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From Wimbledon, Tom Rinaldi Discusses How He Gets Winners To Explain What They’re Feeling

ESPN's "ace" reporter adheres to basic rules for his live interviews: "Keep the questions open, simple and direct. And listen to the answer."

LONDON – ESPN reporter Tom Rinaldi waits on the sideline.

The sporting event is near over and when it is, his responsibility is to interview a coach or key player, or, in individual sports, the winning competitor.

Here at Wimbledon, this will include standing just off the famed grass of Centre Court and being the first to interview the new Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s champions.

How does he prepare, interrupting a celebratory moment and asking for insights into the competition just completed? Rinaldi answers some questions for Front Row.

What is the key to getting a good answer from an athlete who is physically and emotionally drained after winning?
Listening. As obvious as it sounds, that’s that what I’m still learning. Keep the questions open, simple and direct. And listen to the answer.

How hard is it to listen when you have a list of questions in your head?
It’s something I’ve tried to learn and pay attention to over time. Get rid of the next question on the mental list. The viewer and subject are not interested in my presenting a fact or what I might or might not know. That’s why asking a question and listening is important.

When the event’s outcome is in question, you need to prepare to interview two people, certainly different lines of inquiry. How difficult is that?
I don’t decide what the questions will be ahead of the result. Especially in close games, be mindful of what happened at the end. It will produce the most urgent and most germane answer to what the viewer has just seen.


Tom Rinaldi interviews Roberta Vinci during the 2015 US Open. (Allen Kee/ ESPN Images)

There have been so many, Rinaldi says:

ESPN’s coverage of Wimbledon continues today with the Ladies Semifinals; Friday, watch the Gentleman’s Semifinals at 8 a.m. ET preceded Breakfast at Wimbledon at 7 a.m. For more information, visit ESPN Press Room.

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