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Tennis Players Analyze Tennis TV Commentators


About ten years ago, I decided to ask some of tennis’ leading players: Which TV commentators do you like to listen to?

Vince Spadea: “I like Patrick McEnroe and Luke Jensen. I like the former players. The guys who are young and hungry and excited about doing it. And they know the information and the players. I like enthusiasm and personality into talking tennis – not just the exact match. Patrick’s a very interesting guy. Been around a lot of years, obviously had a great career himself. He has a brother who is a legend. There’s so many aspects about tennis that he could kind of dig in from. He’s from New York, so he’s got great personality. Luke is high energy. He’s inspiring. He comes up with little, funny phrases. Little nicknames. Little, inside stories about each player or certain individuals. I thought Chris Evert was good. Articulate and smart and obviously a legend in her own right.”

Brian Vahaly: “Good question. I think John McEnroe gives a lot of great tips. I think he can be a little tough on the players which can be tough to listen to – especially if I know the guys who are out there. I think sometimes he could be a little more understanding…sometimes the guys that are working their butt off to be out there. And I think Patrick McEnroe says a lot of great things actually.”

Brian Baker: “I like John McEnroe a lot. And I think Patrick’s very good. Overall, I think tennis is good right now, commentating. I like how John says what he wants to say and doesn’t care much what anybody thinks, that’s refreshing. I really like when Patrick and Cliff do the Masters Series on ESPN. I think they are always an excellent team and they compliment each other pretty good.”

Mahesh Bhupathi: “I like listening to Johnny Mac. He’s good. He has his own style. He doesn’t care what people think of what he says. Even though he made fun of me at Wimbledon final. I heard a lot about that [smiles]. My serve…I think he tore it to bits. How the action of it is a bit different.”

Bob Bryan: “I like listening to Jim Courier. He’s been there. He’s fresh off the Tour. He knows what he’s talking about. I think Pat Mac’s good. I like Barry McKay, Cliff Drysdale. I think all the guys are pretty good…as long as they’re positive about tennis.”

Ivan Ljubicic: “Patrick McEnroe and Cliff Drysdale – they’re pretty cool. You can see they know a lot about tennis. And it’s really a relaxed feeling. They don’t only talk about techniques and tactics. I have to say I don’t like Pam Shriver. She’s always so technique that it’s, I mean, really boring. But these two guys, they know how to laugh, they know how to entertain people I think.”

Dominik Hrbaty: “I don’t watch a lot of tennis on TV in America because I’m from Europe. But I know that a lot of people, they like Bud Collins. I heard him in New Zealand because I play quite a few tournaments there and he’s coming down to commentate the tournaments. And I know that he’s also big in coverage here. I like him. He’s quite funny on the TV.”

Meghann Shaughnessy: “I like John McEnroe. Because he’s very honest. And I think he has an incredible eye for tennis. He really knows what’s going on. He knows so much about the sport and his insights are always interesting. Mary Jo Fernandez – for the same reason. She’s been around for a long time, she knows what’s going on.”

Jonas Bjorkman: “John and Patrick McEnroe. They know the game very well. And they know the players very well. They know the strengths and the weaknesses of the games of the players. That’s important. Some guys who are commentating are not down in the locker room and checking out things. Both of them are down here. They know a lot of players, even if they are not playing. That’s a strength of a commentator. There’s a few out there who are very good. But those are the guys I find are doing a good job.”

Greg Rusedski: “Whether you like him or whether you don’t, John McEnroe’s always interesting. Sometimes he’s fair with the guys, sometimes he’s not [smiles]. But he’s always interesting. I think Patrick McEnroe does quite a good job as well, with Cliff Drysdale. Patrick is quite interesting to listen to because he was never a top player like his brother John but he was quite astute and he did the best he could with the game he had and got to no. 30 in the world. He had to find different ways to win rather than pure talent and ability. So he’s got a different perspective on what it takes to succeed in tennis. He’s seen the top side of tennis. But he’s also seen the side where people are struggling a little bit out there. So it’s nice to have a double perspective out there. Cliff Drysdale knows the history of the game. He’s been out there since the players had their first union in 1973. Then he’s seen what tennis has become nowadays. So his knowledge of the game and his insights are quite good to have.”

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  • Bryan · August 3, 2015 at 3:55 pm

    John McEnroe is the best announcer IMO. He gives solid insights into the minds of players good or bad. When they’re choking, confidence is waning, or know they’re a punching bag, he calls it. I know some dislike him but think they’re mainly non-fans of John. I’ve always been a fan of his so it’s fun to hear him talk about matches.

    Chris Evert is awful IMO. She applies her own experience too much, giving self-referential ‘analysis’ that often doesn’t apply. Almost like Roy Jones would in HBO boxing. Some athletes are too vain to exclude themselves from their analysis of a match, you can see that in their minds, everything goes back to them.

  • Robert Haas · August 5, 2015 at 2:16 am

    Bud Collins ruined the first half of my life and Mary Carillo ruined the second half.

    Because of their age, few commentators understand the modern game. Johnny Mac still bemoans the abandonment of the small wood racquet; Cliff Drysdale first revealed his analytical shortcomings by endlessly criticizing Gustavo Keurten’s “loosey-goosey” forehand, an outstanding stroke that allowed Keurten to dominate the tour. Few remember that Chris Evert, during televised commentary, repeatedly wrote off Roger Federer years ago, claiming his career was over. That’s the caliber of “informed” analysis that makes me want to drop out, not tune in.

    Patrick McEnroe has kept up with the evolution of the game and therefore offers more useful analysis and opinion than any of the others. My global comment is that all TV tennis commentators talk too much during a match; home viewers should be accorded the same courtesy given to players during a point: no talking, please.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 5, 2015 at 11:31 am

    Robert, I think all the commentators are very good with exception of one or two, and even the best say things that can bother viewers who even like them very much, everyone is wrong sometimes, even johnny Mac☺ my faces are pmac jmac BG Cahill Evert cliff arias gimel stolle Koenig Goodall Hewitt Lief…so many great ones.



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