... and other player gossip from a different perspective:
Cynthia Lum's snap-happy tennis life
January 21, 2006
Cynthia Lum mingles with the world's top male tennis stars - and it's all just part of the job, writes Chris Johnston.
Photographer Cynthia Lum is the eyes of men's tennis. And those eyes have seen a lot.
Lum, from Los Angeles, has been on the circuit for 12 years. She's such a fixture - the US, French, and Australian opens, all the big ones - that she is on first-name terms with many top players. She often stays in the same hotels and goes to the same restaurants, bars, clubs and functions. She's the kind of person who will give a disc of pictures to a player after they have had a good win.
"My attitude is 'we're all in this together'," Lum says. "The guy picking up the towels in the locker room is as important as Lleyton Hewitt. I treat the players like normal human beings and they respect that, they like it.
"We're all pretty friendly. Have dinner, have drinks, have a party, you know?"
Given the clamour surrounding top male players at the Australian Open this week - "where did he eat?", "where did he drink", "is he really going out with her", "did you see him with his shirt off?" - Lum's access would be the envy of many. She is quick to stress that she is a sports photographer, but she is also a woman who likes men.
"Frankly, my mother didn't raise stupid children. Why would I want to be on the women's tour? The men are a lot more profitable, the guys are more interesting, the tennis is better, it's more fun. And they're guys. What's wrong with hanging out with cute young guys? They're amazing."
Lum loves tennis. She loves photographing it. It's a subtle sport; it's all about the tiny nuances. Grand gestures and the spectacular are hard to find. She likes this about it. But she also likes the backdrop to an event like the Australian Open.
"Tennis is the only sport where there's one or two-week events," Lum says. "You get to know people, you make friends. There's a dinner this night and a party that night; people meet new people, there's new romances and broken romances. It's all going on behind the tennis. It builds and builds and then, bang!, it's over, and they're taking the site down while you're shooting the last pictures.
"It has a drama all of it's own. It's like a mini-series, a soap opera."
The big gossip this year is that men's No. 2 Andy Roddick is on with Russian Maria Sharapova, women's No.4 seed. "That would surprise me," Lum says. "He likes starlet-type girls, but he wouldn't like a girl that overshadows him."
She met Roddick when he was 19. "I thought to myself, 'this kid has great potential as a player and also as a brat'. He was supposed to be the next Pete Sampras, he's had a lot of pressure put on him, and kids like that have brat potential. He has a temper, but he's a good kid. He's a funny kid. He does funny things. Once he had his people buy him a bed from the W Hotel in Los Angeles for his house in Florida, just because he liked the bed."
No. 1 seed Roger Federer is the polar opposite, she says. He is quiet and does not party. He is under his girlfriend's thumb. He never goes out at night. "Although once I did see him at the Xiang Yang market in Shanghai where they sell only fakes - fake Rolex watches, fake Chanel sunglasses."
Hewitt? Well, she likes his eyes. "They're huge," she says, "and blue, and they pop out when he's running for a shot." Off court, though, "you won't see him, he never goes out. He was always a pain in the neck, but he's mellowed. He's not nasty, just a pain."
The Latin guys, though, the Spanish and South Americans . . . "oh my God, they are so much fun".
"Go to a tournament in Argentina or Brazil and everyone's out every night dancing and partying," Lum says. "Gaston Gaudio, I like him, he likes to party, believe me. In Shanghai once, at this big nightclub, all these Chinese girls were hitting on him. But he's like 'oh, they're not really my type'. He likes the tall blondes. He's a real good dancer, Gaston."
But Argentinian David Nalbandian, who is not a favourite of Australian crowds, has won a prize for being "unco-operative and sour".
"I've never had a problem with him personally, but in Paris the press have the annual Lemon Award for the French Open's annual pain in the neck. He won it last year."
As someone who deals in the detail of the sport, Lum notices things others do not. Guillermo Coria, for example, does amazing tricks with his racquet. "He flips it and bounces the ball on the edge of it between sets or when he's changing ends. He's very dexterous; he's like a juggler, a magician."
His wife, Lum says, who is "stunning", has the "teensiest, tiniest little outfits. He looks like a little kid next to her."
Roddick is on edge, "like a racehorse". He constantly fidgets with his hat and jiggles a blue rubber bracelet on his right wrist.
And Federer is difficult to photograph in Australia because he has very dark eyes and the angle of the sun here often makes it look like like he has no eyes at all. Which is not what a tennis photographer wants from the best tennis player in the world. Plus, she says, his play is so smooth, so polished. There's no rough edges to it. There is nothing that happens out of the blue.
Unfortunately for Lum, like eyes, those are the things that make good pictures.
"But he'll probably win,"she says.
WHAT THE STARS GET UP TO
"He’s got his girlfriend and he’s under her thumb. She controls him."
"I shouldn’t say this but he’s a party boy. He’ll be at the casino playing craps and roulette. He’ll be hanging out in clubs — he went to a party at The Loft this week.’’
"He was always a pain in the neck, but he’s mellowed.’’
"Unco-operative and sour."
"He always looks like his mum just scrubbed him down."
"He’s very good looking, and interesting, because he’s an emotional Swede."
"Oh my God, I love Fernando. He’s a real nice guy, a good guy.’ His coach is very cool too.’’
"He likes to party, believe me. He’s a real good dancer, Gaston."
"Always obliging but also kind of ... unexpressive"
"He has this stunning wife. He comes down for breakfast with his family and the wife, and her make-up arrives 15 minutes before her."
But Argentinian David Nalbandian, who is not a favourite of Australian crowds
He's one of my favourites