Tennis Prose



My Big 4 Biofile Memories

By Scoop Malinowski

A standout highlight memory of my tennis career was doing Biofile interviews with Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, all at the US Open.

Each Biofile was very memorable though each happened well before they all achieved tennis immortality. In fact, at the time I interviewed them, none had won a Grand Slam title yet and though all four were considered future stars, nothing, as we know, is guaranteed in tennis.

The first Biofile I did with the big four was with Roger Federer who was attempting to qualify for his first US Open. He had just beaten Edwin Kempes in the first round and we talked after his win in the locker room, sitting on a bench by his locker, which was near where Pete Sampras always had his locker, around the corner from the room entrance and the soda and beer dispensers. I was too focused on Roger to notice if Pete was around that day. What I remember about the teenager Roger was he was very friendly and kind, engaging and revealing. I liked him instantly and when he won his first Grand Slam I felt some of his profound emotions too. Here is the Roger Biofile link

The second Big 4 Biofile was with Rafa in 2003 after he beat Fernando Vicente and before he lost to Younes El Aynoui in the second round. I saw Rafa and his team, Uncle Toni and manager Carlos Costa, leaving the Ashe Stadium locker room, going to the line by the steel fence to wait for a courtesy car to drive them to Manhattan. It was around 8 at night, just starting to get dark. The group had to wait a few minutes and so my timing was lucky and Rafa, who was still a teenager, agreed to my spontaneous request to do the one-on-one interview, though I remember him saying his English was not good. I didn’t care, I knew it was good enough so we did it. I remember his uncle and manager left him alone with me as they went somewhere while waiting for the car to be ready. Like Roger, I found Rafa to be exceedingly nice and kind and extremely likable, with an eager to please quality. Like Roger, there was not even a hint of any arrogance or bad manners.

I did Biofiles with Djokovic and Murray both at the 2005 US Open. Murray was in the locker room between days of his first two US Open main draw matches and I approached him at the right moment and we did this Biofile which showed Andy is a funny, witty, clever guy and also self-deprecating as he admitted his most embarrassing memory was something I don’t think he would ever talk about now. Like Rafa and Federer, after doing a Biofile with Andy I became an instant fan and always wanted him to do well and get to the top of tennis. At this age, we really didn’t know if they had the goods to go all the way and take over for Agassi, Hewitt, Roddick, Ferrero, Safin, etc.

Novak Djokovic of course also possessed those likable, endearing attributes that all the young greats have as teenagers (except for maybe the arrogant, aloof Rios and the fierce, feisty, focused, all business Hewitt). I first talked with Novak after his first US Open main draw match win vs Monfils in five sets also in 2005. Though it was a controversial moment for him – the media was questioning him for faking injury timeouts in the fifth set – he was a super thoughtful interview subject (and still is). I got to him in the locker room after the match and he did this Biofile though I did not lodge a formal interview request with any ATP handler (rules have changed now, today reporters can’t even get into the US Open locker room, this rule changed about ten years ago).

What stood out about Novak Djokovic? Super intelligence, maturity, and very well spoken at such a young age in English, which was not his first language.

All four of the big 4 gave me about ten minutes of their lives to answer my Biofile questions and for that I am forever grateful and honored to be a sort of microscopic part of their historic careers.

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