A whole new circus
There's plenty to hear at a news conference at the U.S. Open, but other than the player, there usually isn't much to see. Not so this year. From celebrities bursting in to quasi-royals taking a tour, you never knew what -- or whom -- you might witness during the postmatch interviews this year.
The first sign that Andy Roddick's unexpected mid-tournament news conference was something big was when wife Brooklyn Decker and a whole group of friends arrived and sat themselves down in the media room. Decker, a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model turned actress, is a familiar sight in the players' box by the court but not in the interview room. She watched, clearly emotional, as Roddick announced his retirement.
The Roddick entourage became quite a fixture there for the rest of the tournament -- after all, it was one of the last chances to see him perform in an arena in which he's become famous. And attendance was generally worth it. One typical example was Roddick describing a between-the-legs shot by one of his opponents by saying: "He hit the thing from Jersey and almost won the point."
Victoria Azarenka, by contrast, had been having a tough time drawing an audience at her postmatch sessions. Maybe that's why her fourth-round news conference featured a guest appearance by singer RedFoo, a big tennis fan who managed to get in all over the place at this year's U.S. Open, possibly on the strength of attesting that his 'shuffle' was based on the split step. Sitting beside Azarenka, he was asked if the song 'Shots' was also about tennis. It was, he replied. "But somebody at the bar will think differently," a quick Azarenka added.
Also stopping by the interview room was Pippa Middleton, but the sister of the Duchess of Cambridge preferred to spend her day at the U.S. Open (officially as a guest of Roger Federer) watching matches rather than news conferences.
Not so actor Kevin Spacey, who met Andy Murray after a third-round win and, having done most of the talking, decided to hear Murray speak for a while by dropping into his news conference. He must have been impressed, because this one happened to be particularly wide-ranging, and Murray handled the questions with typical deftness. There was talk about the conditions, his hard court preparation, his toughest moments, going to Spain when he was young, Rafael Nadal, Laura Robson's big win against Kim Clijsters and how he felt about playing in the age of Federer, Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
He was even asked about his post-match meal, which was going to be sushi. "I try to get about 150 grams of protein in me today, tomorrow. That helps repair the muscles," he said. "You can lose two or three kilos."
Peering through his glasses, Spacey sat quietly at the back, looking fascinated.
The unexpected guests at Murray's semifinal news conference, however, definitely made their presence felt. Murray was deep in a discussion about the windy conditions and the possibility of the other semifinal not being completed.
In burst Sean Connery, the former James Bond, bringing in Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson and Murray's mother Judy along with him.
"Excuse me for interrupting, but I just wanted to make a point. Where's Alex?" Connery said. "I don't know where your mother is. There she is. Come on, Judy. Judy, Judy, Judy."
They stood in front of the room, a crew of Scots. Murray was motioned over to give Judy a hug. "You smell of wine," he accused, jokingly.
She blamed Ferguson. "He made me have wine," she said. "He's just been telling me that Scotland invented the world."
"I explained how Scotland invented the world. Today we invented the wind," Ferguson said.
"Today they conquered the world," the nationalistic Connery said.
After a few pleasantries and photos, the gatecrashers exited, leaving behind a slightly stunned press corps. "Continue your interview," Ferguson instructed Murray as he left.
Even by the Open's loose standards, it's tough to recall it ever being quite like this. There was more -- a baby sitting in the trophy (Bob Bryan's), spontaneous applause for losing players, a person crawling on the ground, champagne being promoted.
If it carries on, it could give "media circus" a whole new meaning.