Talking Heads: Comments on the Commentators
By: Jane Voigt
We can’t get away from them unless we’re seated inside a stadium. The majority of tennis fans at their beck and call. You know them as broadcast journalists, announcers, tennis talking heads or, as they are sometimes abbreviated, “commies.”
But what good are they? Do we listen? Or, can we hold our tongues or stop our fingers from tapping tweets when one pipes up to say something inane, inaccurate or otherwise insipid?
If you can answer that question with a “yes,” count yourself as saintly.
Upfront, though, these commentators have a difficult job. They have to know what they’re talking about. Breaking them down to media groups, here’s a rundown on the callers of the matches. Vote for your favorite in the poll below:
The Tennis Channel Crew
Brett Haber has a learned mastery of tennis. He’s been in sports for decades, anchoring ESPN’s Sport Center earlier in his career, but was not raised on a tennis court like his colleagues. As the naif in the booth, his job is central to a cohesive crew, which is ostensibly incongruent. He provokes expert opinions from his sidekicks, and does it in a professional manner, keeping them focused. From that angle, we can’t fault Haber. He’s enthusiastic, polished, and eager to please.
Lindsay Davenport, Leif Shiras, and Tracy Austin balance-out Haber in a pleasant relationship that perks along smoothly. Criticism of our commies often stems from their verbosity — ‘They should be quiet during points,’ is a common fan truth.
‘Just shut up’ is another.
Austin’s more monotonous delivery is acceptable if she would cut comments shorter, and let Shiras and Davenport steer the conversation. Davenport, who was inducted in the International Tennis Hall of Fame this July and was introduced by the more polarizing Justin Gimelstob, should be crowned TC Crew Captain for her handling of her friend and co-worker on air. She is the only one who can wrestle his verbosity in a way that doesn’t disrupt the broadcast.
Gimelstob’s steady stream of gobbledygook about players, technique, and strategy execution can be so totally incomprehensible his contemporaries sit by in silence.
Let’s take his initial Davis Cup belief that, at first, the Swiss didn’t have enough fire power to dislodge the French. Pair that with the notion that, “They [French] just don’t have a big enough weapon to disrupt the Swiss team.” His assessment crossed the net a couple more times, leaving fans fatigued, unsure who did or did not have the fire power while many rolled their eyes — what the heck, does he know he’s repeating himself?
His preposterous presentation of player techniques must to go the way of his sexist comments from 2008 about Anna Kournikova.
Explaining the benefits of topspin, or the purposefulness of slice forehands, or even the smooth nature of red-clay sliding from the Europeans – as if they deserved the consciousness of a rocket scientist – is theater of the absurd. The real downside lands on listeners.
Just what the heck do these mean:
“repeatability under pressure,” “That’s how you shadow at the net,” “His [Federer’s] organization supports Africa.”
Martina Navratilova can both illuminate and undermine. However, we cannot fault her for her absolutely steadfastness in calling the game as she sees it. Rennae Stubbs is not too far behind. Softened by cosmetics and a sporty wardrobe, “Stubbsie” has learned to temper her temper, which displayed personality rather than product.
The ESPN Team
In a nutshell, John McEnroe talks too much during points. Like, would you please just chill and reconcile with the fact that the current tennis landscape no longer lends itself as much to serve and volley?
Younger brother Patrick is an icon of tennis perfectionism. He knows, with the precision of a delicate “dropper,” when to stay and when to go with his gut instincts on the air. Rarely do we hear blather from Patrick, and rarely is he chided for his commentary. He is polite and anchors a booth as well as Haber over at Tennis Channel.
Darrin Cahill is another smooth master of the mic. He’s played, continues to coach, and has serves listeners well. His Aussie accent ties in the tennis history of his home, which polishes his polite and completely on-the-money observations.
God love Chris Evert, but perhaps time has come for her to retire, taking with her those outlandish colored print dresses. Some of her work might be valid and is certainly an improvement from her first verbal volleys for ESPN. Per Sports Illustrated, Colette Evert, Chrissie’s mother, taught her never to speak badly of anyone.
Maybe that’s why she can sound so parental and pejorative.
Take, for example, the incident at Wimbledon involving Serena Williams’ bizarre behavior in her doubles match. Evert raised the question of drugs: “Is it something unintentional or intentional in her system that they may drug test for?” It wasn’t so much that Evert was bold, it was her fussy delivery that rattled listeners.
Evert’s contract is up this year with ESPN. No word on a continuance has been made available.
Without a doubt, Robbie Koenig, Jason Goodall and Nick Lester are the favorite sons. They are informative, play off one another, don’t rattle on during points, and can be down-right funny.
Koenig once described a Roger Federer slice as a “dead-cat bounce, only a couple inches off the ground.” His frequent use of “mind boggling stuff” perfectly describes repeated points and rallies, but isn’t tiring.
Mats Wilander on EuroSports takes heat for his severity. His insight is chilly and sometimes completely out of context.
Wilander, though, along with his European commentators silence themselves while points are played. The phenomena of prattling on about a match, clashes of personalities not in the match, or something that drew their attention on Twitter seems to be an American gig.
The folks at Tennis Channel, ESPN and NBC could cool the backlash their crews get if they would ask them to sit in silence at times, rather than expound. Why not take a survey? People like giving their opinions, and have been donating them on social media for years.
Who is your favorite commentary box? Vote in our TTI poll, and follow Jane on Twitter @downthetee!
