Tennis, Mary Pierce, Serena discussed on No Challenges Remaining
They play in this historic final and they get into a station wagon to pose with the trophy and I asked the W. T. A. If I can go and I jump into the back of the station wagon with Venus and Serena as they go down the rickenbacker causeway key Biscayne to pose on the beach. I don't see anyone doing that. I mean I just I think. Part of this is about the growth of women's tennis. But I I have this discussion with Billie Jean King. And it's all very collegial. Would we adore her? And sometimes she says you know back in my day. We would all pile into the station wagons to go to the tournaments. We would have to hand out brochures and now these women make millions of dollars and I say good. This is an earmark S. I mean I'm happy that the W. T. As in a place where the two biggest stars win a tournament and people aren't mooching rides in the station wagon as they go to the driving. There's sort of level of and you know it's at the expense of access and as a journalist you you never really liked that and I think sometimes you can go too far but I think it's a real sign of growth that you don't have this sort of free for all. The you mentioned Tiger King You know. Tiger team could not be made about the NFL Ryan. I think in some ways it's a really As a positive sign for the WPA that we're in a much different world from everyone everyone for themselves and And anyone can walk into any. There's no restricted access. And we've moved to a different world. How did how did you build up trust between yourself and these players and also these families because I mean you are most the protagonist of its booker in their teens? So how how did you sort of a your relative? That obviously as I felt this in the beginning my reporting career to when I was closer in age to most of the players it was sort of an advantage for people to relate to them. But these are you know teenage girls you were talking to mostly from different backgrounds and stuff and I'm just curious what relationship building was like and I guess you must have known them a bit. You've been on tour before that but what it was like getting that deeper accessing one part. You're in Slovakia with Martina Hingis. Smith's book what was it like. You know getting to know these players and building up book level closeness with a lot of these different people when they're at the peak of their fame in their in their careers at the same time Yeah I it's a good question. I mean I think again I show up at these events and you show up in in. I mean you you to have the same sort of relationship. I think you show up at enough press conferences. Amelia island or in you know whatever Palo Alto or in San Diego and people realize you're not just doing a parachute you at the time and it was a late nineties. Sports illustrated was a huge deal. And honestly I think just by dint of of sports illustrated by the publishers. I wasn't approached because I was this dazzling tennis writer. I think it was well well. He's The guy that writes about tennis for sports illustrated. That must be our guy so I think. Sports illustrated was a lot of cachet with with the agents as well. I also think I really tried hard not to burn anyone so I would hear things that you know you could turn it around and and get a lot of clicks and do a web column I tried you know protecting my sources and I didn't write anything until the book came out so I think that that helped as well but again it was just such a smaller. It was just such a smaller ecosystem at the time that you would bump into these players in hotel lobby. You would share cars to the site. It was just such a smaller world that I think it was a lot easier for these relationships in this report a build. Because you know you you had Serena's phone number and you'd run into Richard Williams and you go out. You know Mary Pierce would say what are you doing for dinner? While there's a place in you know he'd have dinner with Mary Pearson Charleston. Just because you to knew each other and it seemed like a normal thing to do so You know I think I'd like to credit myself with all this rapport building skills. But I think a lot of it again was just a function of function of the Times. When when you talk those things you your nerves. At burning people with with their other things you remember specifically about revelations or quotes or something in the in the book that you were about the especially explosive. If you can remember back to those I I mean the ones that come to mind for me like the Richard Williams stuff that you have all this background and sort of calling out a lot of his lying on through like how lucy was the truth but while also playing paying him Dupree's for the results he got but I'm just if that something you were thinking of or what was it. They were most nervous of not burning until it was time to comment. What did you see as the most sort of flammable things in the book you know man? I should've reread the book in preparation for this. I know I mean some of it was that yeah some of your Monica Seles. I mean some of it was just People were very candid and I appreciated that and tried to respect that some of it was just sort of Gossipy I. I can't remember embarrassed. Having remember was made the book but you know there was some crazy story about Cornucopia in Scottsdale. We're both her