Episode 182a: Maria Sharapova: The Ice Woman Cometh  

With Maria Sharapova’s ban set to end in just over a month, we’ve assembled an all-star lineup to discuss her impending return and the many questions it raises in this our fourth episode (here are 1, 2, and 3) about Sharapova’s saga.

First, Ben speaks with Markus Günthardt, the tournament director of the Porsche Grand Prix in Stuttgart where Sharapova will be making her comeback on Wednesday, April 26. We discuss why this tournament has grown so popular with top players (the car-as-trophy model seems to work), how important Sharapova is to it, the decision to give her a wild card, and how the contentious Wednesday start was made possible.

Episode 182: Dipping Into Indian Wells  

If you can’t see stars on a clear desert night, are they still there? Ben and Courtney contemplate these quandries and more as they reunite in Indian Wells, where lumpy draws made for exciting clusters of fun, the #1 dude lost to a guy outside the top 100, and Madison Keys returned for her first tournament in five months. 

We discuss patience with young prospects who might seem to fall short of the hype, the once-and-possibly-again concept of Slamless #1s, and moderate opinions about things being worthwhile. It’s all very measured, we hope. 

And as always, thanks for liking us on Facebook (leave comments on the episode thread! Engage with other listeners!), following us 

Episode 181: Gulf Claps with Reem Abulleil  

With the tours spending three weeks in the region, there’s no better time to check in with NCR’s Middle East correspondent, Reem Abulleil, for a quick catch-up on the doings over there. After a rough go of things last year, Caroline Wozniacki made good, despite some rain on her parades. And what to make of Elina Svitolina, who has stealthily piled up some very impressive scalps?

Also, Roger Federer’s stunning loss to Evgeny Donskoy and Andy Murray dropping trou. 

And as always, thanks for liking us on Facebook (leave comments on the episode thread! Engage with other listeners!), following us on Twitter [...]

Episode 180: Getting Turned Around  

It’s been a slowish month of tennis, anthem nightmares notwithstanding, so Ben and Courtney turn to the ever-reliable mailbag to fill out most of this week’s show.

With the popularity of the Australian Open, should hard court tournament directors adjust their court speeds accordingly? What are fair expectations for Maria Sharapova’s return to tour in a couple months? And why don’t people talk more about women’s matches in the greatest matches of all time conversations? 

Also, because we love you, we do Take a Number. And because the world hates us in return, it’s crazy high. 

And as always, thanks for liking us on Fac [...]

Episode 179: Making a Racquet  

There was an eye-catching ending to Davis Cup this weekend, so Ben and Courtney open by discussing Denis Shapovalov’s howitzer into the face of chair umpire Arnaud Gabas, and all the various conversations it starts. Should tennis players drastically rein in their tantrums? Should rules change? Or would an overreaction clamp down on a sport that needs big personalities?

Then, Ben chats with the founders of the gorgeous Racquet magazine, Caitlin Thompson and David Shaftel, about starting up their quarterly publication, and the ways they want to further intertwine tennis and beauty through their work. If you’re interested in the world of print and prestige quarterlies and whatnot, this is [...]

Episode 178: Waking From Australian Dreams  

Back home from their Australian adventures, and with time to process the “dream finals” of the Australian Open, Ben and Courtney rouse and reflect on what to make of the Serena-Venus and Federer-Nadal finals, and what they say about the current state of tennis, both for the players involved and the weekend’s presumed losers (i.e. Angelique Kerber, Murray-Djokovic matches, etc). 

Also, how does the relative spreading of wealth in the WTA compare to the oligarchy of men’s tennis? And are these results ideal for the respective tours?

Lastly, we talk about movies, and we have strong feelings about current and recent Oscar darlings. 

And as always, thanks for liking us 

Episode 177f: Australian Open Day 10-12: Dream Finals  

Tennis got everything it ever wanted! …right?

Ben and Courtney break down the double-dip dream dates of the unexpected vintage Venus-Serena and Federer-Nadal finals that this Australian Open will conclude with. How did the matches go that got these four stars here, how will the finals themselves go, and how should we feel about them? Also, all the props in the world to Mirjana Lucic-Baroni.