While we’re watching Serena and Angie battle through the AO final … many of you have asked who is my favorite commentator. Hate to begin with a negative, but Chris Evert is absolutely, to me, the most annoying one. Today, she shares the booth on ESPN with Mary Jo Fernandez and Chris Fowler – a terrible trio choice from the big sport network. On a positive note – here are the winners in my book: Darrin Cahill and Lindsay Davenport. They are straight forward, informed and evenhanded.
It’s hard to watch when nick Lester blabs his stressed out ultimatums..
I agree that Lindsay Davnport and Darren C are the BEST! Now I am wondering who this
commentator covering the Brazil Open in Sao Paolo is…female and very articulate, even if
Love James Blake as tennis player, and great sportsmanship. As an announcer he’s not too discernible. He’s speaks too rapidly and needs fiction lessons.
We listened to the doubles match Saturday morning, March 5, 2016. It was the match in Birmingham between Great Britain and Japan. The TV announcers were superb, just enough commentary without unending prattle as occurs with some of the other bobble head babblers.
Perhaps, a “recording” of the match can be used to enlighten some of the other announcers such that less (e.g.: speech & utterances) is more (e.g.: better for viewers).
For clarity, we refer to those “talking heads” in need of “retraining” such as John McEnroe, Mary Carillo, Chris Evert, and a few others.
Please set as limit on the number of words they are allowed to utter during any 30 minute period. And assess a a “penalty point” if they exceed the limit, e.g.: reduce their salaries.
As TV writer for Tennis Week I had many opportunities to interview ESPN executives about their coverage and commentary. More than once I raised your concerns: Do you review tapes?
The answer was always the same: No. And there was an undertone suggesting that it would be a waste of time.
Thanks for bringing this up. I watch Tennis Channel with the mute on. I just wish the Americans would shut up and just call the game. I am tuning in to watch the game, not listen to them. The best announcers are the Brits and Cahill. There is nothing wrong with a long silence. Haber may be a nice guy, but his voice is really winey. I like Martina and Chris Evert because they are to the point and know what they are talking about. Lindsay Davenport is not that good really, but she has the virtue of not saying that much. However, in general, the ones that have played the game are the ones I prefer….at least they know something, although Courier does wear his knowledge on his sleeve a bit much. But please, find something else for Haber and Gimelstob to do. It is these two guys more than anyone else who stop me from subscribing to Tennis Channel.
Need to replace Chris Fowler, Brad Gilbert and the McEnroe brothers they fill the air with mindless babble. Chris Fowler and Brad Gilbert; just because youve played tennis does not translate to being articulate.
i think Brad Gilbert is a good commentator (Darren Cahill is the best!) but John McEnroe is impossible–he talks through play and always tries to relate something he sees to his own career. Horrible!
While I agree Cahill is the best, I never understand the severe criticism of the others. I played tennis (and now racquetball) very competitively and am pretty knowledgeable. I love Pat McEnroe for his knowledge of the players/environment, John McEnroe for his knowledge of competition and the “science” of the sport, Gilbert mostly good. Fowler is a capable mouthpiece. Evert a bit boring. Gimmelstob is knowledgeable/entertaining. Courier ok. Seems a bit low energy but he’s knowledgeable. They all bring something to the table. The glass more than half full for me. The only one who annoys me a bit is Carillo because she just seems like an entertainer and not an analyst. But I only mention I cuz this seems to be “critics corner”. Enjoy. Now if you want to ask me about Fox News……🙂
Agree that Cahill is probably the best. He is concise, has an interesting voice, obviously very knowledgeable, etc. I could go down the list as you have done and pick and choose who I like best and for what reasons, etc. But as I have said before in this email chain, I would take a mediocre commentator who says very little, over a solid commentator who never stops talking, any day of the week. I have watched matches where there are three or four commentators calling the match! In my opinion there is no need for more than two, and I would love to see some brave network try it with just one. I think this is the root of the problem, that there are just too many commentators commenting, each feels a need to say something, and as a result we have to listen to nonstop babble that for the most part has very little to do with the match itself. Good writers know that it is a mistake to tell the reader too much. Good commentators also know when to keep quiet. Overall, in my opinion, the Brits know how to do this the best. But in general, if I had to choose, I would rather listen to someone who actually knows something about the sport, who played the sport at a high level, like a McEnroe, than someone like Bret Haber or Mary Carillo, or worst of the worst, Chris Fowler (not that these three names comes close to exhausting the list of incompetent commentators). And unfortunately, although she was a great player, Lindsay Davenport should not be allowed in the broadcasting booth: she just has no talent for it. To kind of sum up my view, I just want to watch the match and enjoy it, and some commentary that is relevant to the match is okay, but too much emphasis is spent on filling up every microsecond of air time with babble. And one more step: I could care less how many unforced forehand errors, or how many aces, or how many double-faults a player has made. Stay in the moment and call the match and maybe at the end of a set show the stats, but not at every turn. Thanks God for the mute button.
I agree with you I guess. Carrillo actually was a tennis player but seems to offer little evidence of it. Just too impressed with her own clever personality. She actually is clever, but it’s not The Tonight Show. Gilbert is into being cute too but it’s in context of tennis analysis. I’ll take Johnny Mac for “clever” any day. That said, I DVR nearly every match. Fast forward through ones I’m not interested in.
