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    Interview with Journalist Evgeni Fedyakov on Russian Tennis

    [tptwrap]http://www.talkabouttennis.com/images/tpt/fedyakov.jpg[/tptwrap]Interview with Evgeni Fedyakov

    Evgeni Fedyakov has reported for Russian sports daily Sport-Express since 1994. He was awarded the national tennis prize, the Russian Cup as ¨Sportswriter of the Year¨in 1997. Mr. Fedyakov was born in 1968. In 1992, he graduated from the Moscow Technical University of Communications and Informatics. Mr. Fedyakov lives and works in Moscow.


    Interview taken and translated from Russian by Mariya Konovalova


    When the Russian tennis boom started in the early to mid-nineties, it brought with it not only the first Grand Slam wins for the country and an abnormally high amount of last names that boggle international commentators’ minds, but also a yet unseen amount of media attention.

    Whereas, previously, tennis was relegated to the back pages of sports papers, the jolt given to it by the late President Yeltsin’s love of the game, combined with growing success of Russian pros, meant that Kafelnikov or Kournikova would sometimes replace soccer and hockey heroes on front page photos.

    And with unchartered popularity and level of coverage of the sport, came unchartered territory of tennis writing in Russia. Without the luxury of decades to develop a media approach to covering tennis, which most countries with deeper tennis traditions had, Russian journalists had to learn fast and quicky what to do with the sport, and the majority of Russian fans lived through it, and continue to witness the ongoing changes in tennis coverage.

    During the Davis Cup Final in Portland, Oregon, I had a chance to talk with Evgeni Fedyakov, who has been covering tennis and other sports for Russia’s most popular daily sports paper, Sport-Express, since 1994, about the state of tennis in Russia and his work as a tennis journalist.

    TAT: Did interest in tennis in Russia come from the top or from the bottom? That is, did tennis start getting covered because tennis became a popular sport, or because Boris Yeltsin picked up a racquet and the press decided it was necessary to cover it?
    EF: Well, I think that interest in tennis as a professional sport started in Russia with the beginning of the Kremlin Cup in 1990. That was a big event for tennis in Russia, because before we didn’t have a tournament like that.

    The interest for the sport grew gradually. If we look at whether it is still growing – I’m not sure that it is. I think that there was huge interest in, maybe, ‘94-‘95, when big stars like Bruguera and others came to Moscow for the Kremlin Cup. Even though they would lose, still, it attracted a wide mainstream audience – there was a novelty effect. And there were great finals.

    TAT: What about the women’s tournament, now? It also attracts big stars.
    EF: Today, the interest is still there, but it’s reached a certain stable level, and, maybe it grows a little bit, but not in such proportions. There is a stability of sorts.

    TAT: If the level of Russian professional tennis drops, the amount of successful Russian players decreases, will there be fewer resources spent on covering the sport?
    EF: Definitely. Definitely. The mass readers, who, for example, don’t play tennis amateurly, and even those, are most interested in stars. Which is obvious, the whole world is interested in stars.

    Who is the star here? Roddick. So, this Roddick is everywhere, posters of him everywhere. Same with us. And, when they fall, if they do fall, then interest will fall, as well, of course.

    Also, tennis isn’t football. In football,* our teams can lose and it doesn’t matter.

    TAT: So, despite the fact that there is a “stable” interest, it still depends on this?
    EF: The stability depends on certain players’ results at certain tournaments.

    If our team hadn’t gotten to the Davis Cup final, nobody in Russia would have been interested in Davis Cup. Except for a small group of people, who can get all they need on the internet, really. Which, thank God, several years later than here, is becoming more and more accessible, especially in Moscow and large cities. Of course, life in the Russian province, in villages, is a lot different than life in the American province, but I’m talking about cities.

    TAT: Why do so few Russian journalists travel to tournaments?
    EF: I can explain. It’s very simple.

    How should I say it so it’s precise and not too long? Readership for a sports paper can only be delivered by one sport. That’s football.

    That’s why, when people say that the sports media writes to much about football, it’s true. And, generally speaking, I am sure that that could have been different, but life showed us that, unfortunately, circulation is only kept up by football. For other sports publications, it’s pretty much all the same, in varying degrees.

    So, football. We live because of football. And, even though, lately, large publications, they are under huge media holdings, like Gazprom Media, etc., they still aren’t going to spend the money on tennis.

    But then… well, a trip here to Portland – tickets, hotel, expenses, etc., even if just for four days, right? It costs probably $2500 or more.

    TAT: Are they trying to just save money, or do they have none to spend? They just don’t want to spend it?
    EF: I can’t answer for other publications, you know, but I think that, in some sense, they’re just saving money. But, of course, people do travel. More and more are going to Roland Garros, for example. It’s closer.

    And there are lots of people here, from TV and from papers.

    But, no, there is no systematic coverage. I, personally, feel horrible that specialized tennis magazines, like Tennis +, for example, don’t send people. C’est la vie, such is life in Russia.

