Tennis fanatics dream of being stuck in a lift or elevator with their idol. The object of their interest is: a) captive, b) available to chat for a period longer than a mere autograph-hunting encounter and c) sharing an experience on an equal level, human to human, rather than Famous Person to Random Anon Member of Public. And from this situation a fascinating conversation and a New Best Friend status will arise. Of course.
Lucky Cara Robinson, Live @ Wimbledon’s charming roving reporter, who enjoys an even better scenario than the above every day. In association with Hertz, official transport provider at The Championships, she jumps in a courtesy car with any one of the world's leading tennis stars and interviews them on their way home from a day at the All England Club. She’s swapped girlie manicure tips with Petra Kvitova, learnt who Jo-Wilfried Tsonga would most like to meet in the world (his grandmother), listened to Sloane Stephens’s shopping philosophy and sympathised with Feliciano Lopez’s wish that people would talk as admiringly about his tennis as they do about his Deliciano looks.
“It is such a unique location for an interview that it is more like a chat,” says Cara. “A normal interview situation can be very formal, with allocated minutes, but sitting in a car, seat-belted up next to one of the massive names in tennis, is great fun. It is comfy, not claustrophobic and the players are so so nice and relaxed.”
When players leave their workplace environment – as bizarrely we have to think of the garden-party atmosphere of Wimbledon – they leave the environment in which they know they are on show to the public. They switch back into being the person rather than the player and Cara’s interviews benefit from that intimacy. “It was quite an eye-opener climbing into a car with Tsonga after he’d beaten Lleyton Hewitt. Fans were screaming for him, following the car, knocking on the windows. It made me realise how players have so much attention that they can’t always stop and chat and sign autographs. There has to be a cut-off point.”
But not for Cara in the car! And not for Live@Wimbledon viewers who can be flies on the car wall. “I knew of Lopez as the ‘sexiest man in tennis’, and it would have been easy to ask him who his rivals are in that area of competition, but he was such a sweet, quiet, modest guy and tried to brush off all of that. So much is written about players, you presume that is their personality, and often it’s not,” she notes. Lopez does, however, reveal that the player who gets most attention from the opposite sex is Pat Rafter. And he nominated Ana Ivanovic and Maria Kirilenko as “really pretty”.
Sloane Stephens is a delight to watch: energetic, enthusiastic and funny. Having reached the fourth round at the French Open, she reveals how she and her mother contemplated spending her biggest yet single sum of prize money on a first-class ticket home to Florida. “When I heard it would be 10,000 dollars each, I thought ‘Definitely no!’. I can feed 3,000 kids, buy 30 pairs of shoes and get an iPad, which I really need, so I’ll pass on that.” Cara asked if she knew what associations her Christian name in the Britain. And Sloane proved well versed in snotty girls, posh guys and a particular square in London SW1.
Look out for the Tsonga interview. It has yet to air and has an unexpectedly off-guard revelation about his most embarrassing moment ever on court. He had been involved in an intense rally, rushed to the edge of the court, and was embarrassed to… Guesses on a post, please.