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The most popular Tennis podcast is The Tennis Podcast

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WIMBLEDON, England — The moment Amélie Mauresmo, the French Open tournament director, said that women’s tennis didn’t have as much appeal as men’s tennis at the moment, there was no doubt she was in for a reprimand.

Those who opposed included a British woman named Catherine Whitaker, who lambasted Mauresmo for 10 minutes and 35 seconds on an increasingly influential show, “The Tennis Podcast.” Whitaker was between exasperated and appalled that a former No. 1 ranked women’s singles player would say something like that to explain 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 some of the biggest and most famous female athletes in the world.

The next morning, a member of the French Open communications staff approached Whitaker with a proposition: Would you like to join a select group of journalists to speak with Mauresmo?

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That Whitaker’s words came to the attention of Mauresmo, who would later try to retract his comments, might have been difficult to foresee in 2012, when Whitaker and his boss, David Law, sat at the dining room table in his family’s home. parents to record the first episode of their podcast.

“Maybe five people heard it,” Law, a veteran tennis communications executive and BBC radio commentator, said during a recent interview. For years, the show went on hiatus and restart, with episodes dropping erratically and drawing small audiences.

A decade later, “The Tennis Podcast” regularly tops Apple’s charts for sports in the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia and Spain. It is a favorite of game luminaries and commentators such as Billie Jean King who has heard the whole archive, Chris Evert, Pam Shriver and Mary Carillo. In the US, it recently ranked 40th among all sports podcasts. At certain times, like during the Mauresmo crisis, it is like sport speaking to itself.

“I’m a nerd,” Carillo said in late May, just before taping a special 10th-anniversary show atop Philippe Chatrier’s main court at Roland Garros. “These guys know what they’re doing. And they’re funny. You can’t pretend to be funny.”

Every sport has its handful of must-haves. Most feature presenters who came to their podcasts with established platforms or have major media companies behind them.

Whitaker, Law and Matthew Roberts, who started as the show’s unpaid Twitter intern in 2015 while still in college, are the genre’s charming garage band that broke through, though they’re not sure why. Perhaps tennis debate sounds more appropriate with a British accent? “The Tennis Podcast” has become an interesting test case for a crowded podcast market where it’s hard to build an audience and even harder to make a living, as all three are trying to do.

Roberts, 26, is still unsure if this is a legitimate career choice.

“Maybe I’ll write some more?” he wondered one night in Paris.

At big events like the little competition taking place here at the All England Club this week, the group occasionally settles down with microphones and a pint on a picnic table, albeit with a growing legion of fans, especially in Wimbledon, that arrangement is getting more and more problematic.

On the show (and in their lives), the 48-year-old Law plays the goofy but considerate father. He is clueless about most pop culture references. He often competes with Whitaker, 36, as if she were a much younger stepsister. Roberts acts as the wise son beyond his years, often settling his disputes.

“And he can do that annoying backhand jumping,” Whitaker said of Roberts, who played junior tennis tournaments and has a degree in modern languages.

At this year’s French Open, a fan of the podcast nervously reached out to praise Roberts.

“He’s the one everyone likes the most,” Law said of Roberts. “I know, because I read all the emails.”

Now they earn enough to travel to every Grand Slam tournament, although Wimbledon is kind of a home game. Law, who is married with two children, recently quit his day job as communications director for the annual grass-court tournament at the Queen’s Club in London, some 120 miles south of his home near Birmingham.

Whitaker, who lives in London, emailed Law after graduating from college saying she was desperate to work in tennis. She hired her to help him in her work with retired players on the Champions Tour.

He also liked her voice and eventually brought up the concept of a podcast. Whitaker was skeptical but went ahead.

Law was introduced to podcasts the same way many Brits were: by listening to “The Ricky Gervais Show” in the mid-20s. As the medium grew, Law realized that every sport seemed to have a podcast that became The One, and he quickly took on the title of “The Tennis Podcast.”

It was a good name, he thought. “And there were no other tennis podcasts, so it was actually true,” he said.

In 2013, with the podcast stumped with only a few hundred weekly listeners, Whitaker went to work writing crime and punishment press releases at the Crown Prosecution Service press office. Within a month he knew that despite his longing for stability, he had made a terrible mistake. It took him a year to walk away and commit to the podcast, as well as a few side jobs in tennis.

The company cost Law money for the first four years. In 2015 he sold a small sponsorship to BNP Paribas, the French bank.

The following year, Law, Whitaker and Roberts ran the first of their annual Kickstarter campaigns which, along with subscriptions to extra content for £5 a month or £50 a year, or around $6 and $61, keep them going.

They have 3,000 subscribers and approximately 35,000 weekly listeners. His success helped get Whitaker hired to anchor Amazon Prime’s tennis coverage.

They have a great debt with Carillo. Five years ago, she approached Whitaker at a tournament and asked if he was from “The Tennis Podcast.” Whitaker said yes, then found Law and told him that something very strange had just happened.

Carillo spread the word. She told King, who told Evert, who told Shriver, or something like that. No one is sure of the order. Now they are all dedicated listeners. King joined the show’s hosts at Whitaker’s apartment last summer for curry and watching European Championship soccer matches.

After Shriver went public with the revelation that her longtime coach, Don Candy, had sexually abused her as a teenager, her first interview was on “The Tennis Podcast.” Steve Simon, the director of the WTA Tour, also spoke about the sexual abuse of her.

Most of the shows have no guests. The troika talks about the latest results from Estoril, in Portugal, or Istanbul. They make fun of each other’s food choices or their abilities to serve underhandedly.

Law said years of mistakes and research have provided valuable lessons, such as the importance of launching a new podcast weekly, launching it on a specific day (usually Mondays), limiting weekly shows to about an hour, and making daily 45-minute episodes. during the Grand Slams.

Things dragged out a bit longer after Mauresmo stepped in earlier this month at the French Open, allowing Whitaker the right moment for his takedown. She described Mauresmo as a product of a system “designed and maintained almost exclusively by men”, telling anyone who might believe that men’s tennis was inherently more attractive than women’s tennis to “throw it away”.

Much more than five people were listening.

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