Russian hockey player suitors. Yes I tweeted out that excerpt actually as I was reading because it was spectacular. Yeah we're Federov shows up with a dozen bouquet. The dozen wrote like some certain number of roses after Barack proposed and Davenport's in there watching this happen both both hockey players and those are like big star players to yeah so You have Annakournakova picture. The scene here now now that the limitations as off I I can. I can wrote my friend L. D. into this too but the This is big an athlete and I think we should. We should talk about this to you. Know whether it's women's Tennis Anna Corner. Cova this was really a moment in time for all of Women's sports but Annakournakova is this subject of immense fascination beyond tennis and he's playing the small event in Scottsdale in two of the biggest stars in the NHL in the middle of the season both converge on Scottsdale to try and win her Imagine I can't believe I put them in the book. But it's in twenty years ago to a magic wand there's as cool and rational and straight laces you'll lindsay is sitting there in the lobby or whatever and we wait a second. I can saw the other. Nhl all-star here the other night it was a It was a bizarre scene that I I. I did put in the book but I did not write about it the minute I heard about it which You know I suppose in another Texan restraint temptation but no I mean. I think it's important. This was the year two thousand was the year that was showcased and keeping them. It's a year after the women's World Cup. This is the dawn of the Internet. Women's sports are finding traction. That sports illustrated has a whole separate sports illustrated for women. Espn is in women's sports and it's also an interesting time because men's tennis is not particularly as pre Federer and you sort of have Sampson Agassi. But they're both getting on in that storyline at somebody that had been played out so I think women's tennis really was the story within tennis. It was really caught this women's sports buzz and I think it also was sort of very much in keeping with sort of where we were socially much broader than that so it was a strange moment of time. And you had this impossibly rich cast. Did you guys see cheer? I've so date sort of cherry pick this cast and everybody feels a role. And that's what you had at the time in women's tennis organically so you had the these two sisters who just had a at a backstory that was completely unprecedented and corner. Cova and you had Monica. Seles was the tragic figure and Steffi. Graf was leaving. And you had Lindsey and Camp Riyadi in every week Mary. Pierce wins the French Open and our return to FRY. I mean it just. You couldn't make this up and you had incredibly rich cast of characters and he's really good players and there was a lot of friction and nobody was shy about the friction. It really was very much a A moment in Time John. How did you kind of go about in terms of like Just the process of okay. I'm I'm going to write this book. that decision was made before the two thousand season or after I'm trying to remember the the timeline before I think I'd been approach in the summer of nineteen ninety nine. Okay so then. You're Oh yeah no. I GUESS. My question is okay. You've committed to this two thousand seat in season to write about. Obviously we can control many things but we cannot control results so as the season is unfolding. Is You know you have this title? Venus isn't even playing for the first few months of this of the year. Like I can only imagine just from I was thinking about those reading. Like putting my self in your shoes. Like moments of maybe panic or her like concern like is the season going to unfold in a way that is meaningful for me to write about like with respect is can Cheetah Martinez had won the French. What you say about that we love the Cheetah. The the irony is just detour. Here the the irony is in two thousand seven. I was approached about doing a book on Roger Federer. Who in two thousand eight you know has as you recall right losted lasted. Australia and that this scrawny kid joke each one and he got his doors blown off in the French Open by Nepal. And I'm thinking what the Hell Am I gonNA to Roger Federer Book when it looks like His days are past. This was a little different because I think the publisher understood that half of this was really just about the cast of characters here on. I guess you're right. I mean I so I go to Australia. It was the first time I'd ever been there. And you didn't have Venus and Serena which I think I was probably from a narrative standpoint rooting for but it was a pretty cool story. That amid all this chaos you have level-headed Lindsay Davenport win the title. And this was someone who is immediately she was. She was very cool. It was very open. We had a relationship prior so we knew each other a little bit and went with her as she. She went down the yere in a boat and the whole time to his muttering. About how dare I don't? I don't like this thing is so cheesy and This is a part of the job. I Hate Lindsey was great and you know remains great to this day but the Australia got off to a good start and the spring had You know your usual garden variety craziness and then you're right. You get to the French Open. If could cheat Martinez won. It may have been a little fraud instead you have Mary. Pierce was a great story.