During her 6-4, 6-3 victory over Sloane Stephens in the first-round of the U.S. Open on Monday, American Coco Vandeweghe was interviewed by ESPN commentator Pam Shriver following the first set. This was unprecedented, and a lot of people on Twitter, including a number of players, voiced their opinions on the subject.
ESPN approached Vandeweghe before the match and asked her if she would do the interview and they gave her the option of refusing it.
“Pam [Shriver] explained it to me herself. She would come out and ask me two questions,” said Vandeweghe. “It would be in between sets. If I didn’t want her out there, I could just wave her away at any point in time. I could say it two seconds before I walked out on the court. But I gave her the nod to go ahead—and then it happened.”
Of course, it helped that she won the first set.
We have seen these types of in-game interviews in other sports. Baseball managers are interviewed from the dugout, basketball and hockey coaches do interviews from their respective benches, but it hasn’t been done in an individual sport in the middle of a contest.
While it is ESPN’s job to bring its viewers closer to the matches and the players in them, one cannot help but wonder if something like this would cause a player to lose focus or reveal a strategy. In this case, we won’t know as Vandeweghe went on to win to the match in straight sets.
“That was my original thought when I was first approached,” Vandeweghe said of the possible distraction. “But there are lots of distractions that go on during a tennis match. At the same time, we have on-court coaching during WTA events. You could also lose focus in that way because you’re speaking to someone. If you aren’t able to put those distractions aside, then you need to kind of definitely work on that aspect of your game.”
And that is a fair point. It is completely up to the player, and one can turn down the interview if they so choose. And the questions were generic: “What were you most happy with in the first set?" and "What do you need to do in the second set to close out the win?"
Vandeweghe even admitted afterwards that she didn’t even remember what questions she was asked.
But it is something new to the sport and it will be interesting to see if this is a trend that catches on, or if this is an anomaly.
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for Long Island Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.