition from one item to another; I can keep stats during a baseball game, but definitely not during a tennis match. Which is fine - if I'm going to experiment, Court 4 of 4 at the less important of two tournaments taking place simultaneously is definitely the place to experiment.

FWIW, Voegele rallied from a set down to win 3-6, 6-1, 6-4; my match was at least 45 minutes longer than any of the other three that started at the same time as mine. But that's fine too - better today when I'm calling one match than tomorrow when I'm calling two.
 
My order of play for tomorrow: #134 Astra Sharma (AUS) vs. #177 Giulia Gatto-Monticone (ITA), and #136 Mihaela Buzarnescu (ROU) vs. #190 Harmony Tan (FRA). Which is pretty great, insofar as I commentated on both Sharma and Buzarnescu in back-to-back matches from Guadalajara less than a month ago, so that's almost half of my prep work already sorted for me. I'd literally never heard of Gatto-Monticone before this week, and I know nothing about Tan, but I'm sure I'll figure out something to say about each of them.
 
My commentary stint today was somewhat out of the ordinary:

1) Gatto-Monticone - who I discovered was the oldest player to ever play her first match at a Grand Slam (31 years old when she reached the French Open two years ago and lost to Sofia Kenin, and still 31 when she qualified for Wimbledon that same summer and got to play on Centre Court against Serena Williams) - took Sharma to a third set and was serving at 1-1. She lost the first two points to go down 0-30. Then she hit a shot onto the baseline; the chair umpire, an inexperienced Colombian, came down to review the mark and called it in. But when he got back to his chair, he called out "40-love"; in retrospect, I think he'd thought it was 30-0 instead of 0-30. Sharma won the next two points, which should have won her the game, but he called out "40-15" and "40-30", and then Gatto-Monticone won the next point and the umpire called "Game, Gatto-Monticone".

Because some of those calls were in Spainish, I don't think either player realized what had happened with the scoring; I started to doubt myself as well (and said so) but stuck to my guns, and then during the changeover Sharma finally realized something was amiss and started questioning the umpire. And just as they were talking, the screen went blank and the sound cut out. Now, if I were a conspiracy theorist, I'd have a lot to work with here...but then I was told that the picture and sound had gone blank not just on all of the other courts in Bogota, but also on all of the courts at the other WTA event in Charleston. By the time sound and picture had been restored, Gatto-Monticone was up 5-1; clearly Sharma had mentally lost the plot, not least because she was defending her ranking points from being the runner-up in Bogota two years ago. Gatto served out the match, Sharma will drop 30 places in next week's rankings, and if that chair umpire is presently discovered to have been on the take of a Colombian drug cartel, I won't be entirely shocked.

2) In the next match, Mihaela Buzarnescu - who was ranked #20 in the world when she was forced to play on during a drizzle against Elena Svitolina in Montreal, slipped and hurt her ankle, and hasn't been the same player since - found herself again playing in a light rain. Not such a big deal on a clay court, but at 1-2 and 0-15 down, Buzarnescu complained, and the (different and more experienced) Colombian umpire announced that play had been suspended. I told my audience that I would be back when play resumed, and because it was dinnertime and I was hungry I went to the kitchen to warm up some leftover lamb and also help my daughter with a piece of math homework she was working on. As I took my bowl of food with me back to my living, in horror I realized that Buzarnescu was now serving at 1-2 and 0-40 down; the rain delay can't have lasted more than two minutes, and I'd missed two points. As nonchalantly as I could, and as Tan won another point to get the service break, I took my seat and summarized the game I hadn't seen and carried on like nothing had happened; I thought about apologizing that I'd been to the commissary, but I couldn't quite figure out the wording, so I just let sleeping dogs lie.

Tan won the match 6-3 6-3 - her first-ever main draw win on the WTA Tour, so a big milestone for her. (Gatto-Monticone's win had been only her third-ever main-draw win as well, so it was a big day for the underdogs!)
 
