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  1. #1

    Interview with Peter Bodo

    [tptwrap]http://www.talkabouttennis.com/images/tpt/bodo.gif[/tptwrap]Interview with Peter Bodo

    Peter Bodo has been writing for Tennis for over 30 years. He is the author of three books on tennis, including a collaboration with Pete Sampras on his forthcoming autobiography, A Champion’s Mind (Crown, release date June 10, 2008). He is also a frequent contributor to the New York Times as an Outdoors Columnist and the author of a novel, The Trout Whisperers (Stackpole, 2006). He is married and has a five-year-old son, Luke. Mr. Bodo likes to spend as much time as he can with his family on his farm in the upstate New York town of Andes.

    TAT would like to thank Peter for taking the time out of his inordinately busy schedule to answer questions from our members!


    TAT: How did you get involved in tennis journalism in the first place? Who were your writing "role models?"
    PB: My writing role models were all the authors I read voraciously as a youth, and through my higher education. When I first set out to write journalism, my non-fiction heroes were Frank DeFord, (my contemporary) Curry Kirkpatrick (both of Sports Illustrated), George Plimpton, Norman Mailer, Dave Anderson (New York Times) and Hunter S. Thompson (I was young and grew up in the 60s, what can I say?) My first job out of school was with the Passaic Herald-News in suburban New Jersey. Tennis was in its boom phase at that time, and I played and loved the game. I convinced my editors to let me cover the US Pro Indoor in Philly one year (it featured a great Rosewall vs. Laver final), and also the US Open (both on my own dime, although they let me count the work hours). I met various writers and editors, showed some of my clips, and soon developed what would become a lifelong relationship with Tennis magazine.

    TAT: Since Djokovic finally won his first Slam, how many Slams do you think he will win in his career? Also, is he capable of winning the Golden Slam this year?
    PB: I don’t like to make such guesses, because there are just too many variables. I already have people asking me to predict the French Open winner, which I think is nuts. But I guess readers enjoy it, bogus as it is, and as my colleague Steve Tignor suggested when we were talking about this, I suspect that the readers just like to see us be wrong. Djokovic is capable of winning the Golden Slam, but then I think I am capable of writing a best seller. An awful lot of things have to go right for that to happen – probably too many. The great asset Novak has is his all-purpose game. This guy will contend on all surfaces (he already has), and, if you pinned me down, I would put him in the highest category, because he is off to a very fast start in his Slam quest. The kid is a quick study.

    TAT: Following this year's Australian Open, do you buy into the "Changing of the Guard" expectation, i.e., that Henin and the Williams sisters will be eclipsed by the younger players this year?
    PB: I’m not sure about eclipsed, but I definitely think they will get a run for their money. I expect Vaidisova to really jump her game up a notch this year. Mirza seems to be on her way back. And the two "Vitches," Ana and Jelena, are blue-chip players all the way. But I am reasonably sure that Henin will give as good as she gets on a regular basis. My only question re. the Williamses is whether they will play enough, with sufficient interest. They seem to be drifting away from the game, which is a pity.

    TAT: Do you think Sharapova switching back to her old service motion will come back to haunt her later in the season?
    PB: I haven’t asked her or anyone else about this issue, but, as you know, she has a shoulder injury, so. . . I had a long talk about Ana Ivanovic’s bio-mechanics on the serve (with Sven Groeneveld) at IW, and he impressed upon me the need for women (and men) to really create a sound technical base for the serve. If they don’t, a serve - even a good one - can put so much stress on the shoulder and arm that the risk is enormous.

    TAT: Since Maria finally won the AO, do you think she will get a Career Slam? How many more Slams does she win while Justine and the Williams Sisters are still playing? How many Slams does she win after Justine and the WS retire?
    PB: I have trouble seeing Maria win at Roland Garros, she doesn’t move well enough or have enough variety in her game. Maria needs to remain injury free, because she’s a player who does best when she gets in a groove and gets rolling, and nothing stops momentum like that the way an injury does. Maria could end up averaging a Slam a year in the years between her first and last Slam, but I also think she is there to be beaten – she has enough flaws and weaknesses not to flat-out dominate, the way an in-form Serena W. might. But she will clean up anything she’s allowed to take because her will and work ethic are stronger than her basic game.

