By Abhishek Mehrotra
Two press conferences have dominated the agenda over the last couple of days. Kim Clijsters bid goodbye after her loss to Laura Robson on Wednesday while Andy Roddick dropped a bombshell on Thursday by announcing this year's US Open will be his last professional tournament.
However, those do will be covered in-depth elsewhere on the site. For this edition of PC World, I'll focus on Li Na.
Thursday, August 30
Li Na and the art of tackling tough questions
In the previous entry, I'd mentioned how perhaps Berdych's image as a Czech robot might partly be down to the language barrier. Despite being far less fluent than Berdych, Li suffers from no such problems.
Puzzled by some questions, taken aback by others, the 2011 French Open champions uses an entertaining mix of hand and facial gestures along with her passable English to come up with entertaining responses.
Since her historic success at Roland Garros, the Chinese woman went titleless all the way until her Western and Southern Open triumph in the build-up to the US Open. That barren run included a scarring loss to the now-retired Kim Clijsters at the Australian Open, where Li had four match points.
When asked about that match on Wednesday prior to Clijsters' exit, she said: "It was really tough. I was play Kim this year in Australia, so I think both of us play very good in the match.
"But for me is the worst because next day is Chinese New Year. After I lose the match, I was like, What was going on? Everyone was so happy without me, so I was like, Okay, just take the beer and totally drunk."
Later, a journalist asked her to list two things that Americans don't understand about the Chinese. It was a serious question, perhaps meant to draw out a cultural/political response. Li handled it with trademark humour.
"Why Chinese still use chopsticks? Why Chinese have to put the family name first, right? I think lot American people couldn't understand, yeah. Two thing already."
Tuesday, August 28
Some sound-bytes from Tomas Berdych, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Milos Raonic.
Tomas Berdych has a reputation for being dour, on and off the court. But today, as I enter the press conference room, the English language questions have just ended and Berdych is engaged in a one-on-one interview with what I assume is a crew from a Czech media outlet.
The interview goes on for a while and Berdych is extremely forthcoming, seemingly answering questions at length and sharing a few laughs with the reporters. It's a pleasantly surprising sight.
A lot of our perception about players is skewed because we see them primarily through an "English-language" lens. Perhaps the strain of communicating in a foreign language is too much for many to then inject levity into their answers as well. The same Berdych who appears surly when answering questions in English is now laughing as one of the guys with his countrymen.
He does revert somewhat to type when, after the interview concludes, a USTA official informs him that he'll have to move out of the room and onwards to another interview outside. "Why can't we do it here?" he asks. "Because I got Jo Tsonga coming in here now," she replies. The Czech, looking more like a sulky kid than the surly, robotic individual he's made out to be, simply shrugs and exits.
Berdych exits from one door, and Tsonga comes in from another all smiles after having just entered the second round with a 6-3 6-1 7-6 win over Karol Beck of Slovakia. The Frenchman, at world number six, is only one two away from breaking into the "Big Four", but it might as well be a hundred.
He's a massive 2455 points behind number four Andy Murray. "I've got to improve a lot," he says when asked what he can do to make the Big Four into a Big Six. "But I'll work until I can work no more."
The US Open draw has not been kind to the 27-year-old. He will have to beat Murray, Federer and Djokovic to win his maiden Grand Slam title, and at the moment he's not looking too far ahead. If I can beat one [of these three], it would be great. Two would be amazing, three is impossible right now."
Then comes a left-field question. "If you could play one player from the past, who would it be and why?" asks a journalist who has clearly got a lot of miles under his feet. "Pat Rafter" comes the response after a slight pause. The Australian was one of the last great serve-and-volleyers before the dawn of the power age. "I'd like to find out if that style of play is still possible," explains Tsonga.
Raonic on Djokovic, Federer
Big-serving Milos Raonic has just edged a five-setter against Colombia's Santiago Giraldo and after more than three hours in the unforgiving New York sun, the normally ruddy Canadian looks even more flushed. But he's confident, answering questions crisply and giving some interesting insights in the process.
"I usually put pressure on opponents by holding my serve comfortably. That makes them feel awkward on their own serve."
Raonic failed to do that today, serving up a barely believable 15 double faults to go with 30 aces, allowing his unfancied opponent to stretch the match the distance.
Explaining how important serve is for him, and in general, he says: "No one is in an offensive position after [receiving] serve. They are on the defensive, maybe neutral, but never offensive. Except Novak." Djokovic has long been considered the best returner in the game, and one of the biggest servers currently on tour agrees.
The conversation, as it inevitably does in so many tennis press conferences, moves to Federer - a reporter asking him what he thinks is the most impressive thing about the Swiss.
"The way he plays," is the swift reply, echoing the feelings of millions of fans worldwide. "He has one of the most beautiful games to watch. There's [only] fluidity and ease, nothing forced about his game. That has helped his longevity as well."
"Most importantly," continues Raonic, "he finds a way to win [in the early rounds] even he is not playing well. Then he gets better and better through the tournament. It's the same with Novak and Rafa."