I would just like the commentators, whoever they may be, to call the game and cut out all the chatter. Without doubt, the Brits and Cahill are the best, being both informed and to the point. Haber is a disaster and always forces me to use the mute button. Can’t stand Fowler. These guys think the match is about themselves. McEnroe and Gilbert I am okay with. The main thing is that everyone needs to understand that silence is not a bad thing. People just want to watch the matches. Commentary should be minimal. Another thing is that the commentators, when they are calling the match, should be fair. They are almost always favoring the Americans, especially the Williams sisters. Every time Serena loses a point, they start making excuses for her. She is a good enough player not to need this kind of biased support. Anyway, I am 90% on mute, unfortunately, and one would think that the advertisers would take notice.
The greatest 21st century innovation for long-suffering TV tennis viewers is ESPN3. As many as 7 matches, including doubles, are available during Grand Slam events and other major events. The best part: many of the matches are without commentary, just the ambient noise of the tennis players, officials and the crowd. It doesn’t get any better.
My wife and I love watching tennis on TV but the endless babble and often mindless comments are becoming unbearable.
Surely the producers are aware of the huge number who dislike the interruption to the enjoyment of the game. I wish we could regularly receive the channel that has no commentary or convince the tennis show producers to restrict the verbage.
I agree totally! Now I want to know who hires these endless babblers! We as tv fans should have another way of muting them but not the game! They should be retired moons ago…they must be desperate or something? They talk like they know what the player is feeling/health and how the players should be playing!!!! If that is the case go and coach but I am sure no one would hire them other than the 60 plus teams and good luck to that!
The other day I was watching a match and had the volume turned down to level 8 so I could hear some of the court noise but not too much of the commentary. But then they stopped showing the score on the screen, so I turned the volume up, only to hear a lot of babbling, as you say. And after a point had been played, they were not even announcing the score! Unacceptable! So I watch less tennis. There are other things that I can do instead.
The ultimate discouragement act … “So I watch less tennis.” This behavior should grab some attention, but don’t think it will unfortunately. Thanks for your post.
If I hear Lindsay Davenport say “It was not good of a shot” one more time I believe I will throw-up. There are many good tennis player commentators: Cahill, Austin, Evert, John McEnroe, Gimelstaub, Mary Joe, and others. But there are many terrible announcers, only to be matched by the horrible camera work; once the server is going to toss the camera should be on both players like the baseball battery; Martina, Davenport, P. McEnroe, Stubbs, Drysdale, and many others. James Blake, sort of new, is very good. Please ask them all to quit saying “whether or not”. The concept of “or not” is included in the word “whether”. Anyone working with Ted Robinson is going to look pretty good. Never have I seen any sports announcer so continually excited about every match, as Ted.
Hey, Tennis Channel, What’s up with all of your horrific announcers calling matches in as a voice-over from a studio in Los Angeles? Why can’t we just go with the outstanding British gents and South African, Robbie Koenig, for the duration. I don’t want to hear this Steve Weissman ask your purported “experts,” (i.e.; Annacone, Davenport, Carillo, Austin) ridiculous questions about strategy and what is going on in a match that they are not even at. Leave be the competent, above mentioned, announcers for the duration so we can leave the mute button alone and hear the racquet striking the ball and hitting the court and the grunts of the players and their reactions during play. Your INCOMPETENT announcers do not allow us to leave the mute button alone!!!!
I think that Tennis Channel has some serious issues with most of their announcers/commentators. I may not have the spellings of their names exactly right as follows, but Mary Carillo is tiresome with her feel good stories about the players and their families, and Bret Haber simply cannot shut up. Someone should help James Blake with his monotone. Just because he played professional tennis does not mean he is automatically qualified to call a match. Lindsay Davenport has trouble just speaking and although she was an excellent player, her commentary is not very informative in my opinion. I could go on and on.
The Brits are the best and Robbie Koenig the best of all. They call the game. They do not talk through the points. They are not biased as are the American commentators in favor of the American players.
Tennis Channel also must think they are doing viewers a favor when they put up multiple screenshots of two or three different games, but the reality is that it is hard at that point to see, let alone enjoy, any of the matches. So during a match between Nadal and Djokovic, they will switch over to show a set point between Madison Keys and somebody else. Again, bias in favor of American players, and also poor decision making in terms of being able to evaluate what is most important.
Much of the commentary is irrelevant to almost everyone. For example, during a key moment in a match a few weeks ago, they talk through the points about prize money between the mens’ and womens’ tournaments. Who cares?
I am not bothered very much that they are calling these matches from Los Angeles, so long as they know how to call a match. But they seem to think that more is always better, and that there is something wrong with silence. They don’t fully understand that viewers want to watch the match, not listen to them babble. When I turn on the TV, I am not turning it on to hear Paul Anacone, I am turning it on the watch a particular match. These commentators remind me of the chair umpire who tries to inject himself or herself into a match by issuing a time violation warning at a critical moment in the game. They should just let the players play, or else issue the warning earlier in the match. Poor judgment on their part. Poor judgment on the commentators’ part in not understanding their audience.
So, yes, I mostly watch with the mute button on. I do not hear the commercials. I do not hear the insipid chatter of announcers and commentators who think they are somebodies when actually they are just in everybody’s way.
After the French Open I may be cancelling my subscription.
We mute the audio when Carrillo and Haber yack nonstop through the points about nothing of interest and when the screamers screek during every point. John Mac is the worst. Glad to be rid of disgusting Sharapova. Tennis commentators think it is about them, not the matches. Are Tennis Channel producers and directors asleep? Manage your talent.
I totally disagree. Koenig and Goodall are horrible; they have annoying voices, never say anything beyond the obvious and never shut up. Annacone, Davenport, Carillo (not only knowledgeable but also at times hilarious) and Austin really know what they’re talking about and add something to the game. When Koenig and Goodall are commenting I have to go to the mute button.