    TAT: As a tennis journalist, how much of an obligation do you feel to promote the sport of tennis, as opposed to reporting on it as an impartial observer?
    PB: I have a desire and obligation to promote the sport of tennis simply because I believe in the game and love the game. But I see promoting the game as the logical outcome of my labors, rather than a guiding factor in them. I have no interest in being an impartial observer, and don’t believe anyone is (this pertains to ALL journalists). The best thing you can do is attempt to be fair in anything you write, whether it’s opinion or news.

    To be "objective" is to be merely the lens of a camera, and one of the things that distinguishes us as human beings is our ability –and responsibility – to make judgments. Once I concluded that each of us filters everything, and that there’s nothing wrong with that (in fact, the opposite…), I felt impelled to be more up-front about the issue, which is why I was attracted to Internet journalism and blogging (although I hate that word), in particular. The medium makes no bones about "objectivity" or "impartiality," although I never want my commentary to be driven purely by personal whim or irrational prejudice. I regularly ask myself the hard questions when I praise or vilify somebody, and feel I always must be able to defend my prejudice with well-reasoned, if not provable or objective, "truths."

    Some of you may know that I have been more or less merciless on Kim Clijsters, and, while I do find the persona she cultivated irritating (and had real evidence that she was somewhat two-faced), I tend to go a bit overboard. My most discriminating readers understand the degree to which I’m just having fun. I am amazed at how often people really think I "hate" or "love" various players. It just isn’t true. I have strong, personal feelings about very few players, and those are almost always positive.

    TAT: Have you ever written something that, later on, you really regretted?
    PB: I once wrote a column in Tennis about the Jimmy Connors tour, based on player lounge conversation with friends who played on that tour (Vilas, McNamara, a few others) and wrote a column because their complaints about "King" Jimmy were so funny. Connors got hold of it and made things uncomfortable for at least one of the guys, and I realized that it was a huge and inexplicable error for me not to double-check to make sure they were okay with me writing about that conversation. I’ve had one or two similar instances, or misquotations or factual errors that subsequently made me wince and apologize, but that one was by far the biggest and most serious error I made.

    TAT: How do you handle criticism aimed at your blog entries or editorials?
    PB: I try to tackle it head-on with reasonable responses and/or explanations. I try to ignore the people who seem to just want to yank my chain. I have three or four regular posters who really seem to have it in for me, and I choose to generally ignore them and wonder why on earth they read TennisWorld at all. Other than that, the complaints I take most seriously are those that come from people who believe I really wronged someone or allowed myself to fall below the basic standard of decency and fairness that I try to observe, and I take those very seriously and do all I can to alleviate the concerns. Trolls, stalkers, agitators are part of the business and I am very thankful for the Mod Squad (my team of moderators) for dealing with a lot of that stuff before I even see it.

    TAT: Did the pressures of your job ever require you to take or exaggerate a stance on a player for better reading?
    PB: Never. My lodestars when I write are: what makes this person unique? What does this player represent? How is this player different from the common perception that rules out there? The first job of a writer is to be interesting, but of course that’s something that comes naturally; it’s not a game plan or calculated approach. Those who try to be interesting never are (it’s kind of like being cool that way).

    TAT: Hey, Pete, what did Richard Gasquet do to you that you hate him so much?
    PB: I don’t hate Richard Gasquet. I don’t hate anyone and I mean that sincerely. But Gasquet’s inflated reputation (Baby Federer, etc.) irritates me, and I don’t find his game all that appealing (I am not a worshipper of the one-handed backhand). I am probably a little harder on him than on some others who are similar, but it just seems that at every turn he does the things that make me roll my eyes, instead of just shrug (the US Open "flu-like symptoms" controversy is a good example). If you’re going to hold someone to task, it might as well be someone who you feel is overrated, or who you perceive differently from others.

