GB player Abi swaps playing for commentary gig
GB international Abi Tordoff has revealed how much she enjoyed a recent stint in the commentary box at the World Padel League for its YouTube channel. RJ Mitchell reports.
The former Wimbledon tennis player joined the respected tennis broadcaster Robbie Koenig behind the mic to provide commentary and analysis from the Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai as some of the biggest names in padel batted it out.
Recently Abi made the final of the LTA Grade 1 at Rocks Lane partnering Claire Smith and the duo are getting set to go again at the FIP RISE London Padel Open but, as she explained, the commentary box can be a more daunting location than the court if you don’t do your homework.
Abi said: “I was asked to commentate on the World Padel League in Dubai by a friend and it helped that I knew (former Indian ATP player) Mahesh Bhupathi, who is the mastermind behind the event, and also Robbie Koenig (respected tennis lead commentator) for years through my tennis playing and agenting days. It was just a fantastic experience. I don’t know about it being a new career for me but it was a lot of fun and if there were other opportunities I’d love to help as I really enjoyed it
“I did a lot of prep work for it and I’m lucky that a lot of my good friends from tennis work in commentary, so I got some great advice from the likes of Sam Smith who commentates for the BBC at Wimbledon. Also some of my former colleagues also now manage some of the top padel players so I was able to chat to them too which was a big help.
“I was also conscious that some people listening might not know much about the game’s technical aspects or ever seen it being played before so I was trying to strike a bit of a balance.
“I also did a lot of preparation on the background of the players and gave a lot of thought to the things I’d like to know and there is so much to learn and some fascinating stories behind these top players.
“We had a day with the players and their agents before the tournament started so I was able to chat with them and get some background and fun stories about their individual journeys in the game.
“We also stayed at the same hotel as the players and I was in the gym in the mornings and I’d see the players in there carrying out their off-court sessions and it was great to see their level of professionalism.
“I’ve seen that in tennis from my agenting days working with the likes of Kournikova, Hingis and Murray and it is no different in padel at the very elite level.”
Abi provided fascinating insight into how her days behind the mic unfolded as she called some of padel’s household names like Bela, Sanyo, Coello, Chingotto, Ale Salazar, Bea Gonzalez, Navarro, Paquito, Stupa, Lucia Sainz.
“I was working alongside Robbie Koenig, one of the leading commentators in tennis – a great guy, very funny and very well respected, he was the lead and I was there because of my playing experience and knowledge of padel.
“Robbie had never commentated on padel before Dubai so it was great to hear his enthusiasm for the game and he was blown away by how physical and talented the players were.
“We commentated on eight-sets per day. There were two sessions, day, and night and then a music concert after the night session. There were four playing teams; Jaguars, Panthers, Cheetahs, and the Tigers, they were all fighting it out for the large prize money pot at the end.
“The format was also really fun with a mixed doubles first, which is pretty unique as that is not featured in other events, then a women’s doubles, a special doubles (that included a top UAE player for each team in a men’s doubles) and a men’s doubles to finish it off.
“The star coaches would choose their team on the morning, which was always interesting to see who they would rest and who would be in for the women’s and men’s doubles – it got pretty competitive, especially in the women’s and men’s doubles.
“With some of the best coaches in the world captaining each team, like Willy Lahoz, Miguel Sciorilli, Marcela Ferrari and Niki Berwig it was just a fun formula.”
However, Abi is now focussing her attention on this week’s FIP RISE London Open: “I am playing with Claire Smith and as we are both right court players it is a bit of a challenge for us but we are hoping to build on Rocks Lane where we made the final. That was the first time we had played together so our expectation level was low. We are both good competitors and that’s important in any sport so we will go out there and give it our best shot.
“For me it is about being the best player that I can be, continuing to learn from others and enjoy being on the court and staying realistic with it all – I get a lot of enjoyment from playing padel and that’s why I do it.”🎾