Tennis Alumna Siripipat Carries Sports Passion to ESPN
DURHAM, N.C. – During her freshman season at Duke, Prim Siripipat filled out a questionnaire about herself in which she answered a number of questions including, “If you could trade places with anyone in the world, who would it be?” While many would answer that question by fantasizing about being billionaires, actors, athletes or the like, Siripipat wanted to trade places with “Dick Vitale, Barry Melrose or Chris Fowler” as a sports analyst. After years of hard work at Duke and in her career as a tennis player, Siripipat has achieved her goal and currently works as an anchor at ESPN in Bristol, Conn.
“Once tennis was out of my life, I wanted to hold on to that,” Siripipat said. “I feel like I am still an athlete and will always be an athlete, so if I can’t play it, then I am going to cover it. That is the reason I got into sportscasting. I wanted to go to games and wanted to be around the athletes. After performing at a high level, there are certain things that only athletes understand, the intangibles about life and preparing and handling pressure so I wanted to use that.”
Siripipat currently works on a number of different shows on ESPN and ESPN.com, covering everything from football to Mixed Martial Arts. With her background in tennis, Siripipat was also asked to serve as an analyst and anchor for ESPN at the last U.S. Open.
“It was definitely a dream come true,” Siripipat said. “It is very unique and also surprising and shocking because some of our analysts are people that I grew up not only watching but idolizing, so for me to be sitting side-by-side Brad Gilbert, Mary Jo Fernandez, Cliff Drysdale, Patrick MacEnroe and Chris Evert, that to me is quite the experience.”
Described by head coach Jamie Ashworth as a “sports nut”, Siripipat has continued her education at ESPN. However her focus has turned away from biological anthropology and anatomy, which she studied at Duke, to topics like the NFL, NBA, MMA, golf and tennis.
“I take care of a lot of the NFL coverage on the website, and get to sit down with amazing people,” explained Siripipat. “Here at ESPN, you can’t help but be a little taken aback every once in a while. On Sundays, we have what is called the war room, where you go and every sits and watches the games with people like[Adam] Schefter, [Chris Burman], [Cris Carter], Tom Jackson, Keyshawn [Jackson], Eric Mangini. It is incredible to get to hang out with these people.”
Siripipat grew up in Mexico, Mo., before attending Saddlebrook Preparatory School, a tennis academy in Wesley Chapel, Fla., which helped her elevate her game to the next level. When it came time to begin looking at colleges, Siripipat visited a number of the top tennis programs in the country, but felt at home when coming to Durham.
“Duke was the perfect size,” she explained. “It is a wonderful institution not only academically, but athletically as well. It was the perfect blend. I think when people go and look for schools, they look for a school that fits them the best personality–wise, and I think for me that was Duke.”
When looking at other schools, Siripipat noticed a focus on the individual player, not all that suprising for an individual sport such as tennis. But when she visited Duke, she noticed something different.
“I felt like ladies on the team were very well rounded. [They were] very good athletes, very good students, but what impressed me most was that they were very team-oriented. They were the most close together, and team oriented of all the other schools I went to visit, so that was really important.”
In her four years at Duke, Siripipat amassed an overall record of 52-18 and a 16-2 mark in Atlantic Coast Conference play including one particular meaningful win over Wake Forest in the finals of ACC Tournament during her freshman year.
During the 1999-00 season, Siripipat and the No. 2 Blue Devils carried an 82 ACC match win streak into a contest with top-ranked Wake Forest. In the final singles match, Siripipat was playing at the No. 6 position, and held a 6-3, 4-3 lead late in the second set. Despite her lead, Siripipat was unable to close out the match, and eventually fell in three sets to end Duke’s nine year conference win-streak.
“I was like a deer in headlights, so I ended up losing that match in three sets and we ended up losing that match,” she said. “It was all over the newspapers, all over the Chronicle. It was terrible. We worked so hard, we would get up at 6:30 in the morning to do fitness, on top of hours of tennis and then more fitness. We were working so hard as a team, so that one really hurt.”
Luckily, the two teams met again in the finals, and this time, Siripipat was ready.
“We were absolutely fired up and ready to go,” she commented. “Of course, I was up against the same girl and I had one of those moments when I asked myself ‘are you going to choke again?’ and all these things were creeping up in your head, but I was able to close it out, and we ended up beating Wake Forest to win ACCs.”
Siripipat’s journey to ESPN began in her junior year at Duke, when she was sidelined due to surgeries to her shoulder and both knees, which left her unable to travel with the team during their spring break. She spent this time thinking about what she would do after graduation, and tossed around ideas of potentially becoming a physical therapist, orthopedic surgeon or a trainer because of her experience with Dr. Frank Bassett who taught her anatomy of the lower extremity class at Duke. Dr. Bassett mentioned to Siripipat that he could see her being on TV, something she had not even truly considered since her first week on campus.
Siripipat decided to spend her spring break shadowing various people at ESPN including Linda Cohn, and was so enthralled by her experience that she made the decision to become a TV analyst.
While at ESPN, Cohn passed on the advice to Siripipat to get her experience in a small market before trying to move to Bristol, so upon graduation Siripipat gained experience at WRAL in Raleigh and eventually CBS Miami before finally achieving her dream and moving to ESPN.
Although Siripipat often works long, tireless hours at ESPN, she still finds time in her busy schedule to visit Duke’s campus, citing a sense of pride as what continues to bring her back.
“The athletes at Duke are really well-rounded,” she says. “They study hard, they are very smart, very creative, they have other talents as well, but they also stuck together, so it didn’t matter what sport you played, we were all very close. The pride after you graduate from Duke is so strong, and it is such a strong family bond that I hardly ever see with any other school. A fellow Dukie will always help out another Dukie. It is like family.”