Catching Up with ESPN’s Prim Siripipat

by Nicholas McCarvel

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Monday afternoon ESPN anchor Prim Siripipat moderated a panel for a group of 150 high school girls at the New Haven Open at Yale. The aetna symposium’s focus was “What’s your healthy?” and aimed at educating the teenage girls about how to lead a balanced everyday life.

Siripipat herself attended the famed Saddlebrook Academy and went on to play varsity tennis at Duke. We caught up with the on-camera talent before she made her way back to Bristol to talk about her friendship with a couple big-name tennis players, how she “finds her healthy” and her dream lineup for a game of doubles.

New Haven Open blog: Thanks, Prim, for taking some time to talk with us today. So tell our readers about your background, which is actually quite tennis-filled.
Prim Siripipat: Yeah that’s right. I grew up in a small town in Missouri and by the time I was 10 we started looking at academies, including Nick Bollittieri and Saddlebrook. We decided on Saddlebrook, which is when Mardy Fish, Andy Roddick and Jennifer Capriati were all based. My mom moved down with me and my dad stayed in Missouri with my brother.

NHO: Being around Andy and Mardy when they were teens had to be hilarious.
Siripipat: I can always say that I beat Andy at a set because I was older – he was 13 and I was 14. My nickname for him was Bear because he was such a little brother to me and I still call him that to this day. I had chemistry class with Mardy and we were working with clay and he stuck some clay up his nose, and so from then on he was “Booger” to me.

NHO: Booger? That’s hilarious! You were at the U.S. Open last year when Andy retired. What was your reaction?
Siripipat: I was really upset. Because I had been at Saddlebrook so long ago and I felt like Andy was a part of me – a part of a certain generation. Not that the money my family put in didn’t pay off, but it really did for Andy when he hoisted that trophy at Flushing Meadows. It was a sad moment.

NHO: But you also had some pretty great moments at the Open last year, right?
Siripipat: Last year’s Open was probably the best moment of my career in the sense that I got to stay there for the entire tournament and I was working for both ESPN.com and for TV. I was working as an anchor for the .com side and then was doing analyst work alongside people I had grown up admiring, like Brad Gilbert and Mary Joe Fernandez and Chris Evert. It was such a dream come true and a surreal moment.

NHO: What about the New Haven Open at Yale? It’s such a different event from the U.S. Open. Why do you love it?
Siripipat: There’s something to be said about getting up and close with the players here. It’s very intimate here. From a media perspective, the access is incredible.

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NHO: Tell us a little more about the aetna symposium you moderated here today.
Siripipat: It included five panelists and over 150 high school girls that are mostly student athletes. The focus of it was “what’s your healthy?” and it was really talking about how to maintain a balance during a tough part of life. Today young girls are expected to be feminine and strong and grow up to be a housewife and a career woman and forever young and beautiful … there are so many societal demands. I think that’s unfair for young girls. We tried to let them know how to knock out that extra noise and just be true to themselves and who they are. It’s cliche, but it’s easier said than done.

NHO: Do you ever get nervous in front of the camera any more?
Siripipat: I used to, yeah. I like those butterflies though. Sometimes I hate it, but I can’t live without that challenge. It’s a motivation. It’s like playing tennis in that the more tournaments you play and more experience you have, the more relaxed you become in those pressure situations. That’s how I feel in front of the camera now; it’s like second nature.

NHO: You played college tennis at Duke and got to a pretty high level, but what about a dream game of women’s doubles? Who do you choose to play with?
Siripipat: I would love to play with Martina Navratilova. She was a fantastic singles and doubles player, but also such a good person off of the court. Everyone respected her for how she paved the way and pushed the issues by coming out. We’d play against Billie Jean King and Steffi Graf, I think. Old school!

NHO: You told us you started out as an intern fetching coffee and making $7 an hour. How do you keep up with everything you do now? You must have a hardened routine.
Siripipat: It’s really hard to keep up with every single sport and be engrossed in it. But I wake up every morning and go work out and watch SportsCenter and am reading on my iPhone everything that is going on. I’m writing down notes and facts that I want in the back of my mind. It’s literally like I’m in school, but I’m studying sports.

NHO: How did tennis help you prepare for your job? And for life in general?
Siripipat: Tennis was the best teacher to prepare me for the business world. Being a part of a team at Duke made me think of things differently, as well. It was tough: when you grow up playing juniors you are just on your own, but in college it was such a good lesson to play as a part of a team.

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