WIMBLEDON, England — The moment Amélie Mauresmo, the French Open tournament director, said women’s tennis didn’t have as much appeal as men’s tennis immediately, there was little doubt she was going to get an earful.
Those objecting included a British woman named Catherine Whitaker, who delivered a scathing, 10-minute, 35-second dressing down of Mauresmo on an increasingly influential show, “The Tennis Podcast.” Whitaker was somewhere between exasperated and aghast that a former No. 1-ranked player in women’s singles would say such a thing to clarify why she had scheduled men for nine of the tournament’s 10 featured night sessions. She called out Mauresmo for possessing an “unconscious bias” against a few of the world’s biggest and most famous female athletes.
The following morning, a member of the French Open’s communications staff approached Whitaker with a proposition: Would she prefer to join a select group of journalists to talk with Mauresmo?
That Whitaker’s words had gotten the eye of Mauresmo — who would later try and walk back her comments — may need been hard to foresee in 2012, when Whitaker and her boss, David Law, sat on the dining room table at his parents’ home to record the primary episode of their podcast.
“Possibly five people listened to it,” Law, a longtime tennis communications executive and BBC radio commentator, said during a recent interview. For years the show stopped and restarted, with episodes dropping irregularly and attracting tiny audiences.
A decade on, “The Tennis Podcast” repeatedly tops the Apple charts for the game in the USA, Britain, Canada, Australia and Spain. It’s a favourite of the sport’s luminaries and commentators, akin to Billie Jean King, who has listened to the complete archive, Chris Evert, Pam Shriver and Mary Carillo. Within the U.S., it recently ranked fortieth amongst all sports podcasts. In certain moments, akin to during Mauresmo’s crisis, it’s how the game talks to itself.
“I’m a nerd,” Carillo said in late May, just before taping a special tenth anniversary show high above the most important court, Philippe Chatrier, at Roland Garros. “These guys know their stuff. And so they’re funny. You may’t fake funny.”
Every sport has its handful of must-listens. Most feature hosts who got here to their podcasts with established platforms or have major media corporations behind them.
Whitaker, Law and Matthew Roberts, who began because the show’s unpaid Twitter intern in 2015 when he was still in college, are the genre’s charming garage band that broke through, though they usually are not sure why. Possibly tennis debate just sounds more proper with British accents? “The Tennis Podcast” has grow to be an interesting test case for a crowded podcast market where it’s hard to develop an audience and even harder to make a living, because the three try to do.
Roberts, 26, still is just not sure if it is a legitimate profession alternative.
“Possibly I’ll write some more?” he wondered one evening in Paris.
At big events just like the little competition going down here on the All England Club this week, the group will occasionally arrange with the microphones and a pint at a picnic table, though with a growing legion of fans, especially at Wimbledon, that arrangement is becoming more problematic.
On the show (and of their lives) Law, 48, plays the goofy but thoughtful father. He’s clueless about most popular culture references. He often jousts with Whitaker, 36, as if she were a much-younger stepsister. Roberts serves because the wise-beyond-his-years son, often settling their disputes.
“And he can try this annoying, jumping backhand thing,” Whitaker said of Roberts, who played junior tennis tournaments and has a level in modern languages.
At this yr’s French Open, a fan of the podcast nervously approached to praise Roberts.
“He’s the one all of them like probably the most,” Law said of Roberts. “I do know, because I read all of the emails.”
They now earn enough to travel to all of the Grand Slam tournaments, though Wimbledon is a house game of sorts. Law, who’s married with two children, recently quit his day job because the communications director for the annual grass court tournament at Queen’s Club in London, about 120 miles south of his home near Birmingham.
Whitaker, who lives in London, sent Law an email after she graduated from university telling him she was eager to work in tennis. He hired her to help along with his work with retired players on the Champions Tour.
He also liked her voice, and eventually raised the concept of a podcast. Whitaker was skeptical, but went along.
Law got introduced to podcasts the identical way a number of Britons did — listening to “The Ricky Gervais Show” within the mid-aughts. Because the medium grew, Law realized that every sport appeared to have a podcast that became The One, and quickly grabbed the title “The Tennis Podcast.”
It was name, he thought. “And there have been no other tennis podcasts, so it was actually true,” he said.
In 2013, with the podcast muddling together with just just a few hundred weekly listeners, Whitaker went to work writing news releases about crime and punishment within the press office of the Crown Prosecution Service. She knew inside a month that despite her craving for stability, she had made a terrible mistake. It took her a yr to walk away and commit to the podcast, in addition to just a few side gigs in tennis.
The enterprise cost Law money the primary 4 years. In 2015 he sold a small sponsorship to BNP Paribas, the French bank.
The following yr, Law, Whitaker and Roberts did the primary of their annual Kickstarter campaigns, which, together with subscriptions to additional content for five kilos per thirty days or £50 for the yr, or about $6 and $61, sustain them.
They’ve 3,000 subscribers and roughly 35,000 weekly listeners. Their success helped Whitaker get hired to host Amazon Prime’s tennis coverage.
They owe an incredible debt to Carillo. Five years ago, she approached Whitaker at a tournament and asked her if she was from “The Tennis Podcast.” Whitaker said she was, then found Law and told him the strangest thing had just happened.
Carillo spread the word. She told King, who told Evert, who told Shriver, or something like that. Nobody is definite of the order. All at the moment are dedicated listeners. King joined the show’s hosts at Whitaker’s apartment last summer for curry and to look at the European Championship soccer matches.
After Shriver went public with the revelation that her longtime coach, Don Candy, had sexually abused her as a young person, her first interview was on “The Tennis Podcast.” Steve Simon, the pinnacle of the WTA Tour, also got here on to debate sexual abuse.
Most shows haven’t any guests. The troika chat in regards to the latest results from Estoril, in Portugal, or Istanbul. They mock each other’s food decisions or underhand serving abilities.
Law said years of mistakes and research have provided beneficial lessons, akin to the importance of releasing a latest podcast weekly, dropping it on a particular day (often Monday), limiting the weekly shows to about an hour, and doing 45-minute day by day episodes throughout the Grand Slams.
Things went slightly longer after Mauresmo stepped in it earlier this month on the French Open, allowing Whitaker the correct time for her takedown. She described Mauresmo as a product of a system “designed and upheld almost exclusively by men,” telling everyone who might imagine that men’s tennis was inherently more attractive than women’s tennis to “get within the bin.”
So much greater than five people were listening.