I have a question.How do you stop Rob Koenig from talking the biggest load of rubbish while play is in action?.He just doesn’t know when to stop.It is extremely irritating.
‘Trying to watch men’s opening match, Kyrgios v Cecchinato, at Roland Garros with constant, annoying chatter from Carillo and Navratilova. Spare us!
I agree with you. Today, May 24, I was trying to watch Tennis Channel. The featured match was one with Venus Williams. I like Venus but the reality is she can hardly move on the court, and her high ranking says a lot about the caliber of today’s top players. So, talking through the point, Carillo was asking Martina N. if she skipped any tournaments as she got older, and after Martina said that she sometimes skipped the French and the Australian, Carillo asked why, to which Martina responded that the Australian was just too early, leaving the opening for Carillo to jokingly ask if it was because she could not get up early! Brilliant but typical of the drivel we are forced to listen to, while neither one apparently was paying much attention to a boring match selection. Too much too early for me, so I just turned the set off. I don’t mind Martina that much. In my opinion she can hold herself in check rather well. But Carillo is a moron. I do not understand her popularity. Yes, she has that husky sounding voice. If only she had something substantive to say.
Most people may not agree but I really like John Mcenroe. To me he has more energy when commenting on matches. Most of the tennis channel commentators are boring.
I loved John McEnroe when playing but he’s the pits on commentating. Can’t we get rid of him. Just watch Murray and Stepanek which was totally spoilt by his mouth never closing. Now having to listen during the Djokovic/Lu match. Put us out of our misery and shut him up.
Please, Justin Gimelstob, SHUT UP!!! His babble during play is constant… Ted Robinson is excellent and he gets paired with this obnoxious windbag who just goes on and on and on, most, if not all of it, uninformative drivel…. This Tennis Channel team of commentators is just awful… Martina Navratilova, Tracy Austin, “BOY” Paul Annacone…”BOY Mary Carillo…LIndsay Davenport (WHY????)… The Roland Garros coverage with this team may be the worst in broadcasting history….GO AWAY….
Why is it that commentators in other sports do not bother me at all, while most of those on the Tennis Channel do? I think part of the reason is that other sports are more fluid, without the delay caused by having to serve and playing point by point. So commentators are too occupied calling the action to get too much into the meaningless babble. Baseball is not quite as fluid, but then there, but there is still less time between pitches than between serves in tennis.
Another reason is that all too frequently there are too many commentators calling a tennis match. Sometimes there are three! The norm is two. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were only one?!
But I do not see any improvement in the calling of these matches, nor any indication that Tennis Channel is even aware of the issue. If they are, nothing has changed. The problem is that they have too many mediocre commentators providing more analysis and irrelevant detail than most of us would like to listen to. Knowledge of the game and playing experience does not make one, ipso facto, a good commentator. Silence is not always a bad thing. It’s as if the commentators who can actually speak well are feeling pressure to keep talking in order to demonstrate to their bosses that they are earning their salaries.
But the good thing is that there is a mute button. I use it all the time. It helps to create a Zen-like atmosphere in my living room. I avoid having to listen to the banal commentary and the repetitive commercials. I can be doing other things that would be difficult to concentrate on if their were sound volume. And I can always turn on the sound if I wish to hear the crowd excitement at match point or some other significant point in the match.
Unfortunately, the mute button does not solve every problem: one still has to watch a spoiled brat like Andy Murray angrily gesturing toward his coaching box and stomping around worse than an immature teenager. I completely understand why Mauresmo left him.
And when the commentators are actually good, which is not very often, it becomes a treat to turn on the sound volume for a change of pace.
I think that Paul Annacome is one of the best. He knows what and when to say. I promised my self that the next time I will have to watch and listen to Mary Carrilo’s stupid gossips and jokes instead of muting the tv I will discontinue your services. Another commentator who does not know when to shut up is Martina Navratilova…
You have a great tennis station but it is necessary to implement some changes for the viewers to fully enjoy it.
What about Mary Carillo? She is my favorite commentator. Funny, knowledgeable, and doesn’t talk constantly.
Mary Carillo along with Navratilova and Davenport should have retired as commentators long time ago.
Enough of bubbling and gossiping!
Tennis Channel is a great idea and maybe the people who run it get it for the majority of viewers but they don’t get it for me. I am probably going to cancel my subscription.
We can disagree about the various commentators and announcers. It’s not about that. In general, they would all be more or less okay if they would just talk less. But they talk as if they were being paid by the word.
I was just watching the Murray-Gasguet match. At the end of the second set, after a commercial break, they do this piece by Gimelstob on Murray, while they are playing the first game of the third set! As if they have not had enough time to air that piece during the two days of rain delays! And now that they are finally playing, the producers put on that piece!
But they were not done. Then during the second game of the third set, they split the screen to show Haber and somebody else doing an interview with Goffin! So we can watch the actual match on a much smaller screen with no sound while we are having to listen to the interview!
I will wait for tennis to appear on the other channels, and if I miss watching some great matches, it is not the end of the world. The only thing that will help is when people stop supporting Tennis Channel.
I wanted to watch Fed/Florian Mayer this morning and I couldn’t have received a bigger shot to my gut when I turned to the Tennis Channel… Leif Shiras AND Tracy Austin….What in a higher power’s name went through the minds of the TC brass to give us not one of the worst but THE TWO worst on a very bad Tennis Channel team… I had to watch my favorite player (not Florian Mayer) on MUTE….. Sometimes, you just have to wonder what goes through the minds of TC’s hierarchy ….