    TAT: If you could make an ideal tennis player by breeding two parents of tennis players, which parents would you pick? (This pair cannot have already produced, say, Roger Federer together).
    PB: Srdjan Ivanisevic and Colette Evert – you’d get really nice people and a lefty kid who serves bombs and is consistent and hugely competitive. Wonder what Jimmy Evert and Mrs. Ivanisevic would say about that…

    TAT: In the world of tennis journalism, whose work do YOU enjoy reading?
    PB: I am a big fan of my buddy L. Jon Wertheim as well as my colleagues Steve Tignor and Tom Perrotta. Chris Clarey really knows the game and writes elegantly, Doug Robson has become a really solid reporter/writer who always gets the story right, ESPN’s Bonnie Ford has a great nose for a story and is a tireless reporter... I am not counting drop-ins like John McPhee or David Foster Wallace.

    TAT: What would you change about the tennis tour, if you could?
    PB: I would join the ATP and WTA in every sense, with mirror-image tours re. "significant" events, ranking system, etc. To me, that would represent meaningful gender equality and give tennis something else to brag about. I would also end the year at the end of September with Davis Cup and the YECs, and send the players out there on multi-nation, multi-city exhibition tours in October and November to promote tennis by taking it to new or under-serviced fans.


    Visit Peter Bodo's TennisWorld

  2. #2
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    Re: Interview with Peter Bodo

    Thank You Pete !!!
    I do "hate" you for how you treat my Ritchie boy, but you allways write nice stories and good papers, and everyone has the right to have his opinions !
    And it is through your blog that I found TAT
    :bleus: Allez Jo ! :bleus:

  3. #3

    Re: Interview with Peter Bodo

    Many thanks, Pete!

    I like his answer to the last question. It's a great idea, actually.

  4. #4
    Grand Slam Champion jjnow's Avatar
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    Re: Interview with Peter Bodo

    LOL. I was wondering if (Vlad's?) "Why do you hate Gasquet?" question would be included. And I actually kind of agree with him on that one. At least he can admit that his "infatuated reputation" irritates him like some of the rest of us.

    I asked the "changing of the guard question." Looks like somebody out there has some faith left in Vaidisova.
    Blue Steel

  5. #5

    Re: Interview with Peter Bodo

    Quote Originally Posted by jjnow View Post
    LOL. I was wondering if (Vlad's?) "Why do you hate Gasquet?" question would be included. And I actually kind of agree with him on that one. At least he can admit that his "infatuated reputation" irritates him like some of the rest of us.

    I asked the "changing of the guard question." Looks like somebody out there has some faith left in Vaidisova.

    lol, frankly, i wasn't that serious when I put this question up... if I knew it would be picked, then I perhaps would word it a bit different. I still think Pete is unfair to Richard and I feel like he picks on him on every occasion he gets. It's not his fault he was called "Baby Fed" (and that was not because of expectations of winning everything but simply because of natural all court game just like Roger, even if it's very different in some ways). He is not the only one who underachieves among last bunch of young guns. Frankly, all of them do, except for Rafa and Novak, but Richard seems to receive more crap from him than other ones.

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    Re: Interview with Peter Bodo

    Quote Originally Posted by Vlad View Post
    lol, frankly, i wasn't that serious when I put this question up... if I knew it would be picked, then I perhaps would word it a bit different. I still think Pete is unfair to Richard and I feel like he picks on him on every occasion he gets. It's not his fault he was called "Baby Fed" (and that was not because of expectations of winning everything but simply because of natural all court game just like Roger, even if it's very different in some ways). He is not the only one who underachieves among last bunch of young guns. Frankly, all of them do, except for Rafa and Novak, but Richard seems to receive more crap from him than other ones.
    Yeah, I agree with Vlad. It's not the fault of the guy if the fans and the circuit had so much expectations for Ritchie. He's not the obnoxious type that says "I'll be number one, I'm the best". He's just doing his best to get as high as he can and if everyone is expecting so much from him, well he can't help it.

    It is unfair when the player has to pay for things that are not directly his doing. I hate players for what they say and do, not because I expected things they don't do like winning in an SP because I picked them ...
    :bleus: Allez Jo ! :bleus:

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