Well tennis fans, the 2011 tennis season is inching it’s way to the very end, 16 more tournaments left in the season (18 if you count Davis Cup). We’ve been through 4 major tournaments, 7 ATP Masters 1000 tournaments, 7 ATP 500 events, and countless 250 events. Out of all the events, there is something that everybody can recognize with their eyes closed. The voices of the tennis announcer.
Watching tennis on the TV would not be the same if it weren’t for the tennis announcers, and who better to call the matches than the former champions and former players themselves, right? Of all the tennis broadcasters, who is the best? Who is the ultimate announcer? And who is the worst?
The Best Announcers:
My personal favorite broadcaster is Brad “BG” Gilbert, he adds plenty of dynamic to the art of calling a sport. His humor is a little quirky but he’s pretty accurate with game plans and what the player “could” be thinking. I like the way he coaches from the sideline instead of just saying “good ball.” Instead, BG has his ever famous catchphrases, “bring the wood!”, “give em the fearhand!”, “give ’em the cheese down the middle.”, and of course “the bach-hand.” He’s certainly entertaining enough to keep the volume up on the tube.
Another favorite is of course, John McEnroe; where would American tennis be without this guy? I’ve noticed over the years, JohnnyMac has gotten a little less enthusiastic about the players (perhaps he’s ready for the next generation of tennis players?). He’s pretty good when it comes to coaching from the booth, but I starting to lose my confidence when he calls the winner of a match. He’s accurate when it’s obvious (a top 10 against a qualifier) but he struggles a bit when it comes to even matches (top 10 vs. top 10). McEnroe has all the experience and personality that attracts fans of all generations, he was exciting to watch as a tennis player and he’s good to listen to during a tennis match.
One of the more passionate announcers during the tennis matches comes from the voice of Cliff “Cliffy” Drysdale. The South African, former top 15 singles, and 1965 US National Championships (pre-US Open era) finalist, is one of the more entertaining commentators that calls matches. I hear how passionate Cliffy is when watching matches, he calls it like it is, and doesn’t always agree with his colleagues.
I also enjoy listening to Pam Shriver during the majors. Pam really knows her commentary stuff, she’s only been around professional tennis since 1978 (reached the US Open Final at age 16). Her experience on the women’s tour and mingling with the men’s tour gives her plenty of credibility. Pam’s sense of humor comes out from time to time, joking with the other commentators on a regular basis. During the majors, Shriver is usually court-side, playing the “on-court meteorologist” telling the viewers the conditions where the players are competing; which can be entertaining.
The so-so announcers:
Darren “killer” Cahill is on this list because I do enjoy his commentary, however; he doesn’t bring the characater that the above mentioned do. Analytically, Cahill is one of the best; he’s very good at calling player strategies from the booth or court-side and Darren’s ability to paint the viewer a picture of what each player could be thinking when competing. The Killer knows what he’s talking about, he’s been in the pro game for a couple of decades, but more importantly has been a coach to many of the top players. Cahill has coached; Lleyton Hewitt, Andre Agassi, Fernando Verdasco, Daniela Hantuchová, Andy Murray, and Ernest Gulbis; so if anybody knows to analyze a tennis match it would be Darren.
The announcer I can live without:
In most sporting events on the TV, you will come across an announcer (or analyst) that has no clue how to call the event. In tennis’ case, the guy who I can’t stand is Justin Gimelstob. Let me make this crystal clear, this is my opinion and I am not speaking for anybody else. Yes, Justin is really knowledgeble about tennis, he’s played the pro and challenger circuit in his day and is pretty involved in the sport, however; Gimelstob needs to remember some of the things he says so he does not repeat is over and over again. For example; he will call a tennis match and let’s say that one of the players is a good mover, Justin will say “he’s one of the best movers on the tour right now.” Ok, that’s not too bad, but when he says the same exact thing about a completely different player in the same tournament it makes me scratch my head. He uses the same lines in other matches, “he’s got the best forehand in the game” or “she’s got the best backhand in the game”, and “it’s the best serve in the game.” I get it Justin, you’re impressed with the people you are watching, but be sure you separate tennis’ best from your best.
I would like to add Dick Enberg to the honorable mentions list; the 2011 US Open was the last tennis tournament he called. He’s hung up his microphone to initiate his retirement (though he will be announcing San Diego Padres games – baseball for those who don’t know) of sports broadcasting. As you probably saw on ESPN,Dick will be missed by many many players on the tour; some of his sayings cannot be replicated, “Oh My!” Dick will be missed by many viewers (including me) and his colleagues as well.
Those are my favorite tennis announcers; I am aware that I left out quite a few of the regulars, Martina Navratilova, Jimmy Connors, Patrick McEnroe, Mary Carillo, Mary Jo Fernandez, Bud Collins, and Ted Robinson. I can’t list them all, however; the few that I picked out are the people that make watching tennis more entertaining – just try watching tennis without commentary….