Chris Evert is too critical? Certainly not of Serena Williams! On the contrary, I wonder if she’s being paid to be a cheerleader for Serena. No matter what is happening on court, it’s all about Serena, according to Chris. Why can’t her opponent simply be out-playing Serena that day? Even when her opponent is playing well, Chris maintains that it is Serena who is responsible.
The problem with these commentators is that they feel that they are special and uniquely qualified for their jobs. Some of them exhibit an air of superiority, as if what they are doing is almost sacred:like they were oracles charged with explaining life changing events of global importance! When, in fact, they are simply calling a sporting event; a tennis match. Which brings me to my next point. They brutally critique these matches as opposed to gently enhancing them with interesting,RELEVANT,and BRIEF commentary! Case in point, Jim Courier’s and Bret Haber’s relentless criticism of Gael Monfils during what could have been a very entertaining match! And, sadly, this was not the first time that commentators chose to question a player of color’s (usually black) heart, commitment, dedication, and even intelligence relative to the sport. I’m used to hearing Mary Carillo (my least favorite commentator of all time) espouse her ignorant and extremely insulting brand of biased bulls…, but I was surprised and disappointed to hear Courier’s version of unenlightened nonsense! It does, however, seem as though the network has reigned in Carillo’s tirades to the extent that she almost seems to have overcompensated and now tends to fawn over the Williams sisters (her targets of choice until recently). You have work to do Tennis Channel. Don’t wait too long!
Yesterday, I tuned in the Rogers Cup Men’s Final via ESPN. In the interview prior to the match Nisikori mentioned he would employ patience with aggression. What does that mean and how was he going to execute the strategy. Don’t ask Chris, Patrick or Brad, they didn’t have a clue. Instead of talking about problem solving and adjusting to Djokovic’s game, the team talked about past matches. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to hear an analyst come up with a thesis as to how to beat Nole? Did any of the announcers go back and view the match Kei beat Novak? I bet not. At least that would be a starting point as to how Kei would play the match yesterday. Of course, past performance is no guarantee of future success. There were times Kei demonstrated his aggression successfully, unfortunately for him they were too few against #1. With all the analytics available, analysts should be able to articulate a plausible game plan and give insights to what each player is attempting to accomplish. In my mind, Cahill does it better than all the others.
By far Brad Gilbert is the worst commentator. John McEnroe is only a little better and that is because of his knowledge of tennis. His commentary during the Murray/Dimitrov match was so negative…and every single point…I muted the coverage. If he wants to be Dimitrov’s coach, he should ask and not comment on every point.
Brad Gilbert is an offensive want-to-be. He never offers any knowledge and demeans players that are better than he could have ever dreamed to be. He needs to be controlled or eliminated. He sours every tournament he covers, and he is old enough to behave and should offer perspective, not the “I am going to show them” attitude.
Brad Gilbert should be removed from his position of a television commentator. How ESPN does not recognize the extent of his offensiveness is beyond my comprehension.
When he said on national television about another journalist, “..that is why he is only print journalist…”, that is completely unacceptable by any standard and should have been removed. That does not even consider all the other unacceptable “commentary” he unnecessarily provides.
I understand Fowler and Evert as unable to be impartial when it comes to Serena all are Americans. Always excuses for Serena when she plays badly and always pointing out the opponents ” playing out of their minds” when they are winning. I vote for Cahill and Fernandez.
As bad as ESPN might be, it is so much better than Tennis Channel!!!! I would take any of the commentators at ESPN over those at Tennis Channel. Yes, Cahill probably one of the best. And in general I find the Brits are better at simply calling a tennis match as opposed to trying to impress everyone with their knowledge of trivia by rambling on and paying scant attention to the point being played. Finally, the bias of the American commentators in favor of the American players, especially in favor of the Williams sisters, is atrocious. It is almost as thought they are being paid or feel that if they say anything negative or even neutral about them, that they will lose their jobs. But the same thing happened during the Olympics……the focus was only on the Americans. Journalism, both print and television, keeps getting to new lows. There seems to be some correlation with social media.
the espn tennis announcers are so unprofessional except for one..we all know who they are..it takes away from the fun of the game..so negative!
I Played competitive tennis and now racquetball for baby years so I’m pretty knowledgeable. I watch tennis on tv a lot. I don’t get all this criticism. The only one who annoys me a little is evert but I respect her experience. Carillo is just a bit fake to me but the rest are great. Gimmelstob is great. Gilbert is great. This criticism is being made by people who must not play competitively. J. McEnroe is incredibly knowledgeable and entertaining. All of them – all of them are good. People just like to complain I think
No, I don’t think you entirely get it. Speaking for myself, I would like to see the people in the booth simply call the match without adding all the trivia. The Brits and Aussies do a much better job at this than the Americans. Some commentary is okay and adds value, but the commentary cannot be bigger than the match. Just as most tennis fans do not like to see the chair umpire inject himself or herself into a match, the commentary should never be larger than the match itself. Some viewers like this commentator and others that commentator, and to me this is a little like getting into the weeds and is very subjective. Most are competent, but they need to focus on calling the match and try to be more disciplined about what they say. An occasional silence is not a bad thing.
I agree with John completely. One tennis(caster) recently asked the pro(caster) if any part of the ball was on the line, was it “IN” Less talking!!!
