“FIND YOUR NICHE”

Qatar Today - - INSIDE THIS ISSUE - BY UDAYAN NAG

Ten­nis an­nouncer Andy Taylor has been work­ing at the Qatar ExxonMo­bil Open and Qatar To­tal Open since 2014. He is also a ra­dio and voice-over artist.

TEN­NIS AN­NOUNCER ANDY TAYLOR HAS BEEN WORK­ING AT THE QATAR EXXONMO­BIL OPEN AND QATAR TO­TAL OPEN SINCE 2014. HE IS ALSO A RA­DIO AND VOICE-OVER ARTIST.

As the coun­try cel­e­brated the 25th an­niver­sary of its premier ten­nis event, the Qatar ExxonMo­bil Open, there is an in­di­vid­ual who con­tin­ues to make his pres­ence felt at the sta­dium court of the Khal­ifa In­ter­na­tional Ten­nis and Squash Com­plex. And he is not one of the play­ers, but is clos­est to the ac­tion, al­beit his role quite of­ten starts at the end of a match. Andy Taylor has been in­tro­duc­ing play­ers and con­duct­ing post-match in­ter­views at in­ter­na­tional ten­nis tour­na­ments for 15 years now.

And there's more to him than that. He is also a ra­dio and voice-over artist. Taylor, in fact, started off his ca­reer in Spring­field, Mis­souri, with the KTTS ra­dio sta­tion in 1997 and con­tin­ued to work with them till 2011. Com­mit­ment to­wards the com­mu­nity was what at­tracted Taylor to that par­tic­u­lar job.

“We cov­ered news, played mu­sic and fo­cused on fam­i­lies. In the US, morn­ing ra­dio shows are more about be­ing en­ter­tain­ing and help­ing peo­ple get to work with smiles on their faces. So I would re­late to peo­ple by telling them sto­ries about my life. We would laugh for about four-and-a-half hours every day. My day would start at 3:30 a.m. in the morn­ing and my show a cou­ple of hours later. It would fin­ish at 10 a.m.,” says Taylor.

“What I re­ally adored about the job was the re­spon­si­bil­ity. There's some­thing spe­cial about be­ing the first per­son awake and ac­cess­ing all the in­for­ma­tion be­fore giv­ing it to peo­ple who need it to get their day started. It was a great feeling, a great job to have.”

Since Taylor's fa­ther was a ra­dio artist, he did not have to go search­ing for in­spi­ra­tion. “My dad is 73 years old and he's still work­ing with a ra­dio sta­tion in Bos­ton, Mas­sachusetts. I grew up watch­ing my fa­ther go to work and ab­so­lutely lov­ing his job. That was my ex­am­ple grow­ing up. I didn't want to be mis­er­able in my job. I wanted to do some­thing that I en­joyed. See­ing how much fun he had with ra­dio shows, I de­cided that's what I wanted to pur­sue as well. So when I first started out as a teenager I vol­un­teered at some ra­dio sta­tions. I scrubbed toi­lets and cleaned the side of the build­ing for a cou­ple of years be­fore get­ting my first op­por­tu­nity.”

Ra­dio even­tu­ally led to tele­vi­sion, and then the ca­reer-defin­ing mo­ment for Taylor came just be­fore the Fed Cup fix­ture be­tween the US and Is­rael in 2002. “I got a call from a col­league who said that Fed Cup ten­nis was in town and the United States Ten­nis As­so­ci­a­tion (USTA) needed an an­nouncer for it. I was re­ally busy and tempted to say no, but went ahead and did the job. I saw Lind­say Daven­port for the first time; Mon­ica Se­les was play­ing for the US at that time; the leg­endary Bil­lie Jean King was coach of the team; and it was a neat event for our small com­mu­nity to host. I fol­lowed the play­ers, did the pre­sen­ta­tions and wrote the scripts.”

Ac­cord­ing to Taylor, things started fall­ing into place from then on. On the fi­nal day of the tie he got an of­fer to go to New York to au­di­tion for the lead an­nouncer's job at the US Open. At first he thought it was a joke, but the 2002 edi­tion of the tour­na­ment at Flush­ing Mead­ows proved to be the turn­ing point of his ca­reer.

“We had Venus and Ser­ena Wil­liams slug it out for the sin­gles crown at a packed Arthur Ashe sta­dium. Then the next night we had Pete Sam­pras take on An­dre Agassi in the men's sin­gles fi­nal, and it turned out to be the last match of Sam­pras's ca­reer. I felt that if this is what the US Open was all about, I would do ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to con­tinue per­form­ing in this role. It has just been a great re­la­tion­ship with the USTA. Year af­ter year I keep go­ing back to the US Open.”

Taylor also ex­plains how he would jug­gle his ten­nis job with the one at the ra­dio sta­tion. “I would take my broad­cast­ing equip­ment to the US Open, wake up at 5 a.m. in the morn­ing and do my ra­dio show from the Arthur Ashe sta­dium in New York. Af­ter that I would work all day till 2 a.m. in the morn­ing at the US Open, get two hours of sleep be­fore re­peat­ing the rou­tine. It does teach a lot of dis­ci­pline.”