    TAT: Things like the NTV+Tennis channel**, or the tennis magazines, did they come about because there is demand, or because specific people wanted them to exist?

    EF: NTV+ - you have to talk to them, I don’t know all the details. I have deep respect for the people who work there. But, as far as the details, how economically viable it is, what resources keep them alive, I don’t know. Because, in the end, money is what it all comes down to.

    But, probably, it does pay off, since they can afford to rent a studio at Wimbledon, they send tons of people there. Even here, they brought their own cameraman.

    But I can’t tell you for sure.

    TAT: I noticed that in Russian tennis coverage, some writers take a fan-like approach, rather than some sort of more objective one, which you can see more often elsewhere. Is that just a characteristic of Russian journalism?
    EF: It´s because… I don´t want to offend anyone, God forbid, I don’t have any sort of illusions. I also make mistakes and have inaccuracies, and, in many respects, I don’t know tennis as subtly as someone who used to play it knows it. But the average level of Russian tennis journalism is, well, not great. And there are very few good tennis writers.

    No, the writers, they do exist. For example, in those tennis magazines. But they lack opportunities. As I said, why do you have to go to tournaments? To see something, to talk to people, etc., you understand. You can’t write at a high level if you, I don’t know, have never been to a Grand Slam tournament. That is, you see it as a complete outsider.

    TAT: Will that change, or no?
    EF: Well, as I said, it all depends on the finances. If there will be money, if it will pay off. And it doesn’t pay off because, as I also said, we have an atypical country. In the U.S., everything is based on business, generally speaking, right?

    Why, for example, is the DC final held here, in Oregon, right, and not in New York? Because it’s profitable for the national federation, as I understand. The stadium is cheaper, etc. And it pays off for them.

    And we hold everything in Moscow. Why? I asked Tarpishev, “why?” He said that he’d be glad to hold events elsewhere, but it´s disadvantageous. Moscow takes care of everything, the cost. And, elsewhere, the Russian Tennis Federation would have to spend money. And they are not a rich organization.

    TAT: The fact that it’s considered bad in Russia to not cheer “for us” during matches for commentators or journalists, is that good or bad? Does it take away from objectivity? Because, in many countries, it´s not “polite,” or politically correct, to cheer, i.e. a commentator doesn’t have a right to openly cheer for their countryman or team.

    EF: I guess that’s for the commentators to answer. But, for example, take an American paper. They write mostly about Americans. Because that’s what people are interested in. Same with us.

    I follow this rule, usually – you can’t cover everything. I’d love to write about many, many things. But in the space I’m given in the paper, I try, first and foremost, to show the view from our side.

    And with the commentators, I’m not in that profession, so I don’t know. I think, though, that some, despite cheering openly, remain objective throughout.

    TAT: Do you follow, do you read other tennis writers? Russian ones and others?

    EF: Yes, when I’m home I read them. I try to read everything published in Russia. And foreign authors, as well. I’m really interested in what Cronin writes. I think, for me, he is the most interesting tennis writer of all.

    So, yes, I read them.

    TAT: Do you feel a difference, on a professional level?

    EF: Well, again, I think we don’t have nearly as many journalists at such a level. Then, you have to understand that there is very little “tennis” in Russia.

    Let’s say, for example, Misha Youzhny lives in Russia. I have an established relationship with him. I can call him, for instance, and ask him something. And those that live abroad – it’s always more difficult.

    Any relationship, of course, is affected by personal contact, which develops, generally, from communication with the person. And personal communication starts in small elements. Someone said something to someone, and a friendship starts. If you don’t travel anywhere to tournaments, then you have no relationships.

    TAT: You have your own blog online, and there are many more appearing.

    EF: Yes, it’s not just me.

    TAT: Is it just a method to communicate more freely with fans, or is there some sort of future in that as a source of information?

    EF: Well, I don’t know. To be honest, when our blogs were instituted, there was no exact formulation of what we want out of them.

    So, you’ll be able to see hockey writers, for example, very often writing about football. Even I wrote something or other about it. Because, once again, football is our sport number one.

    Yes, probably it is some sort of method to deliver information. Although, for me, it’s not the blog itself – there are commentaries there, if you’ve seen it. Again, I can’t do it systematically, because, for example, here, all my thoughts are about the material for the paper. And to do something just for the sake of having it done, that’s not what I want.

    TAT: Another question - you’ve mostly answered it, there is no plan yet for what the online blogs will do in the future?

    EF: Right, that’s not there yet. Don’t know how it will turn out, whether it will be more personal, or something else. And I know that the view of the paper management hasn’t been formed yet, so I can’t say exactly.

    TAT: At tournaments outside of Russia, how much more difficult is it to get to non-Russian athletes?

    EF: Well, the stars, of course, don’t give one-on-ones at all, esp. at big tournaments.

    TAT: Well, at the press-conferences?

    EF: Press-conferences are a different issue – go and ask questions. But, again, it won’t usually be a true interview .