I see your point but to me (and I taught tennis) tennis is really boring to just watch. I find the comments insightful. Interesting. There is so much nuance/ Knowledge these folks bring to the table. I wish they would be more critical/informative actually. For example, love when they hold players accountable for poor work ethic / hot dogging, etc. It’s the only way to improve/motivate some of these guys. I probably watch an hours day or more. Different strokes for … (Pun intended)
I have just watched the Raonic Djokovich match, very exciting, the commentary was terrible/ We don’t want a history lesson or to repeatedly to be told what we just watched. If we enjoy watching we have most likely played , at least to a level giving us a reasonable understanding of the game. Nick Lester and his colleagues are wrecking viewing pleasure, remarks are welcome but turning the commentary box into there own play room is a little unnecessary, just keep quite lads you really are a nuisance. Nick seems incapable of just resting his voice for a few minutes, practically talking as every point starts.
This is a great review! I have played tennis since I was little. I was always disappointed in the tennis facilities at most colleges. I was so excited to hear that Mark Hurd f is working hard to revitalize tennis at the collegiate level but he is also trying to improve American tennis overall. He has plans to sponsor collegiate tournaments, create a new American tennis circuit, and possibly start a junior academy in California. I think that Mark Hurd is really going to turn this sport around.
Please don’t tell me that we have to go through another year of watching tennis with comments from commentary box the usual rude ignorant comments that have nothing at all to with actual tennis watching tennis on euro sport
Presently I am trying to watche Dimitrov and MaHut play and have to have the match on mute because Lindsay and Mary are constantly talking throughout play. i bet they would be furious if commentators talked throughout the match when they were players. It is so annoying….the women are the worst.
I agree with you 100%
Mary Carrillo and Davenport are talking gossips and are very annoying
Jim Courier just doesn’t shut up. It’s so bloody annoying.
JUST STOP TALKING NOW AND THEN! Why do commentators feel the need to talk every second between points as if they’re getting paid by the word. I can’t even think for myself or take in the moment because they get in the way with so much mindless tennis babble. McEnroe (both), Evert, Evert, Evert (since she talks enough for 3 commentators, Navratilova, Gilbert (the worst of the worst), Fowler,… Anyone that constantly talks the moment the point is over. You don’t have to tell me it’s a great shot. I can see it’s a great shot. Do you know how refreshing it can be to hear nothing between points?. I know because it’s a relief to turn off the volume between points. Now if there was a way to silence the commentators but leave the crowd noise… heaven! Or a Tennis Channel option that provides minimal commentary (think Tennis C-SPAN!)… heaven! Silence can be wonderful ladies and gentlemen. Give it a shot. A great shot. Limit your word count. We’ll appreciate you a lot more! Let a point go without talking (often). We may even look forward to hearing what you have to say!
Part of the problem is that the networks have too many commentators covering these events. For a football game with 11 players on each side, there are basically only two commentators. If I am not mistaken, the same is the case in basketball and baseball. However, in tennis, quite often there are three. I think the commentary from the viewer point of view would improve with only two, and I would love to see some brave network try it with only one commentator. Obviously, with three, each one wants to do something to earn his or her salary, and added together it becomes overkill. But how many of us are there who really care about this? This problem is not restricted to tennis. Often an event will be on air live, and instead of letting the viewer listen to and view the event as if we were there, we have to listen to a news anchor or some other self-important person explain to us what we would just like to be able to enjoy without any commentary. But as the saying goes, you can’t fight city hall, and at the end of the day, it is perhaps best if we just wean ourselves off of having to see these things in the first place. I cancelled my subscription to tennis channel and find myself watching much less tennis than before. In fact, much less television in general. I also find myself watching more BBC because their programs are without, or mostly without, commercials. And if you absolutely have to watch some sporting event, just turn the mute button on. Yes, I know, it is not quite the same, because we want to hear the background noise and the ball striking sounds. On the other hand, silence is golden.
Bret Haber needs to quit the nonstop yap, it’s like constant.!let the tennis pros do most of the talking. At least they know when to shut up!
Mary Carillo so homered the play of Shelby Rogers over her opponents in Charelston, it was sickening. It was like there was nobody on the other side of the net! PULL CARILLON OFF THE AIR NOW!!!!
I mute the sound on my tv when Mary Carillo, Davenport or Navratilova talk, gossip and don’t know when to shot up.
I have to continually mute Justin Gimelstob, as he can’t stop talking and trying to sound like the smartest person in the room. What a blowhard! On the other end, Jimmy Arias is spot on with his analysis and he seems to enjoy his job.
I am not always sure who the commentators are. Often if one does not tune in at the beginning of the program, or doesn’t know them from previous experience, one never finds out about them. Lately I am inclined to think this argument is mostly about American commentators and perhaps the way the are trained or the way they are encouraged to comment. I think this is the main problem with Tennis Channel, that they are mostly Americans and they are blatantly biased in favor of American players, which in some ways is more shocking, more unacceptable to me than their inability to call a match.
As I have said before in this venue, my opinion is that the Brits are much better at calling matches and less likely to talk about matters and details that are not directly related to the match they are watching. Yesterday, as we were watching the soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona, there happened to be two announcers, one was British and the other American, judging from their accents. They were calling the match together. The Brit was brilliant, had an excellent command of the English language, was passionate about what he was watching, and every single comment he made was in direct relation to something that had just occurred on the pitch in front of him. On the other hand, whenever the American spoke, it was first obvious that he had far less knowledge of the game and the players, but in almost every single instance of his speaking, it was about the standings, or about what the situation would be if this team won or that team lost, about the personal lives of the players, etc., etc., etc. And at one point, one very striking moment, the Brit commentator interjected something like, “Who cares about that, that is something we can think about tomorrow, let’s just enjoy the brilliant match that is in front of us right this moment.”
