Tennis behind the scenes: The best stages for the best photographs
Renowned global tennis photographer Mike Frey shares the secrets of where he goes at the four Grand Slams to take his pictures. And the shots he produces are quite stunning…
Australian Open: Rod Laver Arena – Catwalk
Melbourne Park now has a third court with a roof, so there are three catwalks on offer to photographers – Rod Laver Arena, Hisense Arena and Margaret Court Arena. This creates the opportunity to produce some very different images as the catwalks are right under the roof in each stadium, which makes them incredibly hot and difficult to access. You’re well above the playing surface and you benefit from the shadows created by the falling sun in the late afternoon. Rod Laver Arena is still my favourite, as it stages the finals and the “look-up” trophy presentation, as well as having the deepest shadows at around 5.50pm.
Roland Garros: Court Philippe Chatrier – La Fosse
All the Grand Slams used to have a pit at the back of the show courts, but now only Roland Garros and the US Open have them. Roland Garros offers a great angle to shoot from as the pit goes all the way past the tramlines on both sides. You’re able to take pictures out wide on both the backhand and forehand sides, which makes for great photographs. The sun sets on the backhand flank, so that is the ideal side for a backhand stretch with great light. The amount of red dust in the pit is astonishing and the cameras always need a good clean by the time I reach the UK and get on to the grass.
Wimbledon: Centre Court – Platform B
Nestled in between the Royal Box and the main scoreboard is a small area for photographers known as platform B. It is accessed through a door and under a ramp that is no more than four feet high, so there have been a lot of banged heads over the years. Platform B gives a raised position behind the court, close to the players’ box, so it’s great for long-lens shooting action at the other end of the court or for shots of both players near the net. This is one of the only places in tennis where that shot becomes possible, so I always head to the platform for a long session each day.
US Open: Arthur Ashe Stadium – pit opposite umpire’s chair
The pit on Arthur Ashe runs from one end of the court to the other and has two rows of seating. The front row is at court level and in my view is the place to be. You can either shoot players right in front of you with a short lens or shoot with a long lens down the court, for tight upper-body shots. The pit is close to the court and is great for using very fast short lenses that isolate the player from the background. Arthur Ashe and Wimbledon have the two best photo pits on the tour and allow photographers to get really close to the action. The new roof means the shadows fall at around 2pm, when the light is magnificent. Despite the fact you are shooting into the sun, the photos are awesome.
For even more amazing photography and behind the scenes knowledge get Tennishead magazine here