Is some tampering of expectations in order for the finals? Probably. But still, let’s revel in this moment. We’re excited, you’re excited, and we’re excited that you’re excited. It’s all very exciting

And as always, thanks for liking us 

Episode 177e: Australian Open Day 8-9: Growing Old, Moving Up  

With the Aussie Open halfway between quarterfinals and semifinals, Ben is rejoined by Courtney to assess all the fun. Has this Slam been satisfying? Depends on if you’re into role reversal, really. The men have been wild and the women have been mild, but it should be setting up for great finishes on both tours, we hope!

Speaking of saving the best for last, this sport is aging like a fine wine and Ben and Courtney just want to drink it all up. And we also raise a glass to Mike Cation, normally the voice of the US challenger circuit, who made his Slam debut here in Melbourne. His enthusiasm for our world is contagious, and we hope you’re infected in all the best ways.

Also, CoCo, Venus, and more. Cancel the noise and tune [...]

Episode 177d: Australian Open Day 5-7: Zverevving Up for the Second Week  

The surprises continue on Day 7 of the Australian Open, where both #1s lost Sunday. Angelique Kerber went out to CoCo Vandeweghe (not a huge shock) and Andy Murray went out to Mischa Zverev (a huge shock). 

First, to talk about both Zverev brothers and some German tennis in general, Ben (alone today as Courtney is out sick) talks to Petra Philippsen, a German freelancer.

Then, with the draws collapsing around them, Ben brings on Japan’s Aki Uchida and Melbourne’s Matt Trollope for an Asia-Pacific perspective on how the second week might shake out. There’s a lot to reassess, a lot to rejigger, and a lot to cope with. And a lot to predi [...]

Episode 177c: Australian Open Day 4: Djokovic Derails  

Day 4 was a day of upsets in Melbourne. No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska got blitzed by Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (as Courtney flagged), but the biggest story was six-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic stunningly falling in five sets to 117th-ranked wildcard Denis Istomin.

To assess Novak’s slide, as well as other perceptions of him in Serbia and the wider world, Ben chats with Belgrade-based Saša Ozmo, a journalist for Sport Klub Srbija. How did this slide start for Novak, and what are reasonable expectations for him going forward? 

And as always, thanks for liking us on Facebook (leave comments on the episode thread! Engage with other listeners!), following us 

Episode 177b: Australian Open Day 3: On Losing, With Peter Polansky  

It’s only three days into the Australian Open, but 160 players have already lost in the singles draws (355 if you add qualifying losers). We hardly knew ye! But let’s get to know ye?

For our second Melbourne mini-show, Ben sat down with #132 Peter Polansky, a Canadian lucky loser who fell in the first round of the Australian Open on Tuesday, dropping out in the brutal heat of a fifth set against Pablo Carreno Busta. He talks about his ups and downs in Melbourne (he’s the only player to have lost twice here), and what it’s like toiling away week-in, week-out on tour, as well as his passion outside the sport. 

And as always, thanks for liking us on Facebook (leave comments on the episode threa [...]

Episode 177a: Australian Open Day 1-2: Petko and the Children  

The Australian Open is underway, and Ben and Courtney are surviving, so far! Simona Halep was an early casualty, however, so we discuss her limping into the sunset in the tournament’s opening hours. Also we hear from longtime NCR stalwart Andrea Petkovic’s first round press conference. She’s a fun one, yo.

The biggest narrative on the men’s side so far has been the cavalcade of gangly teens slowly but surely taking over, so we talk about them with some special attention to Sasha Bublik, who Ben is convinced you will have strong opinions about…someday. 

And as always, thanks for liking us on Facebook (leave comments on the episode thread! Engage with other listeners!), following us 

Episode 176: Australian Open Draw Show  

Together again in Melbourne, Ben and Courtney dive right into the women’s and men’s draws of the 2017 Australian Open, rolling in some thoughts on the season so far along the way. 

It’s somewhat business as usual, with so many women relevant and so few men, but there’s one particular woman who both Ben and Courtney are super geeked for. Can she break out and win her first Slam? How much or little should we read into early season stumbles by the other top women? And on the men’s side, can anyone disrupt the Murray-Djokovic order? And are Roger and/or Rafa ready for runs?

And as always, thanks for liking us on Facebook (leave comments on the episode thread! Engage with other listeners!), foll [...]

Episode 175b: Still Remembering When  

Since 2016 had so much stuff to remember, Ben and Courtney split Episode 175 into two pieces so they could make it all more manageable. Here’s the second part, which covers (more or less) late April until the end of the year. 