It is a sad situation, the state of sports commentary in the United States. At least in my opinion. And I am not sure how small the minority that I am most assuredly in, is. Things annoy me that I know do not annoy others. We have all of this great technology that allows us to view sporting events from around the world, but which are often spoiled, and I daresay ruined, simply by the idocy and the need to say something or be relevant or sound important and knowledgeable, when better would be to say nothing and let the action coming across on the screen speak for itself. And in another soccer match that I watched today, between Atletico Madrid and Espanyol in La Liga, the British commentator was wonderful at letting the action on the pitch speak for itself, and there were sometimes whole minutes, or what seemed whole minutes, that flew by with nary a word spoken, and it was so sublime.
But coming back to reality, thank God that there is a mute button. But would it not be nice if one could mute the comments without muting the sounds coming from the match itself, and to have that option on our remote controllers? Until then, I thank God for the mute button.
Please get rid of Justin Gimmelstob! He only speaks only in superlatives which is impossible logic: Not everyone can be “the greatest”! This is the guy who said out loud that he didn’t understand why a tennis stadium is named after Arthur Ashe…
This is for Mary Carrillo: Mary, At least there are two of us who don’t want to watch Maria Sharapova. Her suspension was too short in our opinion, & who wants to listen to her ‘screams’ – for want of a better description. How does she get away with screams that are so long that they continue as her opponent is hitting the ball? Thank you, Bob Sanders.
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Agreed 100%. But as we all know, it is all about the money and ethics comes in a very distant second place. But just as bad as the screaming is the long time she takes between points when she is serving. Such a drama queen. I never watch her play as a rule, but today made an exception and was happy to see Bouchard win, even though I am not a big fan of her either. I think that the drug Sharapova was found guilty of taking perhaps helped her in some of those comeback wins over the years. Yes, I know, how can one prove that. But if the drug did not help her, why would she have been taking it given that she did not have the condition the medication was normally prescribed for.
I can’t stand Sharapova. The ridiculous back turn to the opponent after each point. The screaming. The ice queen demeanor after the match which Bouchard and her coaches seem to hold in high esteem as they have encouraged her to do it. Neither Federer, Nadal or Djoker Do that nonsense and neither of those gals ever dominated the sport the way these guys have. Even Murray is a gentleman at end of the match. Serena and Venus may be pretty competitive during the match but they are all class at the end and the really during the match too. Bouchard would do well to try to find the pure joy of the game emanating from Venus as she wins a match.
Carrillo, Navratilova, Davenport and Austin should retire or shut up!
I can not stand the gossiping and nonsense talk…
I have two choices, either use the mute button or quit the tennis channel altogether.
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Currently watching Almagro playing Djokovic in Madrid..great tennis experience with Nick Lester…UNTIL…the chatty kathy crew from LA take over mid way through the third set-Brett, I’ve never set foot on a tennis court, Haber. Tennis channel announcers MUST BE PAID BY THE WORD. Blah, Blah, Blah…not to mention…let’s talk about lots of things other than the match we’re watching…I guess the only good news here is that Justin Gimelstob is not on the air…when he appears, I mute the channel. Let’s be honest though, the blame for the game’s worst color commentary should be placed squarely on the shoulders of the cheapest guy in tennis, Ken Solomon. While I’m sitting here writing, TC announcers predictably whine and drone on. Arrrrrrgh!
The Tennis Channel team is so dreadful… I cannot believe that it will be the lone US source for coverage at
Roland Garros this year… ESPN has there problems with the mindless Chris Evert and the despicably incompetent Kris Mckendry but aside from, only Ted Robinson and Jim Courier everyone else is just awful…
Can you imagine Leif Shiras, (please, no, Jimmy Arias), Tracy Austin, the ridiculously annoying Paul Annacone and Lindsay Davenport calling meaningful matches for two weeks in Paris??? I sure as hell hope not!!!
The Wild criticism on this thread always
Confuses me. Agree that McKendry is not a tennis analyst. Haber is like a play by play guy who doesn’t play like Musberger, Costas and so many others. is knowledgeable as hell though admittedly not engaging. Arias’ voice is a bit annoying. The rest are passable or good. Maybe I’m a glass half-full guy. It’s the best channel on tv to me Besides cable news and TCM. Now if you want to talk cable news I’ve got a lot to say about the station that has nearly handedly she my downed the American populace to the extent that truth doesn’t matter. Science doesn’t matter. Empirical evidence doesn’t matter. I suspect that’s coming to an end though. Have a great day all
I agree completely that some of the criticism found in this chain is over the top, but you err when you refer to Haber as a play by play guy. Anything but. Yes, he is very knowledgeable, to the point of ignoring the actual play in front of him. A play by play guy calls a match and is mainly concerned with the game being played in front of him or her. Haber is in love with his knowledge and is always trying to impress by never shutting up. But I agree with you that many of the others, while not the greatest, are also not the worst. As I have said before in this venue, in my opinion, the Brits and Aussies do a better job at calling matches. However, I have noticed a trend on some channels where the stations are pairing an American with a Brit, and while the Brit calls the match, the American adds the stats, and this is okay until the American starts to call the match, because the only way they know how to call a match is by babbling statistics.
Yeah. You’re right. He just reminded me of a non-athlete sports guy. I agree with your overall comments
What I really want for Christmas…a second audio channel (SAP) with nat sound only…just the sound of the players, the umpire, the line judges and the crowd. That’s all I want. I lose so much of the match when the presence of TC commentators necessitates muting. This morning they teased Konig – who knows how to call a match – but we ended up with chatty kathy and marble mouth (Brett and Justin). Ugh…mute.