By the by, at 3:15 p.m. on Wednesday I was texted by WTA Producer Chloe to ask if I could be available at 4 p.m. to call the Arantxa Rus vs. Nuria Parrizas Diaz match, which was potentially going to be shifted to Court 3 because of forecast rains in Bogota. Cue a frantic race to assemble my commentary studio and research two players - well, one-and-a-half given that I'd called Rus' match against Muchova in Miami the week before - as well as update the tournament draw and general background information. I actually did pretty well in those 45 minutes, but Chloe informed me close to 4 p.m. that they were actually looking at a 6 p.m. start time, and although I did get as far as doing a sound check with the production center in the Netherlands, that's as close as I got to being involved in the broadcast, because the weather stayed fine and Court 3 wasn't needed.

I don't get paid anything for this work, by the way. Agent Tim thinks this is an outrage, and that commentators shouldn't be asked to be on standby and do actual work like I did without getting compensated. I absolutely agree with him, but a) I knew in advance that I wasn't going to be paid in these circumstances (to quote Airplane, "They bought their tickets, they knew what they were getting into"); and b) I'm happy to curry some goodwill with Producer Chloe in the hope of getting more and better match assignments in the future. So it is what it is.
 
FWIW, I'm back in Leeds and on the air again in an hour. It's the second day of Round 2 matches at the MUSC Health Women's Open in Charleston, and I've got two matches: first it's the American Christina McHale (#91 in the world) against last week's winner in Bogota, the Colombian teenager Maria Camila Osorio Serrano; and then it's potentially a massive mismatch between the top seed Ons Jabeur (#27 in the world) and the 20-year-old American qualifier Alycia Parks (#313 and the fourth alternate into the qualifying tournament this week). Nice to be back in the studio, and to be commentating on another American tournament!
 
https://www.tennisforum.com/threads/live-commentary-thread-vol-147.1380321/post-82575131

Is that one of you jokers? :)

I had two really quite interesting matches tonight. McHale played an awesome first set and won it 6-2, then served twice for the match in the second set at 5-4 and 6-5 (having led it 4-2) but never got to match point; Osorio Serrano (which is a mouthful to say every time) won that tiebreak 7-2, then served for the match herself in the third only to get dragged into another tiebreak which she duly won 7-1. Then Jabeur somehow found herself 4-2 behind in the first set to Parks, who looked unflappable and was absolutely making Althea Gibson proud on the court named after her...before she collapsed and lost the final 10 games of the match. So one long one (two-and-a-half hours), and one short one (exactly 60 minutes), and I was back in my hotel room before 10:30 p.m., where I now wait for tomorrow's order of play. Got some more positive feedback in the above Tennis Forum thread as well, which is also encourging!
 
For the first time, I've been given two tennis assignments in the same day in which I've commentated on every player before: Shelby Rogers vs. Danka Kovinic, and Ons Jabeur vs. Nao Hibino. Definitely the two matches I wanted to get, and Rogers vs. Kovinic in particular should be good, with Rogers playing in her hometown and at her favorite tournament against last week's runner-up here in Charleston. Plus, less match prep required from me! I'm now in the studio in Leeds, doing my research while watching Evans vs. Goffin in Monte Carlo; I've had worse Friday afternoons.
 

StupendousMan

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In what form do you keep your notes on players? In the old days, I imagine one would write information on index cards, and then place them strategically on one's desk during a match. Between matches, they might live in a small shoebox, held in some order by rubber bands. But perhaps these days, you keep documents in electronic format.

If you do use electronic notes, how do you keep all that information ready and at hand during a match? It seems it would require many monitors to have this and that and that and THAT all visible at a glance.
 
In what form do you keep your notes on players? In the old days, I imagine one would write information on index cards, and then place them strategically on one's desk during a match. Between matches, they might live in a small shoebox, held in some order by rubber bands. But perhaps these days, you keep documents in electronic format.

