Inside Wimbledon: Queue & A with TSN’s Mark Masters

— July 4, 2019

Have you had your strawberries and cream yet? The action is underway in the world’s oldest and most prestigious tennis tournament, Wimbledon, with TSN delivering exclusive coverage throughout the tournament (complete schedule at TSN.ca).

TSN’s Mark Masters is on-site at London’s All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, providing comprehensive WIMBLEDON reports for SPORTSCENTRE and contributing blog posts and web-exclusive one-on-one interviews for TSN.ca.

@TSN_PR caught up with Masters to explore what a day reporting on-site at Wimbledon looks like behind-the-scenes, as well as his favourite memories and traditions from the iconic tournament.

Q: What does a typical day on-site covering Wimbledon look like for you?

MM: Our day begins at 8:30 a.m., when we arrive at the Club to begin shooting. These scene sets preview the day’s big matches, focusing on the tournament’s top seeds or any Canadians taking the court. If a Canadian player is in action once play begins at 11 a.m., we head to the courts.  After the matches, we head over to interview the players. 

If no Canadians play that day, we often attend their practices for an inside look at their training routine. We'll also try and set up interviews with analysts and tournament organizers to provide different perspectives on Wimbledon.

After the final match of the day wraps up, I head home to start drafting scripts for the next day’s scene sets. 

Q: What makes Wimbledon stand out from the other Grand Slams you cover throughout the tennis season?

MM: So many things. The fact it’s played on grass, of course, stands out as the biggest difference for me. Due to the wear and tear the grass accumulates over the tournament, the middle Sunday of Wimbledon’s fortnight is an off day to maintain the living surface. This leads to “Manic Monday” the following day, where the singles players compete in their fourth-round matches. It's arguably the best day on the tennis calendar for fans, who have a buffet of compelling matches to feast upon throughout the day. 

Speaking of feasting, how could I forget the classic Wimbledon strawberries and cream? With 166,055 portions served last year, they are every bit as good as advertised. 

Another distinguishing factor of Wimbledon is the famous Royal Box where Royal Family members often watch the matches that take place on Centre Court.

Finally, there’s the iconic white dress code, which is often a talking point as players look to show off some personality while staying within the rules. 

Q: Do you have a favourite Wimbledon memory? 

MM: Back in 2016, Milos Raonic played Roger Federer in the semi-finals. Seen as a rematch of their 2014 semi-final, which Federer won in straight sets, Raonic was determined to win. The young Canadian, who had recently added John McEnroe to his coaching team, had a swagger throughout the tournament and seemed ready for this date with destiny.

Raonic trailed early, before mounting a dramatic comeback to beat Federer and move on to the championship. Usually we do our post-match interviews a couple hours after a match, but as Raonic was the first Canadian man to ever reach a major singles final we were granted early access to interview him immediately following his win.

Throughout the tournament that year, photojournalist Fred Mislawchuk had placed a “lucky” loonie on the ground to mark where Raonic should stand. However, as we were told to make this a quick interview, Fred did not have the chance to place the loonie beforehand. As a smiling Raonic approached us, he stopped and asked where the lucky loonie was. Fred reached in his pocket and placed the loonie on the ground, as Raonic, beaming with pride, took his place to speak with me. It was an amazing experience to speak with Raonic following his win, and to be on-site for such an iconic moment in Canadian tennis history.

Q: How has Wimbledon evolved over the years? 

MM: Considering all the traditions associated with Wimbledon, there are still pretty big changes almost annually to the tournament. 

After Kevin Anderson and John Isner played a 26-24 fifth set marathon last year, a deciding-set tiebreaker has been instituted if matches reach 12-12. Back in 2010, Isner beat Nicolas Mahut 70-68 in the fifth set of a Wimbledon match that lasted 11 hours and five minutes over three days, the longest match in history. These new changes ensure this will not happen again. 

There are also a few small changes that can be seen across the tournament this year. The start of play has been moved up 30 minutes to 11 a.m., which will help ensure more matches are completed daily. Fans can also order vegan cream with their strawberries this year, to invite more individuals to enjoy the classic Wimbledon tradition. Finally, female players will no longer be identified by their marital status at the tournament, but rather will be identified only by their last names, just like the men. 

Q: What is your favourite Wimbledon tradition?

MM: It’s got to be The Queue. For the first nine days of Wimbledon, fans can line up in a park across from the All England Club to buy tickets for the biggest courts. The tickets are released to the public in the morning, so fans camp out overnight to be first in line.

A few years ago we ventured into The Queue to speak with dedicated tennis fans for a fun feature we shot. We even ran into a guy dressed up as a strawberry, holding a carton of cream.

The flat we rent during Wimbledon is right beside this park, so we get to walk past the fans every morning on the way to the grounds. You can feel the anticipation and energy in the air, and I couldn’t help but share the excitement as fans finally secured their spots inside the historic courts.

Fans can visit TSN.ca/Wimbledon for a daily lineup of matches featured in TSN’s live multi-court WIMBLEDON coverage and follow @TSNTennis throughout the tournament for daily match and schedule updates, as well as breaking news.

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