By Mike McIntyre
Any tennis fans who have been following the French Open over the past week have undoubtedly heard by now the charming voice of a certain tennis reporter from Yorkshire. The rapport Jonathan Pinfield has established with World No. 3 Alexander Zverev has captured the tennis world (both inside and outside of Yorkshire!) by storm and become one of the feel-good stories from the tournament this year. Here is my interview from yesterday with Jonathan where we discuss his experiences so far in Paris.
Q: So tell us Jon, is it true that you and Sasha Zverev will be partnering in doubles this year at Wimbledon?
A: Well we’ve exchanged one or two rallies so far in the press conferences, but we’re keeping it strictly professional and I’m not quite sure whether my backhand would hold up to be honest, but yeah really enjoying it at Roland Garros. I think it’s fair to say that Sasha is keeping everyone entertained both on the court and off the court.
Q: Well both of you are for that matter Jon. Tell me how did that one question after his first match lead into this current blossoming bromance between the two of you?
A: Well I think everyone by now knows I’m from Yorkshire. I’ve been told I have quite a strong accent so I have been making the conscious effort to speak quite slowly and deliberately. So when I got the opportunity to ask Sasha at the first news conference if he thought that Roland Garros could be a turning point in his Grand Slam career he looked at me slightly quizzically, started chuckling and said, “I love your accent, but I haven’t got a clue what you’re saying.” So it was at that point I realized that something had clearly been lost in translation. I’d like to think that from that point onwards we’ve been able to communicate by speaking the universal language of love and I think whatever has been lost in translation we’re trying to make up for now.
Q: I certainly think you’re achieving that. Are you taken aback, are you surprised by the reaction on social media by this relationships you guys are sort of forming?
A: Absolutely yes, because obviously we had a brief moment in the initial press conference where we had a bit of banter and a bit of good humored chat, but you come out of the news conference and from that point you don’t think anything of it whatsoever, you just got on to the next news story. You think quite fondly of the little exchange you’ve had and then you’re focusing on what’s going to happen next. But yeah, in a way that things have unfolded have certainly caught me by surprise and I’m sure everyone else who has followed it.
Q: What’s the reaction like back home from friends, family and other media members in your hometown?
A: Well I think everyone’s saying keeping flying the flag for Yorkshire. Lots of people have heard of Yorkshire, some haven’t, but one or two people have said that Sasha has certainly put Yorkshire on the map. And I understand now that there are calls for him to become an honorary Yorkshire-man so who knows, he could become the first honorary Yorkshire man to go deep into a Grand Slam.
Q: Tell me, have you had any other good reactions from players this week? Is this a usual thing for you week-in and week-out with your wonderful accent being recognized?
A: Well I got the opportunity to interview one of the players today who said that I’m the man, so he won his match today and I told him that he was the man. I’ll save his blushes, I won’t tell who that was, but that was a wonderful compliment.
Q: How long have you been covering the sport for Jon and do you play tennis yourself?
A: I don’t actually get a chance to do much reporting. There’s a team of about 30 of us at Live Sports FM. Unfortunately for me, but fortunately for our listeners, I think my colleagues are a lot more talented than I am so I’m usually back at the office organizing other people. The trip to Roland Garros was a bit of a treat to myself to be honest just to get out of the office for two weeks and experience some great tennis. Yeah I’d love to get on the court, I think you can probably guess what happens is that Wimbledon is on once a year and what us Brits do is we get our racquets out for about two weeks of the year dodging the showers to try to hit a few tennis balls. Then once Wimbledon is over and the weather changes we hide the racquets somewhere and then we’ve got to try and find them a year later. I’d love to think I can play tennis but I play it pretty poorly I must admit.
Q: Well you’ll have to find some more time to get out yourself and I would imagine that after this week’s performance by yourself on the job you’ll be getting a few more calls to attend some tennis tournaments in the future and I know we’d all enjoy that. Tell me, what do you think of Zverev’s chances in his quarterfinal match if you could objectively look at that as he tries to capture his first Grand Slam.
A: Well honestly they’re both young players at similar stages in their careers I’d say. Dominic has got a bit more experience on the ATP Tour and is a bit more measured and calm. I think Sasha has a lot of natural talent and it’s just a question if whether he can just curb those aspects of his personality that actually trip him up. I think a lot of people’s heads are thinking that it might trip up Sasha on this one but I think a lot of hearts are hoping that he can do it. But I must admit I’ve got a foot in both camps. I wouldn’t like to say who’s going to win that one it could be very close indeed.
Q: What have Zverev’s responses to you this week in press revealed to you about his personality? Has it surprised you his reaction to your questions and sort of opened the door to allow us to get to know him a little bit better?
A: Yeah I think one criticism of him so far has been sometimes he does come across as quite self-confident. He does a lot of news conferences, he gets asked a lot of the same questions and so he’s not someone who is always going to give you a stock response and what journalists like are quite long detailed answers to questions even if they’re not very well formed. So, I think yeah, we try to keep him on his toes, he’s certainly kept us on our toes, but just judging by the reaction to some of what’s happened on social media – not just the interactions with me – but his performances off the court, on the court, I think people are warming to him and seeing different aspects of his personality and that can only be good for him. I think that self-assured confidence that he’s got isn’t going to change dramatically and as you know any top flight tennis player has got to believe in himself to get the performances.
Q: Absolutely and I think we have to credit you as well Jon for helping get some of that out and certainly looking forward to your next press conference with him. I’ll end it on this one, since we started talking about accents - that beings yours – what’s your reaction to our Canadian accent as I know you’ve been doing a little press with some other Canadian reporters this week. How do we compare?
A: I think it’s very warm, very friendly and very open. And I think all the Canadian colleagues of yours that I’ve met at Roland Garros have helped by being very supportive towards me, very kind, very considerate and seem to also have a good rapport with the players as well. I’m a bit biased, I think that Yorkshire is the best accent in the world, but if I didn’t have a Yorkshire accent and had to learn a new one I’d definitely go for Canadian.
Q: Well thank you for sharing yours with us today Jon. You’re more than just your accent for sure, you’ve asked some great tennis questions this week and we look forward to more throughout this week in Paris and beyond as well. Thanks for taking the time.
A: Really appreciate your support as well Mike and everyone who has been in touch, thank you very much, been a pleasure.
And in case you missed it, here is the first exchange between Pinfield and Zverev :
And again as their buddy relationship deepens: