With Andy Roddick’s retirement, we lost one of the best talkers in the game. Roddick was never shy expressing his opinions about anything. His penchant for taking on reporters for asking dumb questions was second to none.
Thankfully, there are still a number of players who keep things interesting in the interview room, either because of their wit, unpredictability or thoughtfulness. Here are the 10 players I consider to be the best interviews. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing, if I hear their names announced over the PA system at a tournament, I’ll pick up my recorder and go.
10. Bernard Tomic: I don’t think Tomic means to be entertaining in his post-match interviews, but he’s an oddly amusing one to watch. You just never know what he’s going to say, whether he’s admitting to tanking a match or trash-talking Roger Federer, as he did at the Australian Open. Tomic just opens his mouth and things come out. There’s absolutely no filter.
9. Janko Tipsarevic: His opinions can be controversial, but Tipsarevic is a fantastic talker. Much like compatriot Novak Djokovic, Tipsarevic’s English skills put the rest of the ATP players who hail from non-English-speaking countries to shame. His thoughtfulness is refreshing. Most players will shrug off questions and just try to get in and out as quickly as possible. You can tell Tipsarevic enjoys sharing his opinions on anything and everything.
8. Roger Federer: You always know exactly what you’re going to get from a Federer news conference, but they’re still must-see events. He’s basically the voice of tennis and, to his credit, Federer has welcomed the role. He’ll give you his well-reasoned thoughts on any topic and won’t dodge questions (unless you’re asking about internal ATP Player Council topics, which he won’t air publicly). Not many ATP players have his language skills and perspective, so when he speaks, everyone listens.
7. Serena Williams: No one on is as unpredictable in her post-match interviews. She’s not as prickly as she used to be, but Williams either comes in tight-lipped in which she gives awkward one-word answers and stares down a reporter to avoid a follow-up, or she can be the lighthearted giggler who walks in with a pink Hello Kitty backpack and starts talking about Justin Bieber and L.A. taco trucks out of nowhere.
6. Maria Sharapova: The consummate professional who always gives a useful response regardless of the stupidity of the question, Sharapova will still capitalize on opportunities to take pot shots when she feels like it. Last year it was Victoria Azarenka and Agnieszka Radwanska who drew her fire. This year she’s been in good spirits, cracking jokes about her dating life, her candy line and tennis.
5. Jelena Jankovic: Welcome to the wild ride that is a Jankovic interview. No one brings more verbiage to a simple answer than the Serb, who has skyrocketed back into peak interview form given her quality play in Bogota, Miami and Charleston. The woman loves to be the center of attention and yet has no idea just how entertaining she is for both the fans and press. “Am I entertaining? For real?” she asked me last week in Charleston when I pointed out how much fans enjoyed her.
What her answers lack in substance, she makes up for it in entertainment value. In Charleston, she described herself as a “dragon who spits fire” on the court, explained her heavy use of hairspray (“It’s like concrete,” she said, rapping her knuckles on the table), and came into the interview room declaring, “Who wants to fight me?” as she took her spot behind the podium. You never know what’s going to come out of her mouth. That’s the fun of it.
4. Rafael Nadal: In the beginning of his career, Nadal’s pressers were unintentionally entertaining simply because he met almost every question with a confused look as he struggled with the language. Not that it stopped him from such gems as referring to his own “famous ass” and otherwise being underrated in the humor department.
As he’s gotten older, his English has improved to the point that Nadal’s answers have transformed into meandering soliloquies that touch on everything from philosophical ruminations on life to scathing critiques of the current state of the men’s game. The latter is a fun development. I’m a big fan of Nadal unmuzzled.
3. Andrea Petkovic: For my money, Petkovic is the best talker in the game. Intelligent, thoughtful and self-aware, she speaks to you as if she’s catching up with an old friend as opposed to being the subject of a polite interrogation. In this recent No Challenges Remaining podcast interview I did alongside The New York Times‘ Ben Rothenberg, listen to her chat about everything from her recent comeback to attending music festivals to being chastised by her mother for being obsessed with baseball.
2. Li Na: Li was an absolute revelation both on the court and off when she made the Australian Open final in 2010, revealing a sense of humor that has made her one of my favorite interviews at every tournament. Her limited English never impedes her wit, nor does it give her the luxury of hiding behind words when asked a difficult question. Perhaps my favorite Li moment of the year so far was her response after being asked why she fell down so much during the Australian Open final: “Because I’m stupid!”
Here’s Li cracking up the press room in Sydney earlier this year:
1. Ernests Gulbis: The best thing about Gulbis raising his ranking inside the top 60 and getting himself deep into tournaments is his regular presence at news conferences. No player on either the men’s or women’s tour speaks as openly and honestly as Gulbis, whether he’s celebrating the lax marijuana laws in Rotterdam, ripping into the state of the ATP Challenger system or just poking fun at his own mental fragility, Gulbis never fails to entertain.