If you do use electronic notes, how do you keep all that information ready and at hand during a match? It seems it would require many monitors to have this and that and that and THAT all visible at a glance.
So, attached below are the notes I've just finished preparing for today. I used to be (and still occasionally am) a PowerPoint presentation designer for financial services companies, and so I use PowerPoint to compile most of my research, although I also use Excel to prepare the spreadsheets showing match/tiebreak records and individual match results that you see pasted on each player page. I've spent quite a bit of time preparing an Excel template into which I can cut and paste any player's results on the Tennis Abstract website, with formulas that automatically compile the match and tiebreak records and conditional highlighting that makes all of the grand slam tournaments yellow with blue text and the WTA 1000s off-yellow with dark-red text (etc. etc.). I mean, I have TOTALLY geeked out in getting the template exactly as I want it, but having it like that saves a lot of prep time when I'm short on time before each match, and during each match having everything color-coded makes it easier to find the information I'm looking for in an instant.

At the moment, I'm using a three monitor setup: one shows the live broadcast pictures from the match; another shows the live stats feed from my match in three separate boxes (current match score and time, statistics, and point-by-point record); and on the third I either have the live scores from other matches in the tournament I'm covering, or as is the case this week - with no other singles matches taking place concurrently - I have my Excel spreadsheet open so I can cycle between players and look up anything I might want to look up for each player. And on top of that, I've printed off the pages from this PDF file; I'll attach the draw sheet and the tournament overview sheet to my main monitor with a sticky substance (blu-tack), while the other sheets just lie flat on the desk in front of me. (In the past I've also always printed out abridged versions of the Excel spreadsheets for each player, but I've learned this week that it's easy enough for me to just scroll through the Excel sheets, and if needed I can also filter the sheets to find exactly what I might be looking for.)
 

Attachments

It's insane just how fast today was for me. I thought I had two exciting matches in store; instead, Kovinic upset Rogers 7-5 6-1 in less than an hour and a quarter, and then Jabeur defeated Hibino 6-0 6-1 in 44 minutes. I was out of the studio by 8:30, and back home before midnight; easily my fastest day's work as a tennis commentator so far. I wasn't exactly on peak form, but I was certainly more consistent than Rogers or especially Hibino!

Next up: I'm on to Istanbul. (Or rather, back down to Leeds next Thursday and Friday for two more days of WTA 250 commentary from Istanbul.)
 
I do love getting an early Order of Play! The Round 2 matchups tomorrow in Istanbul were ready before 3 p.m. my time, and they're both quite decent: first I get the #1 seed, Elise Mertens, against the Swiss two-time runner up this season, Viktoria Golubic; then it's the #3 seed, Veronika Kudermetova, against another runner-up on tour this season, the Estonian Kaia Kanepi. If I get my prep done in a timely fashion (in addition to cooking for and then eating dinner with my family), I may drive down to Leeds tonight rather than waking up at 5:30 tomorrow morning ahead of the 11 a.m. start time for Mertens vs. Golubic.

By the way, I'm really, really afraid about commentating on a female tennis player whose surname ends with a syllable pronounced "bitch". (I've said her name before when giving scores of other matches, and I've never liked how it sounded coming out of my mouth.)
 
For once, I really had no energy to produce a post-commentary report yesterday. I got about three hours of sleep (and not continuously), drove the three hours to Leeds, did my two commentary matches, went on a quick shopping trip to the mall by the DAZN studio (and treated myself to some Five Guys for dinner), went back to my hotel room and did my prep for today in a disoriented state; it was nearly 1 a.m. by the time I'd finished. It's quite a grind at times, this job! I still love it, of course.

