WASHINGTON, September 12, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)
There’s a lot wisdom and personality – and plenty of heart and soul – that comes from watching Naomi Osaka and Victoria Azarenka, this year’s US Open women’s singles finalists, give their virtual press conferences. Unlike on-court interviews that take place moments after the finish of a match, virtual press conferences happen usually about an hour after the conclusion. It gives players a chance to catch a breather – whether it be to take a shower or have a physio rubdown, maybe even meet with their team or family and friends – and collect their thoughts.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, as a measure of health and safety on the part of the U.S. Tennis Association, only broadcast partners are on site for this year’s US Open. That means media conference rooms usually filled with on-site reporters are empty and silent. Instead, media are covering the American Slam from the comfort of their living rooms and work studies while being invited to participate in pre-arranged Zoom conference calls with the players in English (and, as warranted, in their native language, i.e. Spanish for players like Pablo Carreño Busta, Czech for Petra Kvitova, French for Alizé Cornet, and such). Not everyone gets called on to ask a question as most of the sessions run about 10-15 minutes at the discretion of the press conference host. Often times, the best questions – and answers – go beyond the baseline. This is where the players shine.
Fortunately, the US Open website, usopen.org, has been posting videos of the virtual press conferences and printed transcripts. Therein, the fun begins as you can find plenty of quotable quotes and insights.
After Thursday evening’s women’s semifinals, here is a sampling of what Osaka and Azarenka had to say:
Question for Osaka: We know that was an outstanding match, incredibly high quality. Are you able to really appreciate the level and standard of play, the excitement of a match like that, when you’re in the middle of it?
Naomi: “I mean, I’m not sure if I feel the excitement, but I do feel very happy. Sometimes I think I have no choice but to play as hard as I can, because my opponent isn’t giving me any looks.
“For me, normally if I focus that much, then the match potentially could be over in two. But I felt like it just kept going on. Honestly, it was a bit fun because that quality of an opponent… We’re at the final stages of a tournament. Yeah, it was fun.”
Question for Azarenka: How is reaching the finals at this stage of your career different than when you last got that far seven years ago?
Victoria: “How is it different? I mean, mentally I’m in such a different place. I think seven years ago, after I won the Australian Open and stuff, and playing kind of consistently with good results, it was kind of I wouldn’t say expected but kind of expected for me to be in the final. I don’t think that was the case this year.
“But it feels more fun this year, more fulfilling, more pleasant for me, yeah. It feels nice, nicer.”
World TV Premier of Mariah Carey’s “Save the Day” on ESPN
The U.S. Tennis Association announced Friday that the world premiere of global music superstar and best-selling female artist of all time, Mary Carye’s new hit song, “Save the Day,” will kick off ESPN’s coverage of the US Open women’s singles championship on Saturday afternoon. ESPN’s coverage begins at 4 p.m. Eastern Time (9 p.m. London, 10 p.m. Central European).
Carey’s video performance was filmed on the grounds of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center soon before the start of this year’s US Open. According to a US Open press release, Carey performs her song “in the shadows of Arthur Ashe Stadium, with footage of some of the most notable names in women’s tennis history integrated into the video.
— Mariah Carey (@MariahCarey) September 11, 2020
“The song sends a message that inspires hope, resilience and most importantly, people coming together for the collective good.”
Patrick Galbraith, USTA Chaiman of the Board and President, said, “Mariah Carey is a megastar and we are honored to showcase her new song to the world. Her song captures the spirit of this moment in time, and through the US Open’s global reach, we can bring this message to our millions of fans worldwide.”
Charity art buzz at US Open
Black and BIPOC artists have transformed front row seats in Arthur Ashe Stadium at the #USOpen with 18 painted works on canvas. The canvas pieces are now up for charitable auction benefitting the USTA Foundation + each artist’s charity of choice. Bid now: https://t.co/8mHx35IIyM pic.twitter.com/RDm8fSkJiX
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 11, 2020
What does Naomi’s coach think?
— Simon Cambers (@scambers73) September 11, 2020
What they’re saying
My message to @serenawilliams today.
— Patrick Mouratoglou (@pmouratoglou) September 11, 2020
Thank you #Original9
We wouldn’t be here without you!
— Kristina Mladenovic (@KikiMladenovic) September 11, 2020
What they’re writing
Naomi Osaka vs. Jen Brady was the undercard on Thursday, but their #USOpen semifinal turned out to be a main event all on its own. @SteveTignor on how each woman pushed the other to play better, and how @naomiosaka ended up with her best: https://t.co/GB0QUvL1El
— TENNIS (@Tennis) September 11, 2020
What they’re tweeting
“From baffled and bad to Grand Slam finalist: all in one match. Alexander Zverev rallies to beat Pablo Carreño Busta 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 in a US Open semifinal that will win no prizes for watchability but still meant the world to the German.” – Christopher Clarey, New York Times tennis correspondent
What they’re sharing on social media
SvenTennis / My favorite court on tour!
— SvenTennis (@sventennis) September 11, 2020