Funny that you should write this as I was thinking the exact same thing. Was watching the Nadal-Goffin match this morning and after Goffin lost a particular point to Nadal, he put his hand to his head as a natural reaction to Nadal’s amazing shot. One did not have to say anything. All the emotion was written on Goffin’s face and in that gesture of his hand going to his head. But Brett Haber had to prove his wit with the comment that Goffin was “scratching his head.” Such shallow and sophomoric wit indeed! Yes, one person calling a match and unless there is something truly that needs to be said, just allowing the viewers to enjoy the match. Perhaps if our technology were able, the viewer could opt out of the commentary and as you say just watch and listen to the match. I would pay extra each month for that option! And all those useless stats that they throw up on the screen that truly are meaningless for most of us? Do I really need to know how many unforced errors a player has made? Or the distribution of return serves a player has made to different areas of the court? I am sure you will agree with me on these points. And yet it all appears to be getting worse and going the other way, doesn’t it? Of course they want us to have to listen to the commercials, so maybe mute the commentary and then when the commercials come on, we would have to use the actual mute button for those? Don’t know what else to say. A sad situation.
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Perhaps most people don’t care, but how about if commentators made a little bit of an effort to pronounce players’ names correctly? Especially a player like Rafa Nadal, who has been playing at such a high level for so many years … I’m tired of hearing his name mispronounced as Nudoll or worse. It’s very simple, all four A’s are pronounced exactly the same: RAFA NADAL. The only time I’ve heard Fabio Fognini’s name pronounced correctly, it was Djokovic after a match. The commentator’s always pronounce it Foneenee. The G before the N turns the GN into an Ñ sound, like the Spanish words piñata, año, baño, etc. I know, I know, most people don’t care, but it drives me crazy, so I just had to get it off my chest. French name mispronunciations coming up soon … yikes! Back to the tennis matches …
If ESPN is showing a match, I will definitely watch it over Tennis Channel! It seems many have their favorite announcers and their dislikes for whatever reasons. I much prefer the ESPN announcers… my favorites are, Brand Gilbert – I LOVE his nicknames for players, Darren Cahill, Cliff Drysdale – He has such passion for the sport. I have to say, I also like both McEnroe brothers, however, in the past I could not stand Chris Fowler, but in my opinion, he has improved greatly in the last year. I really like Mary Jo and I don’t mind listening to Chris Evert or Mary Carillo. I cannot stand Pam Shriver or Chris McKendry!
As for TTC, someone needs to tell Steve Weismann to shut up!! He just babbles and if you put him together with Paul Annacone, it’s the absolute worst. TTC announcers sound so monotone (lifeless, as in all the men sound the same, there’s really no distinction between who’s who) when they are announcing a match, however when they are on camera I don’t mind watching/listening to them except for Tracy Austin – Cannot stand to see or listen to her.
So that’s my two cents for what it’s worth :).
I’m watching Wimbledon on the Tennis Channel- first day Prime time. Commentators? Mary (typically John’s partner on the televised games on NBC). Well first of all neither of them can shut up!
And second of all they cannot drop the days of Nadal’s knees!!! Her co-commentator just talked and talked about the green juicy grass of the courts and how these are the conditions his knees don’t like!!
Mary has seen Rafa play all year on all courts.
Why isn’t she telling him that his year has shown that his knees may no longer be an issue?!!? Why is she going along with this guy!??! Nasal has won the first game and is up in the second with ease! Maybe it’s time for them to GO!!
I’m very fond of most of your commentators, however I don’t understand
why most of them butcher the Russian and Eastern European names.
I think it’s disrespectful.
They get Kuznetsova and Plishkova right, but not most of the others.
The accented syllable on these names should never be on the
penultimate syllable. To illustrate this, I’ll capitalize the accented
syllable: MaKAravoa, Denis ShaPAvelov, Lucie SaFArova,
CiBULkova, ShaRApova. Berdych should have
a K sound at the end.
The one who really knows these pronunciations is your
colleague, Martina NavraTILova, but the other
commentators don’t follow her advise or even
get her name right.
I’m a native American, but my mother’s parents
were Czech. As a musician and singer, I’m
sensitive to these sounds, and since I’ve
watched tennis all my life, I think it would
be great for your crew to get the names
I started watching tennis on a twelve inch black and white television screen at a time when the players were amateurs and their racquets were made of wood. As far as I can recall the BBC (UK) had only one camera which looked down on the court from some high place. There was one commentator, and he didn’t say much. There were no pie charts, graphs or CGI to explain the plays, and no talking heads to tell me about the match I’d just watched. Today I watch on an enormous screen with a high tech five channel sound system. God alone knows how many cameras are in use. Unfortunately I have to mute the sound to avoid the idiotic prattle coming out of my speakers, generated by two, three or more people talking, often at once and mostly to each other, plus a couple of walking talking faces wandering around amongst the spectators. If I turn off the sound completely I miss the thwack of the ball and the ambient sounds of a match in progress, but If I’m lucky I can find a point at which I can still hear the sounds of the match while the chatter of the commentators is reduced to the sound of buzzing insects, annoying but tolerable. Evert is an angry mosquito. Carrillo is a fat bumblebee. My grandchildren tell me that, as an old man, I’m expected to grump about progress, but this isn’t so. Progress, particularly in technology, has much enhanced our lives in so many ways. TV Tennis coverage is not one of them.