Let's see: I really enjoyed Mertens vs. Golubic yesterday, a high-quality match which went into a third set before Mertens pulled away for the victory. Then Kudermetova and Kanepi was filled with errors; Kudermetova won in straight sets despite being pouty and off her game throughout, and at the end I said, "And Veronika Kudermetova...not a win she's going to tell her grandchildren about, but a win it is, and it sees her through to yet another WTA Tour quarterfinal." That line got me some really positive feedback over on the Tennis Forum website; I seem to be developing a reputation as someone who both tells it like it is and who is capable of making people laugh, which is exactly what I'm gunning for. But today, my first match featured Ana Konjuh and Marta Kostyuk, and when I expanded upon an idea I'd seen on Tennis Forum about all of the many WTA players whose surname begin with "K" - and just rattled off a bunch of names over the course of a game, in a way that I thought was quite humorous - a poster noted in the Live Commentary thread that I might read Tennis Forum, and another mused that I could be reading the Live Commentary thread and that everyone had better be nice to me! (I've been rumbled!) Anyway, Konjuh vs. Kostyuk was a bit of a mess, but Kostyuk got over the line in the end in just under two-and-a-half hours; to even that out, Fiona Ferro unfortunately injured her shoulder against Sorana Cirstea and had to retire during the first game of the second set, so I managed to leave early enough to get caught in rush hour traffic going around Newcastle. I didn't know there was rush hour traffic during the pandemic, but anyway...

I'm not scheduled to commentate again until the middle of June and the grass court season; I've now got four matches from Birmingham to call, in addition to my single match from Eastbourne, but my clay court spell appears to be done (barring any late call-ups). But in the interim I'm planning to finalize a golf commentary demo reel based around the final round Masters highlights show on the BBC - I've copied all of the commentary-free individual player videos on the Masters website and will use the audio from them to edit out the BBC's commentators before supplying my own vocals. I have no idea how well this will work, or if I'll be any good at golf commentary at all...but in a perfect world, I *might* be able to sell myself to the BBC as an American voice on their Ryder Cup coverage. (Probably no more than a 1% chance, but there's no harm in trying!)
 
So...something weird just happened. I got a phone call from one of my regular contacts in my work on the Champions Hockey League, a producer who helps oversee all of the CHL broadcasts and who is also involved in producing the world feed broadcast for the IIHF World Championships. To make a long story short, although TSN in Canada provides all of the world-feed commentary for the Worlds every year - which is why my own badgering to serve in a commentary capacity myself has been ignored - they aren't going to be able to send an on-ice reporter/interviewer to the venues in Latvia at this year's Worlds because of COVID-related travel restrictions. (I presume their commentators will be working off-tube back in Canada like they normally do.) So I've been asked on short notice if I'd be willing to self-quarantine for five days prior to flying to Riga and staying in a bubble with the players and referees, etc., for up to three weeks, only being allowed to travel between the hotel and the venue. Nothing is official yet - I haven't been given a monetary offer yet, among other things - but it sounds like I'm his #1 choice to work the main venue up until and including the final.

All of this happens to fit neatly into the gap between now and my next tennis commentary assignment, so it sort of feels like this was meant to be! I've never worked as a sideline reporter or the equivalent, so this would all be very new to me, although a) I'm very comfortable with the idea of asking intelligent interview questions in this sort of setting, b) I wouldn't actually be on camera, so it's not like I would need to worry too much about my personal appearnace etc., and c) the amount of preparation required to work as an on-ice reporter would be significantly less than preparing for play-by-play commentary, so that's nice. Anyway, I'll confirm once I know either way, but this is a very unexpected and rather exciting opportunity which could be coming my way in just a few weeks' time.
 

tmracht

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Wow, that would be one heck of an opportunity, hope everything falls together for you!
 
Well, this really has been quite a day. Agent Tim phoned up a short while ago to say that he's tested positive for COVID, and therefore won't be able to do the four days of WTA commentary he was scheduled to do from Madrid starting this Saturday. So he was calling to see if I'd be available to take over his shifts if Producer Chloe was amenable to that - which I am, so I'm now down to Leeds again on Saturday. I think four days will be my longest tennis commentary shift so far, and it'll also be my first time working with a color commentator on tennis; I'll be calling three "additional court" matches on my own, but I'll also have one match each day on which I'll be working with Stephanie Dubois, the Canadian former WTA Tour player. So that's exciting! (It's a rather uneven set of shifts, actually: three matches on Saturday, two matches on Sunday, and one match on each of Monday and Tuesday. But of course I now get paid the same amount for each day of work, so I can peak early and then will have to prepare less later later on.)
 
