Sports journalist Blair Henley discusses how her background has informed her work and what she hopes to accomplish for this year’s “Courtyard Conservations” at Western & Southern Open.
What are “Courtyard Conversations”?
One of the components of the Grand Courtyard is a stage perfect for getting to know some special guests. “Courtyard Conversations” will provide plenty of opportunities for fans to hear directly from the stars of the show. That space will also allow us to bring in other tennis personalities of note, who can provide one-of-a-kind tennis insight.
Are there any specific “unsung heroes” you’re hoping to highlight?
There’s a lengthy list of people, from legends to coaches to physios to sports psychologists to nutritionists, who can share expertise on some of the less-discussed aspects of the game. And we couldn’t talk about unsung heroes without mentioning the tournament’s amazing army of 1,300 volunteers. Some of them have been with us for decades, and I have no doubt they have some fascinating tournament stories to tell.
How do you think the “Courtyard Conversations” will help draw in new fans?
American star Reilly Opelka walked through our gates as an up-and-coming junior in 2008. He managed to get his giant tennis ball signed by none other than Novak Djokovic, a gesture he has said was far more important in fostering his love for the game than watching the tennis itself. It’s not an exaggeration to say that player interactions can create fans for life, and that is part of what we hope to do with “Courtyard Conversations.”
Finally, if there’s a message you’d deliver to the fans to get them excited for this year’s tournament, what would it be?
We will certainly have plenty of new things to see and do around the grounds with the Grand Courtyard topping that list. But most importantly, we are one more year removed from the worst of the pandemic. While we are still proceeding with caution, there is an excitement and thankfulness in enjoying the same fun, exciting, familiar feel that fans at the Western & Southern Open have come to know and love.