Louisa Thomas on the Fractured World of Tennis


Welcome to no challenges remaining I'm Ben Rothenberg, and I'm thrilled to be joined once again on the show this year by Louisa Thomas of the New Yorker Louisa thank you for being back. We were both in DC when we last recorded, I think in February or so in my apartment. Right, early days of the pandemic I know in the early March even like right when things we saw it on horizon. Now I don't even have that apartment. And you're living in DC more full-time now and life has changed a lot and we're currently doing this from the same city different parts of DC. On Zoom. So Louisa thank you for being one of these calls. I. Will Look Forward to most today of my probably seven eight him calls today. So you have this piece of today in the New Yorker which I know you've been working on for a long time it's a very comprehensive peace about basically everything's happened since we last podcast did and also on I will thank you again for this throughout the show. But you also kind enough to come on a roundtable show. We did after the press conference that day which I want having to scrap because I waited like forty eight hours and a lot of things would you describe the peace happened which changed the tennis world typically in that time namely that Adria tour that derailing so I'm curious for you. What you were as you were trying to process tennis, they don't even too much about tennis during this time period. So as you were trying to synthesize in process tennis in everything happening Dennis for the last five months, just describe the challenge that of of trying to figure out where to start what to include, how to how to make it. All make sense as a as a writer writing for missing largely a non tennis audience. I mean I I feel like the piece looks very different than what I had originally envisioned. I mean it's sort of the story of near the pandemic for me, what I what I originally imagined. In my life was going to look like. Back in March is not at all the case you know in in March I thought, Oh, I'm gonNA write a piece about. You know about these different parts of the tennis ecosystem and how they're you know how they exist during the during the pandemic because during the shutdown because I had, you know obviously as sunset, the Tennessee is a very kind of fragmented sporting a lot of ways that the experience of a top player is not at all like the experience the double specialists, which is not at all the experience of a lower ranked player, which is not at all experienced a coach or an empire or Y- that there's A. Great Diversity of experiences. So I was originally going to do this kind of like daisy chain vignette anecdotal piece. Which I did these little portraits of people in my original idea had been to situate each each person at at Indian Wells when they learned that the tournament had been canceled and that was the piece I said about to right and actually that was the piece I originally did right? I mean this piece has gone undergone like many many many pro. You know the interest in that and I was sort of pretty happy with that approach and I think that actually one of the underlying ideas of the piece is that there is this kind of. This there's like I said this fragmentation and that was definitely reflected in that piece as well. But what happened was that like actually things started happening And what you're describing in terms of like US recording podcast and then immediately having to scrap it because you know just things change. So fast that was actually the experience of this piece as well. We were set to we were talking about running at the end of. May. Kind of in anticipation of some news of tennis coming back or not coming back or anything then. And then the protests happened and obviously the gravity of that I mean there was none of that in the piece of point. Obviously. So the gravity of that need us think well, maybe we should you know hold off for a couple of days. This is not like A. Timely piece, it can run whenever. So let's let's wait until. Maybe also think about incorporating some of tennis's response and things like that. And then you know so I kind of that piece ready. Ready to go with that, and then the US Open announced or levers like rumors about the announcement. So I was like. Well, let's hold off for that and then. You know kind of reworking at each at each stage like rewriting it and reworking and talking to more people, and you know doing a little more reporting and also just rethinking more and more about what this like this process is said about tennis and so yeah, I, mean, this piece took on many massive revisions not just because of the quality of writing any piece undergoes a lot of work. But this one I felt like I kept having to scrap it and start again because something would happen and. The thing. That was heartening though was that there was never something that made me I mean there's always something I was learning from things along the way, but there was never something that made me think I'm completely wrong. Just. Completely off, it did become less and less about kind of individual actors and more and more about how tennis kind of sets up people to be individual actors.

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