Good news: I've got a pretty decent lineup for Day 1 of my WTA Madrid commentary stint tomorrow. Jo Konta vs. Anastasija Sevastova up first, then Ons Jabeur vs. Sloane Stephens next, and then I'm joined by Steph Dubois in the booth for Kiki Bertens vs. Veronika Kudermetova. Players like Jabeur and Kudermetova who were top three seeds in recent tournaments I called are now unseeded scrubs in Madrid! So that's promising. Also, there are still 14 seeded players remaining in the draw, which means the likelihood of great matchups being on in the Round of 16 on Monday and Tuesday are thereby increased; it's possible that on Tuesday I'd have to get one of Sabalenka vs. Azarenka, Halep vs. Mertens, Osaka vs. Sakkari or Pliskova vs. Brady, any of which would be outstanding.

Bad news: it's looking increasingly unlikely that my trip to Latvia is going to happen. Basically, TSN appears to have sourced one of their own rinkside reporters and are trying to source the second; only if they fail in the latter will I get my chance. Sigh...still waiting for final confirmation of that.
 
Finally a few spare minutes to write after a gruelling 19-hour day yesterday. Jo Konta was all over the place in her loss to Sevastova, then Jabeur had just enough consistency to rally from a set down to defeat Stephens. Then I was joined by Steph Dubois for what proved to be a pretty entertaining but relatively short match between Bertens and Kudermetova: Bertens led 4-2 in the first but ultimately lost 6-4 6-3. The real excitement in the latter match was that the speaker system in the stadium repeatedly failed and emitted what I can best describe as sonic burps on three occasions in the middle of points. Well, one came just after a point was finished and could be ignored; one was in the middle of a point and led to a clear let being called; and the third happened just as Kudermetova was hitting a clear winner, and led to a moment of controversy before Bertens a) graciously conceded the point, and b) set up clear ground rules that any future noise like that should lead to an automatic let, no matter when in the point it arrived. It briefly looked like the players might boycott the match until the sound issues were fixed, but they managed to carry on without any further incident. (At one stage the Chinese chair umpire's microphone stopped working, and she had to bellow the scores from her chair - I commented that this was one time that having pandemic-limited crowds in a stadium might actually be a good thing!)

Steph was very good fun to work with. Somewhat limited as a commentator by her thick Quebecois accent, but she seems to have a good sense of humor, and really, at this point I'd be happy to work with a parrot just to have someone with whom I can interact. I had researched her career match record before we went on the air, and I noticed that she had played against Bertens' coach (Elise Tamaela) in first-round qualifying at the 2007 US Open, so without any warning I decided to ask if she remembered their one meeting. She was stumped, and when I told her she gave one of those "Oh, yes..." responses that made me think she really didn't remember. I think it's good to keep some element of surprise like this to make sure you don't sound overly rehearsed...anyway, after the match we briefly chatted with the next commentary team in (Pete Odgers and Candy Reid), and Reid said she was listening and thought we had great chemistry. I think they were both pretty surprised when I said this was my first tennis match with a commentary partner!

Meanwhile, today I have Maria Sakkari vs. Anett Kontaveit, and then (with Steph) Karolina Pliskova vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. I've commentated on Sakkari and Pavlyuchenkova before, but I was still up past 1:00 in the morning doing my research last night - which is as much a function of my own research inefficiency last night (distracted by tiredness and the World Snooker Championship on my hotel room TV) as my thoroughness. But really, my life should get much easier after today: my one match late tomorrow afternoon will almost certainly feature a player I covered yesterday, and then I'll have just the one match after that as well late on Tuesday.
 