Apart from work­ing at the US Open, Taylor has fea­tured reg­u­larly at the ATP event in In­dian Wells. He has also been part of the 2004 and 2016 Sum­mer Olympics, held in Athens and Rio de Janeiro, re­spec­tively. In­ter­est­ingly, his Doha chap­ter be­gan at the 2011 Pan-Arab Games. Also, not only has he been trav­el­ling to Qatar for the ExxonMo­bil Open since 2014, he has also been in­volved with the Qatar To­tal Open, the women's ten­nis tour­na­ment held an­nu­ally in Doha, since that time. The chal­lenges faced by him over here are a lot dif­fer­ent.

“For the US Open, we've got a large team of tal­ented pro­fes­sion­als to work on pro­duc­tion. I write the play­ers' bios and take care of the pre­sen­ta­tions and voiceover for the con­tent that needs to be put up on the big screens for ra­dio and tele­vi­sion com­mer­cials. I don't have to do post-match in­ter­views there be­cause we have TV broad­cast­ers do­ing that job. Oc­ca­sion­ally I do a dou­bles tro­phy cer­e­mony.”

“Now events like Doha are dif­fer­ent. There's a team around me which I can de­pend on, but as far as the pre­sen­ta­tion is con­cerned, it's all on my shoul­ders. I spend hours writ­ing play­ers' bios and scripts so that they can be in­tro­duced prop­erly. I also con­duct post-match in­ter­views at the end of a match. I pre­pare the give­aways - the balls that the play­ers would au­to­graph. I also have to print ev­ery­thing so that I can hand out hard copies to the rest of the team, and then I go out on court for the pre­sen­ta­tion cer­e­mony which in­cludes con­duct­ing in­ter­views at the end of a match.”

Host­ing the play­ers' din­ner gala at the ho­tel and pre­par­ing the script for that par­tic­u­lar event are also part of Taylor's tasks. Talk­ing to play­ers at the con­clu­sion of a match does pro­vide an anec­dote every now and then which gets etched in one's mind for­ever.

“A cou­ple of years ago (in Doha) I asked No­vak Djokovic about his New Year's res­o­lu­tion. He said that he wanted to have a voice like mine. And the same year at the Qatar To­tal Open I asked Vic­to­ria Azarenka about the dis­trac­tions that come up dur­ing a match. She com­pletely ig­nored my ques­tion and said: 'You make ev­ery­one sound like a rock star.' I just looked at her and replied: 'Thanks for chang­ing the topic.' Those are some of the loud­est mo­ments that I can re­mem­ber.”

Taylor points out that one of the ad­van­tages of the ten­nis tour­na­ments in Doha is that one can be much closer to the play­ers and thereby the ac­tion, which is not pos­si­ble in other places where gain­ing ac­cess to im­por­tant ar­eas might not be that easy.

Look­ing ahead, Taylor feels that it's his voice-over ex­per­tise and on­line mar­ket­ing skills which will call the shots in the fu­ture.

“Voice-over is huge in my life right now since I am not get­ting any younger. Since 2011 I started fo­cussing more on it and am en­joy­ing it. I re­ally like help­ing some­body man­i­fest the vi­sion they have for a video to be put on a web­site, a tele­vi­sion com­mer­cial, or a movie project they might be work­ing on. I have been build­ing that part of my busi­ness lately.”

“Now that work is fo­cussed on­line, I can use the con­tacts and re­la­tion­ships which I have de­vel­oped over the years. Peo­ple can now hire me di­rectly through sites like Envato. So a lot of the work I do isn't in Bos­ton where I live. It's in places like Dubai, Paris, Columbia, Ge­or­gia, etc. Things are not com­pletely on­line. There are still some stu­dios which I have to visit, but no­body re­ally em­ploys me. Ev­ery­thing that I do now is free­lance, an op­tion which is be­com­ing more and more pop­u­lar be­cause of the In­ter­net.”

And what does the fu­ture hold for young­sters as­pir­ing to fol­low in Taylor's foot­steps? “If anybody is as­pir­ing to be a ten­nis an­nouncer, I don't re­ally know how to an­swer the ques­tion be­cause it hap­pened by ac­ci­dent in my case. I don't take it for granted and I know how in­cred­i­bly lucky I was. Like any other pro­fes­sion, if you re­ally want some­thing, you need to put in the time and ef­fort.”

“If it's in Doha, you need to help out with the Qatar Ten­nis Fed­er­a­tion. Get your­self close to the sport so that you have a chance to take advantage of any op­por­tu­nity that might come your way. As far as voice-over is con­cerned, it's not an easy field. There are so many peo­ple who have niches and cor­ners of the in­dus­try locked up. So I'm still find­ing my way. In the pro­duc­tion as­pect, whether it's film, on­line or tele­vi­sion, I have not found a niche yet. That should be the goal. Find a niche where what you do is unique.”

“NOW THAT WORK IS FO­CUSSED ON­LINE, I CAN USE THE CON­TACTS AND RE­LA­TION­SHIPS WHICH I HAVE DE­VEL­OPED OVER THE YEARS. PEO­PLE CAN NOW HIRE ME DI­RECTLY THROUGH SITES LIKE ENVATO. SO A LOT OF THE WORK I DO ISN'T IN BOS­TON WHERE I LIVE."

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