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Media Day At The 2019 U.S. Open Tennis Is A Total Nightmare AGAIN • Why? Can’t The Suits See It Doesn’t Work?

By Alix Ramsay

Blimey, what a 48 hours. The reason why there was no update from Flushing Meadows on Friday was simple: it is never wise to put finger to keyboard when the blood is boiling. Until the fury had simmered down to mere annoyance, it was probably better to keep schtum.

So, what caused this rage and fury I hear you ask (I know you are all agog)?

It began on Friday morning with what the USTA laughingly calls “media day”. This is the time of tournament when us lot in the press room get to speak to that lot in the locker room and get our previews done. It isn’t particularly exciting (every preview ever penned is rendered utterly worthless as soon as the first ball is hit) but it is part of the job.

But for the past two years, the USTA has decided to turn this work ritual into a kind of side show in the Louis Armstrong stadium. Hey look, everyone, here is Roger talking to a bunch of people you have never heard of. Oh, and while we are at it, you never will hear of them because we have no idea how to turn the mics on. To keep it fair, we won’t turn Roger’s mic up much, either. They can’t hear his answers and he can’t hear their questions. It’s brilliant. Come and watch.

And, indeed, a couple of hundred people did come and watch. From where they were sitting in the stands, all they could see was a bunch of furious people with laptops and a slightly bemused player doing the best he or she could. As Naomi Osaka explained at the start of her so-called presser, she and talking loudly do not go well together. At the end of every third answer she kept asking “can you hear me?”. She couldn’t hear the reply so on she ploughed, doing what she could while the throng of journos in front of her gave up and headed back to their desks in the writing room.

Who knows who thought this up and who knows what they thought it would achieve. All it does is waste the players’ time and the journos’ time. And given that time is always in short supply for both groups, it seems like a right, royal cock-up.

Last year, the press corps complained bitterly about the arrangement. The USTA said then that they were trying the idea and they would take a view after they had got all the feedback. Then they ignored our feedback – despite the fact that the clue is in the name: “media day”. A day for the media to have access to the players and so promote the tournament – and went ahead and did it again.

If they do it again next year, they may find there is no one sitting in the middle of this bun-fight asking questions (other than the fans with laptops they still credential as alleged bona fide journalists) which will give the sprinkling of onlookers absolutely nothing to watch. And watching is all they get because the sound is so bad, no one can hear a thing.

And this was just the start of the day. Thankfully, Roger came up with a decent line which after the magnificent Linda from ASAP had transcribed it (and she was fighting with the same sound issues as the rest of us but she is a genius), we were finally able to understand: Roger, for all his gazillions of dollars and for all his global fame, spent his summer hols taking the missus and the kids caravanning.

Now, it is hard to imagine the Mighty Fed hurpling around the highways and byways of Switzerland in a clapped out, old RV, pulling up at Denny’s for a feed and pee-break (four small bladders need much relief), but the very fact that our Rodge did what the rest of us do made the day seem a little better. Admittedly, he was glamping rather than camping but, even so, it proves he is a normal dad.

And this road trip helped the Mighty One get over his Wimbledon final defeat faster than he imagined.

“Look, I struggled a little bit the first couple days,” he said. “At the same time, I was caravanning with my kids. I didn’t have that much time thinking about all the missed opportunities. I was setting up tables and organizing my life for my four children, driving around the beautiful countryside in Switzerland.

“Sometimes you have flashbacks, things like, Oh, I could have done that, should have done that. The next day you’re having a glass of wine with your wife thinking, ‘The semis was pretty good, even the finals was pretty good’. You go in phases.”

Looking back on it all, a run to the semis in Paris and the final at Wimbledon means he is playing well in the slams. Now in New York, he is not picking himself as a favourite but he does think he can have a say in the eventual resting place of the trophy.

“I’ve been playing well,” he said. “Playing well in slams recently, which has been great. I think also the win over Rafa in the semis [at Wimbledon] was big for me. Also the finals, the way I played that in Wimbledon, is going to give me some extra confidence.

“I’m happy where my game is at. It’s going to be a tough tournament to win, no doubt about it. I feel like I’m part of that group who can do it.”

But then, just as Rodge had seemed to have saved Friday, British Airways stood up and made its presence felt.

A lot of the Brit-pack are – or, rather, were – heading home from here on September 9 via BA. And then their pilots decided to go on strike on the 9th and possibly the 10th. As we sat tapping out stories, we were informed, one by one, that out flights had been cancelled. My notification came last of all and, as every football fan will tell you, it’s the hope that kills you. For about an hour there, I thought my flight was saved. But no.

All of Friday evening was spent on hold as I waited to try and rebook a flight back to Blighty. To be fair to BA, they got me sorted, but it was a less than perfect end to a bloody awful day.

And to think, the US Open hasn’t even started yet. Think kindly of us as you watch the next two weeks unfold – we are having it rough down here at the coal face.

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