    There are exceptions, of course. In Holland, Richard Krajicek was walking around the press center, so I interviewed him. There are incidents like that.

    But, actually, players… it’s most interesting, usually, to talk to coaches, not the players themselves, in terms of depth. Of course, a player’s name attracts attention, but they often lack depth lack of analysis. For me, it’s much more interesting to talk to a coach than a player.



    *"Football" = "soccer" in this article.

    **NTV+ Tennis is a tennis-only channel available in Russia through cable and satellite. It was launched in February 2006.

    Photo from www.sport-express.ru

  2. #2
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    Re: Interview with journalist Evgeni Fedyakov on Russian Ten

    Very interesting stuff! Great read! Kudos!

    Dry
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  3. #3

    Re: Interview with journalist Evgeni Fedyakov on Russian Ten

    Very good interview. I like seeing media from an international perspective. Thanks for all your hard work!

  4. #4

    Re: Interview with journalist Evgeni Fedyakov on Russian Ten

    Cool! That's so awesome that you interviewed him. Was it just for TAT?

    Edit: How did you introduce yourself to him and start the interview? Did you recognize him and just pounce on the opportunity? Also, did you use a recorder?

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    Re: Interview with journalist Evgeni Fedyakov on Russian Ten

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie02123 View Post
    Cool! That's so awesome that you interviewed him. Was it just for TAT?

    Edit: How did you introduce yourself to him and start the interview? Did you recognize him and just pounce on the opportunity? Also, did you use a recorder?
    Thanks, everyone.


    Charlie, I contacted Evgeni through his blog a few days before leaving for Davis Cup (there is a PM feature on the host site). I really enjoy his writing, and this subject has interested me for a while, so I thought that with his experience, he could provide valuable insight. We made arrangements when I ran into him at the press conference. And then I was 20 minutes late because of those confusing little trams running around Portland.

    I had a recorder and, yes, it was just for TAT. Everything for TAT

  6. #6

    Re: Interview with journalist Evgeni Fedyakov on Russian Ten

    Great interview! That's so amazing that you were able to interview him. He's obviously a class act, too. Bud Collins, on the other hand, kept turning down my interview requests..
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    Re: Interview with journalist Evgeni Fedyakov on Russian Ten

    Quote Originally Posted by munchin View Post
    Great interview! That's so amazing that you were able to interview him. He's obviously a class act, too. Bud Collins, on the other hand, kept turning down my interview requests..

    Bud Collins smiled for my camera, and that's all I need. He also walked by while I was doing this interview.

  8. #8
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    Re: Interview with journalist Evgeni Fedyakov on Russian Ten

    wow sounds interesting...but two questions...are his articles only in Russian and if no what is the link to his blog

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    Re: Interview with journalist Evgeni Fedyakov on Russian Ten

    Quote Originally Posted by Tscott415 View Post
    wow sounds interesting...but two questions...are his articles only in Russian and if no what is the link to his blog
    Yes. Only in Russian. So you should get to learning it!

  10. #10
    Grand Slam Champion jjnow's Avatar
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    Re: Interview with journalist Evgeni Fedyakov on Russian Ten

    Awesome job, M8!

    If you know, how broad is the coverage on NTV+? Do they cover a wide variety of tournaments?

    Bilingualism is hot!

    jj
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    Re: Interview with journalist Evgeni Fedyakov on Russian Ten

    Quote Originally Posted by jjnow View Post
    Awesome job, M8!

    If you know, how broad is the coverage on NTV+? Do they cover a wide variety of tournaments?

    Bilingualism is hot!

    jj

    They're great. Much better than Tennis Channel. They usually cover at least two tournaments per week, and they start with at least quarters, but usually early rounds of at least one of them.

    They have also acquired rights to most (3/4?) of GS tournaments, which makes it not so great for people who don't get their service.

  12. #12

    Re: Interview with journalist Evgeni Fedyakov on Russian Ten

    Great work m8! I wish he did have a blog in English.
    There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life.

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    Re: Interview with journalist Evgeni Fedyakov on Russian Ten

    mmmm8, are most of his articles at http://www.sport-express.ru? I can't find his blog through google.

    I know a fair bit of Russian. My Russian roommate in college taught me, in exchange for me teaching him Bengali

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    Re: Interview with journalist Evgeni Fedyakov on Russian Ten

    Quote Originally Posted by rabbit View Post
    mmmm8, are most of his articles at http://www.sport-express.ru? I can't find his blog through google.

    I know a fair bit of Russian. My Russian roommate in college taught me, in exchange for me teaching him Bengali
    Here are Evgeni's articles:
    http://tennis.sport-express.ru/reviews/

    And his blog (some entries match the articles):
    http://blog.sport-express.ru/users/fedyakov/

  15. #15

    Re: Interview with journalist Evgeni Fedyakov on Russian Ten

    Great interview!

    It was definitely an interesting read. Charlie already asked everything I was going to ask.

    Thanks for all the hard work that went into this!

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