Capturing Memphis

Monday, February 27, 2012 /by

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by Bobby Chintapalli 

MEMPHIS—You don’t know Nikki Boertman, but if you followed the tennis in Memphis or followed the tournament from elsewhere, chances are, you’ve seen her work. Like the tall, blonde photographer herself, her pictures have been hard to miss this week. Boertman works for the local newspaper The Commercial Appeal and does freelance work for Reuters and others. (That's her in the picture below.)

That tongue-in-teeth picture of finalist Milos Raonic on the cover of the newspaper’s sports section on Sunday? Hers. The gigantic color picture of finalist Jurgen Melzer—it filled nearly half the page—on the cover of the sports section on Saturday? Also hers.

She’s taken pictures of many ATP players here, but a few stick out for her.

Boertman, who usually covers the NBA but was on the tennis beat at The Racquet Club of Memphis, was animated when she mentioned “the guy in the orange shirt.” Melzer? “Yes!” she said. “Because he gives a lot of emotion. He winces when he does something wrong or maybe because of that broken toe—we don’t know, but he’s been doing a lot of wincing. And a lot of fist pumps and yelling. You’re going to get good action pictures on most everybody, but it’s really the emotional stuff that is the most fun for photographers.”

Which is why Raonic isn’t always a photographer’s delight. “Milos is a very mature player, and you don’t really see him lose his cool very much,” said Boertman, adding with a laugh, “But that’s not always the most fun to photograph.”

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She finds Raonic very personable and enjoys taking pictures of someone “adored by the fans.” And she points out that the composure, while it sometimes makes her job harder, likely makes his job easier. (Raonic has said it’s true, that he even works at staying even-keeled. “It’s taken a lot of work, and the best way I’ve learned is from how many times I messed up because I haven’t done it,” he said after his semifinal win.)

Another favorite of Boertman's was Andy Roddick “with the huge broken racquet—he beat it against his shoe.”

With him there’s also one big problem though: “Ugh—I hate hats! It limits your angle that you can shoot. John Isner the other day had a real energetic scream, but he tipped his head down and you can’t see the eyes… But the guy in the orange shirt flips his hat backwards—love it, that’s fine.”


As for a player’s expression upon winning, Boertman especially loved one winning expression. That of Sofia Arvidsson. She won her second Memphis title—and her second career title—a day after her hitting partner’s four-year-old godson died of cancer, and she dedicated her title to him.

“Her reaction was wonderful,” said Boertman. “She didn’t just scream because she was excited she won. She looked like she almost cried. It was just so sweet, so real, so unique. When we look at them we forget they’re human beings sometimes—we see them as these powerful athletes. And then you see something like that. It was such a tender, precious moment that I got chills when I took that picture.”

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This is the last in a series of posts from Memphis. I’m back in Chicago and Pete Bodo’s probably back from a family vacation so… fine, I’ll give him his blog back. Have a good week!

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