Lots in there, to be sure, so be sure to chew carefully. And if there’s still something worthwhile which we forgot (and there almost certainly is), let us know on Twitter or Facebook! 

And as always, thanks for liking us on Facebook (leave comments on the episode thread! Engage with other listeners), following us on Twitter (discuss this episode with hashtag #NCR175b!), and subscribing/reviewing 

Episode 175a: Ana, Auckland, and Anamneses  

It’s our Season 6 premiere! This is our 217th episode, and golly do Ben and Courtney have lots to reflect on before we get started with 2017. Time to look back to move forward.

First, we look back at the career and legacy of Ana Ivanovic, who played excellent tennis at times and was a joy to be around always. We discuss the role she plays in our separate and joint tennis origin stories, and what made her such a welcome presence on tour. Then, Ben chats with Auckland tournament director Karl Budge about running a tournament that has attracted increasingly star-studded fields (including Serena, Venus, and Wozniacki this year), and the differences between running ATP and WTA events.

Then we get into the meat of the show, which is our annual nostalgia trip known as “Rem [...]

Episode 174: Kvitova and Kicking Back With Questions #2  

After recording the show earlier this week, Ben and Courtney shelved it and then retopped it to address the shocking news of the knife attack which wounded Petra Kvitova’s left hand. We discuss the implications it will have, then move on to the main part of the show, which is all of your wonderful (and very varied) Kickstarter questions. From Djokovic to doubles to dissolving countries, we touch ‘em all. 

Hope you enjoy, and have some shiny, happy holidays! 

And as always, thanks for liking us on Facebook (leave comments on the episode thread!), following us on Twitter (discuss this episode with hashtag #NCR173!), and subscribing/reviewing 

Episode 173: Kicking Back With Questions #1  


With the off-season upon us, Ben and Courtney curl up into their mailbag of questions and use it to keep warm through the winter, while at the same time answering its contents to share the warmth of tennis to all who listen. Gosh I hope no one read that paragraph, it was not our best.

Questions come from all sides on general tennis topics such as: Legacy padding! Bro Culture! Sustaining fledgling pro careers! Singles and doubles specializations! And conflicts of interest!

If you are someone who still has some show-based Kickstarter reward you’re waiting on, we’d love for you to message us with your ideas so we can deliver them to you post haste! 

And as always, thanks for liking us on Facebook (leave comments on the episode thread!), following us on Twitter (discuss this episode with hashtag #NCR173!), and subscribing/rev [...]

Episode 172: Stuffed With Gratitude  

The tennis season, save for that pesky Davis Cup final, is finally over, and so Ben and Courtney digest it (before the heavier duty digestion of Thanksgiving) by discussing who the men’s player of the year should be. Andy Murray is the year-end #1 after winning London, but there’s a sturdy case to be made for Novak Djokovic, too.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, Ben and Courtney then serve themselves heaping helpings of thankfulness for things we treasure in tennis and beyond. It’s a gravy boat of gratitude.

To close, Courtney likes a movie and Ben’s rant…disappeared?

And as always, thanks for liking us on Facebook (leave comm [...]

Episode 171: Regime Change  

The world has undergone some changes since Ben and Courtney last spoke. Firstly, as this is a tennis show, we guess, we discuss new ATP #1 Andy Murray, what his ascendancy to the top of the rankings means for his career and legacy, and also how alarmed/confused we should be about Novak Djokovic’s slide and his enlistment of an unorthodox spiritual advisor.

Also, we briefly wrap up Courtney’s trip to Singapore, and the unlikely winner there, Dominika Cibulkova. 

Then, in an expanded rant/feelings segment, we talk about the new man soon to be atop the United States government, and our emotions about that. We have several. 

And as always, thanks for liking us 

Episode 170: The Boys Are Back in Town  

After a WTA-centric episode last time, Ben catches up on the ATP side of the equation this week with special guest Ricky Dimon, fresh off his running the Marine Corps Marathon this past weekend in Washington. After a brief contemplation of the round-robin format after another champion in Singapore went 1-2 in group play, we dive into how this unusual (and underwhelming?) season of men’s tennis is wrapping up, especially in regard to the unexpected disappearance of Novak Djokovic. 

Will Murray pass Djokovic for #1 before year’s end? And would 
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