StupendousMan

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Golly, you're working with a color commentator, chatting with professionals, gaining followers in the tennis fora -- I hope that you don't decide to leave us for the big-time message boards :)
 
Today was super quick for me. Sakkari smashed Kontaveit 6-3 6-1 in only 61 minutes, in what seems to have been by general consensus Kontaveit's worst match of the year, and then a very off-color Pliskova got bageled in the first set by Pavlyuchenkova before ultimately losing 6-0 7-5 in only 76 minutes. I really had plenty of time this afternoon and would have enjoyed getting a more dramatic match, but on the flip side, I can totally chill out now and get some real relaxation. (I brought my virtual reality set with me to Leeds, so I'll probably play some table tennis in my room later on...)

Today's fun research fact: both Pliskova and Pavlyuchenkova have lost this season to the current #178 player in the world, Anastasia Gasanova. Gasanova in turn lost this year to the #570 player in the world, who in her turn has lost to a player outside the Top 1000 in the WTA rankings. So that's only three degrees of separation from outside the Top 1000 to the Top 10: you have to love the transitive property of sports victories and defeats. Meanwhile, my brother's ex-wife is a former tennis player from Belarus who maxed out at #854 in the world, and I did this trick on her and found seven degrees of separation from her to Serena Williams, Martina Hingis and Jennifer Capriati. I mentioned that during the broadcast...because of course, why wouldn't I?
 
FWIW, I've got Ons Jabeur again tomorrow - fourth time calling her in less than a month! - in her match against the 8th-seeded Belinda Bencic. That's what I'd predicted Steph and I would get, insofar as the weakest matchup of the four tomorrow (Paula Badosa vs. Anastasija Sevastova) features a Spaniard and would never be exiled to the smallest show court of the three in Madrid; Steph was giddy at the prospect of getting to see all of Jabeur's drop shot attempts tomorrow, so she gets her wish as well.

For the record, I'm going to predict that we get Jen Brady vs. Pavlyuchenkova as well on Tuesday. (It could be Sakkari vs. Muchova, but they're both in great form with Muchova having defeated Osaka today; probably not Sabalenka vs. Pegula, with Sabalenka the #5 seed; and definitely not Halep vs. Mertens, which will almost certainly be the featured evening match on the main stadium court.)
 
I finally got a pretty high-quality match this week...and it was curtailed by injury. Bencic played surprisingly good tennis given her relatively poor form, both recently and on clay more generally, and Jabeur matched her shot for shot into a first-set tiebreak; Bencic won it 7-2, but there still weren't any breaks of serve at 3-3 in the second when Jabeur got slightly stuck in the clay at the back of the court and tweaked her right hamstring. She tried to fight through it, but after taking a medical timeout at the next changeover, she came back out and played only two points before throwing in the towel. Really disappointing...I was ready for a three-set thriller.
For the record, I'm going to predict that we get Jen Brady vs. Pavlyuchenkova as well on Tuesday. (It could be Sakkari vs. Muchova, but they're both in great form with Muchova having defeated Osaka today; probably not Sabalenka vs. Pegula, with Sabalenka the #5 seed; and definitely not Halep vs. Mertens, which will almost certainly be the featured evening match on the main stadium court.)
Nailed it, btw - I get Brady vs. Pavlyuchenkova tomorrow.
 
Naturally, on my departure day I wound up getting the long three-setter - Pavlyuchenkova took nearly two-and-three-quarter hours to defeat Brady in a match of fluctuating quality but which remained in doubt until the very end. I'm still pleased to have had a longer match, although if I'd have taken any longer to leave I'm not entirely sure how I would have gotten home: my main road home was closed overnight for repairs, and a lorry had jackknifed at a key junction on my detour just before I reached it, but I was able to find a passage through some very narrow side streets (more like people's driveways, really) in the village in question before the traffic started to get out of hand.

