The dictionary defines a press junket as a party or other event held for journalists in order to publicize a new film, typically attended by the film’s stars.

At the National Bank Open press junket, it’s the ATP players who are the stars.

The Sunday before the main draw gets rolling is generally a very busy day for the members of the media, who want to get in as many interviews as possible for the coming week.

Tsitsipas Press Conference
Pascal Ratthe/Tennis Canada

The commentators from the TV stations that hold the broadcasting rights actually have twice the work.

They attend the press conferences and also have a ten-minute one-on-one with the players to ask them more specific questions. The goal is to have excerpts to broadcast before the players’ matches.

Between bouts or in a rain delay, the long interviews come to the rescue of producers, who can run them in their entirety to keep viewers interested during extended breaks.

Interviewers can also ask all the players the same series of questions for a tennis vox pop with the biggest names in the game. 

Back in 2019, when I was a commentator for TVA Sports, I created a tailored questionnaire for Canadian BFFs Denis and Félix to find out how well they knew each other: what one thought of the other and if they had the same opinions on a given topic. Some of the answers were surprising, and the exercise was a lot of fun.

Don’t forget the swag

In between two studios and three questions, the stars sign balls, racquets, shirts and posters for sponsors and fans. They play the game without batting an eye and even pose at the same time! (Felix has long since proven he’s a multitasker, on and off the court).

It’s all part of being a superstar.

Edited by Nina

The discreet young woman who stands in the shadows at Félix’s interviews is his partner, Nina Ghaibi.

She’s behind all the World No.9’s social media posts, from the photos on Twitter of Félix greeting his fans in Canada and around the world to the fast-paced video montages with music that his hundreds of thousands of followers see on Instagram.

Nina knows how to turn a mundane interview or a routine workout into a fun little clip.

You have to admire the players who take part in the junkets. Hearing the same questions over and over again and answering them diligently and respectfully is something we should admire. A lot of players keep smiling and generously share details, recognizing that every interviewer is different and deserves the best possible content.

At the junkets I’ve taken part in, Nadal, Federer, Fognini, Goffin, Monfils and even Kyrgios have always been courteous. But my favourite will always be John Isner, the affable American I described as the perfect gentle giant.

Even though he’s been asked for this type of photo a million times, he obliged with a smile, understanding his role as an idol. On and off the court.

Just for reference, I’m 5’9”.