NEW YORK — By morning she is courtside, an analyst on US Open matches for ESPN’s iTV effort with ESPN2’s feed supplemented by action from five courts simultaneously on DirecTV. By mid-afternoon – and well into the evening – she becomes an on-camera host for ESPN.com video segments. Reacting to the news of the day, she files numerous reports, recapping the key matches and reviewing the top news of the day with an ESPN tennis analyst. Other segments preview the next day’s matches and she interviews players for video to accompany ESPN.com stories.
Oh, and she also tweets about it all (@ESPNPrim). These busy and varied days are par for the course at the US Open this week and next in New York for ESPN’s Prim Siripipat. Analyst, reporter, host — no wonder she calls herself the “Swiss army knife” of ESPN’s tennis coverage. Need something done? She can do it.
But that’s OK because it’s what she’s used to in her daily life in Bristol, Conn. Actually, it’s been her way her entire life growing up in Mexico, Missouri, about a two-hour drive from St. Louis.
Siripipat hosts a wide variety of ESPN.com video covering any and all sports: top stories, analysis pieces, recaps of the Sunday afternoon NFL games with Cris Carter or other ESPN NFL analysts, Fantasy Sports segments with Matthew Berry, “The Word” roundtable discussion on espnW.com, and more, including reacting to breaking news.
“ESPN.com wants video to accompany every story,” she says, “and if there isn’t anything – or anything yet – from the TV side, we fire up the studio and create something. We don’t replicate the story, we supplement and complement it.”
She also can be seen on TV, providing news updates during SVP and Russillo on ESPNEWS and filling in on ESPN2’s First Take. And that’s also her voice you hear sometimes co-hosting on ESPN Radio.
Such schedules are nothing new for someone who by the age of four took up dance, piano, swimming and gymnastics, with ballet and tennis to follow by seven.
Finding early success on the court, tennis grew to define her life. By the time Siripipat was 10, she could beat her coach, as well as high school girls (and some boys) 6-0, 6-0.
To find more competition, her mother would drive her an hour to Columbia, Mo. Not one to waste time, Siripipat would do homework or even practice the saxophone while en route.
To maximize her tennis potential, at 12 she and her mother moved to the Tampa, Fla., area while her father and older brother stayed behind.
Public school in the morning was followed every day by hours on the practice court at the Saddlebrook Academy with the likes of Jennifer Capriati, Andy Roddick, Martina Hingis and Mardy Fish. Eventually Siripipat was ranked among the top 10 in the country for players aged 18 and under. She travelled the world with the U.S. National team.
Siripipat chose Duke over Harvard and several other schools to continue her education while on a tennis scholarship. Her Blue Devils’ team was ranked in the top 10 and won the Indoor National Championship her senior year.
But injuries started taking a toll – she had surgeries on both shoulders and her left knee (“there’s a snap-crackle-pop in the morning!” she says as she rotates her shoulder). Combine that with the rigors of her chosen major (sociology with a minor in biological anthropology and anatomy), and Siripipat’s long-range plan turned away from the tennis court or medical school and to television.
In local markets, she advanced from producer to reporter to weekend anchor at the CBS affiliate in Miami. In March 2011, she arrived at ESPN, where her work ethic and background in competition have been put to good use.
“They are long days at the US Open, but it’s very enjoyable and rewarding,” she says, having first experienced this routine a year ago in New York and then this summer at Wimbledon. “Every day is different . . . the matches I call, the storylines in the afternoon and evening. It’s unpredictable.
“It’s also my favorite business trip,” she adds. “I love the city – not that I have much time to enjoy it, and the event is a reunion of all my friends in the sport. Former teammates and coaches are there, either still playing or coaching or in the tennis industry in some fashion.”
One of those she enjoys catching up with is Roddick, who stunned her and the tennis world by retiring during last year’s US Open.
“He was 12 at Saddlebrook and I was 13, by far the youngest kids there along with one other boy,” she remembers. “The three of us spent a lot of time together, on the court and off. Since girls mature faster, I remember I was bigger and stronger than he was at first! That obviously changed in time.”