Unfortunately, I've discovered that the same people who are starting to like me on Tennis Forum really seem to not like Steph, my co-commentary partner. She does have a few stock phrases she leans on too much (like "big targets" and "big margins"), and her Quebecois accent is very strong and sometimes leads her down grammatically incorrect alleyways. But she does have great energy and a good personality, and I would enjoy working with her again. I wonder if there's an extent to which some fans would be more willing to put up with quirks like hers if they were present in a former Top 10 player in the world instead of a former Top 100 player?

Anyway, at the end of this latest commentary stint, I now very much believe that I've progressed to the point that I'm just below the top tier of tennis commentators working in Leeds. Pete Odgers and Candy Reid are the #1 team for the Madrid tournament (I had some nice conversations with them this week - particularly with Candy, who worked at CNN for many years and therefore lived in Atlanta for many years as well), and while vocally and stylistically I think I'm just as good as Pete, a) he is undoubtedly very good, and b) his and Candy's collective contemporary tennis knowledge far surpasses mine, to say nothing of his commentary experience. (Hearing Pete talk about there being no Holiday Inns in Monte Carlo, and him being assigned to the worst hotel when on commentary duty there still meant getting a five-star experience, naturally filled me with envy!) I think I have to accept that no matter how good I might become as a tennis commie, my work on other sports would probably prevent me from graduating to the best assignments simply because I'll never be a tennis specialist. That said, I still have a few rungs I can climb on my current ladder, and if I climb them, perhaps other opportunities may open up for me.
 
Meanwhile, I'm still waiting to find out whether or not I'll be going to Latvia. I asked yesterday what the absolute drop-dead deadline was by which the decision needed to be made, and the response I got was that the "final" deadline was supposedly last Wednesday, and then Friday, and then he was hoping to get me an update yesterday which never came. My sense is that TSN is trying and failing to source a second reporter on their end, and that the longer this goes the more likely it is that I might get the job after all. But we'll see...
 
Bad news: Latvia is a no-go, as TSN has (finally) sourced a second reporter on its own. So I wound up turning down two days of tennis commentary for nothing...I guess it was too good to be true.

Weird news: the other day I received a rather long and somewhat unhinged email from a tennis fan who tracked me down to complain about my and Steph's commentary on the Pliskova-Pavlyuchenkova match. I *think* she was more agitated about Steph (she called her "the execrable Steph Dubois") than me, but did strongly complain about us continuing to talk after points had gotten underway, which itself is a decent note, even if the rest of what she had to say was bizarre. She said she'd be writing to Amazon Prime Video, through which she watched the match here in the UK, to complain about us as well; I'm tempted to ask her to let me know who she manages to get in touch with at Prime that is responsible for tennis coverage, so I can get in touch with that same person myself! But of course I know that in that way madness lies. Really, I just find it a little bit funny and a little bit sad, in addition to being somewhat flattered that I now seem to be worthy of hate mail!
 
I've *finally* finished my latest project - and in so doing, have finally (sort of) lived out my dream of commentating on the Masters:

View: https://vimeo.com/548454224/d26cfd6aab

I recorded the commentary this morning, after doing my research yesterday and taking a good two or three weeks before that preparing the commentary-free audio to accompany the video. (Every shot in the video has the correct commentary-free background audio from the shot as uploaded on www.masters.com; I did have to fill a few blanks in creative ways, like when Matsuyama walks up the 72nd fairway and I've inserted audio from Jordan Spieth walking up the 72nd fairway in 2015.)
 
Darn it. I got a call from WTA Producer Chloe this evening, asking if I could come down to Leeds tomorrow to commentate on some of the (rain-delayed) action from Rome. Problem is that I had my first AstraZenica vaccine shot yesterday and am pretty much wiped out - three-and-a-half hours sleep last night, spent much of the day in bed, and really wouldn't begin to trust myself to drive down and back tomorrow (let alone do the prep I'd need to do tonight). Man, that would have been a great assignment.