A woman’s view of the Grand Slam Tennis tour by Anne Parker – one of the few
I have been watching tennis since I was about seven-years-old, a long time, but it has always been a part of my life.
As a child I went to support my dad with my mum, sisters and baby brother, when he played for his works team on Sundays in the midlands of England. My sisters wandered off and I was left watching dad intently.
So what did I find so fascinating? Well it wasn’t the power, it was the angles he seemed to find without hitting the cover off the ball, drop shots, slices, all the clever deft touches and volleys at the net.
I thought that was really clever. He was my hero and I boasted about his abilities to all my friends at school.
When it came to playing however, putting racquet on ball was not my forte. As my PE teacher said, as kindly as she could, “lots of effort Anne but not much of a result”.
I tried, believe me, I tried, but it became evident in my teenage years that I did not have the physique or talent to be much of a player. However, I was still fascinated by the game and the angles players achieved.
I became an avid fan and would always watch tennis on TV.
Wimbledon was always my dad’s favourite although he never went there until he was in his eighties when he was lucky enough to meet Roger Federer.
When tennis was first available on TV from all over the world I was in front of it planning my viewing.
Then I married and had children it was obvious that we would be a sporting family. But tennis was always my first love and consequently racquets took pride of place in our sports closet, and were carefully looked after.
When photography moved into the digital era I used one of my husband’s old cameras to see what I could create through the lens myself and initially became his editor/technician when we went to Grand Slam Championships, before becoming a photographer in my own right.
I have been fortunate to go to all four Grand Slams many times and have developed my own style.
When I first started on the tour there were not many female photographers, about four or five – but this has increased over the years and although we are still in the minority, there are enough of us to be able to support each other if things become awkward.
I tend to concentrate on the individual player and facial expressions especially the eyes. They might not always be the most flattering, but to me they speak volumes, sometimes more than words ever could.
Mothers in Tennis
There are more and more mothers who come back to play Grand Slams after having children (Clijsters, Azarenko, Serena, and previously Evonne Goolagong and Margaret Court. And I am all for it.
Belgium’s Kim Clijsters came back after a two-year sabbatical as a wild card in September 2009 in New York and her daughter Jada toddled onto court as Kim received her trophy and promptly grabbed all the attention, especially when she mistook the similarly featured Caroline Wozniacki for her mum as she toddled onto court!
Before that, and even more remarkably for its time, Evonne came back to Wimbledon in 1980.
There is continuous debate both in the public arena and among female players as to whether any automatic seeding should be allowed to players in the top 20 before they became pregnant, when they return.
I personally believe that this should be clarified by WTA before the next Australian Open in January 2019 instead of leaving the decision to the individual Championships.
I can understand that Championships naturally want the most popular players at their tournaments for financial reasons but it needs to be clarified for all.
And as for taking the right image … Roger and I always say that taking the picture is the easy bit. It’s all the editing, logistics, and travelling that take up 75 per cent of the time.
New York, USA
The Billie Jean King Tennis Centre at Flushing Meadow is the home of the US Open Championship.
It has the largest main court, Arthur Ashe, and has the most accessible working area for photographers and access to the permitted photographic areas on court. This year we will all benefit from the new roof, so whatever the weather there will always be play for spectators, media and TV.
New York is usually a popular venue with both journalists and photographers. It comes at the end of a long and usually constant warm year and we are all feeling a bit “last day at school before the holidays’’ .
It is close enough to Christmas to have the excuse for shopping for both the expensive items and bargains.
The problem for the working press is our need to be on site while the tennis is played, which means shopping comes way down on the list of priorities, but Macy’s in Manhattan is a huge department store where you can get most things, expensive and bargains, under one roof, probably during the second week when our workload is less. And I always try to visit.
Transport is usually subway (or courtesy buses for working press ) to and from the selected media hotels in Manhattan.
If you are not attending night matches then a trip to a Broadway show is well worthwhile, but do book early if you want to watch a specific show on a specific date, though you might get lucky buying by standing in line on the day of the show and find deeply discounted tickets at “TKTS” booth under the red steps in Duffy Square (47th Street and Broadway). All but the biggest Broadway hits are on sale there, mostly at 50 per cent off.
Americans are usually very friendly and helpful, but please remember that New York like London is mostly a business city so life is rush, rush, rush, and asking directions unless in a tourist office is probably not going to get a positive response.
When I am a working tourist in a foreign country it is up to me to be sensible and my advice would be to carry a map or two or take a trusty yellow cab, but you need to know exactly where you are going to.
And one more thing … don’t forget an umbrella, the US Open takes place at the start of the hurricane season!
Planning is everything.