Tennis Prose



David Mercer 1950-2020

Veteran British TV commentator and former chair umpire David Mercer has passed away at age 70. I never actually met David in person but we often exchanged emails and he always helped me by sharing his insider perspectives for my books and also we did a Biofile too.

Mercer actually chair umpired the 1984 McEnroe vs Connors 61 61 62 Wimbledon final and later commentated on several more for BBC.

Here are David’s memories that he kindly emailed me for my books Facing Sampras and Facing Hewitt and his Biofile Q&A…

Facing Sampras…

Dear Scoop,

Thank you for that (excerpt of Facing Sampras anecdotes from four ATP players).

In terms of tennis my lasting memory of Pete is the quality of his second serve, which is still the best I have ever seen. Two stories involving Pete stick in my mind. One year, I don’t remember which, I was doing a pre-Wimbledon interview with him for the BBC and at the end of it I asked him if he was renting a house near the All England Club. He said most emphatically no, saying that none of the nearby houses had air conditioning and without it he couldn’t sleep. He always chose to stay in a Central London hotel. The second concerns his victory over Pat Rafter in the 2000 Wimbledon final. I was lucky enough to be the lead commentator for BBC TV on the match. We had had a tip off that Pete’s parents were coming to watch the final to see if he could equal the record of 7 Wimbledon titles. As you will know it was very unusual for them to watch his matches and it may have been the first time they had come to Wimbledon. They did not sit in the players’ box so during quiet moments in the match I tried to find them in the crowd using my binoculars. Eventually I noticed an elderly gentlemen with very prominent eyebrows and looks not dissimilar to Pete. I spoke to our Director and one of our camera team found the man in question. The picture was cut to line and I pronounced on air that that must be Pete’s father. I was very relieved when at the end of the match Pete climbed into the crowd to embrace the man in question and the lady next to him. They were indeed his parents. It was the prefect finale to a terrific final. I hope this helps. Best wishes, David. 

Facing Hewitt…

Dear Scoop, Thanks for your email. Nice to hear from you. My memories of Hewitt are of his total commitment. He is certainly not the most talented player to have been ranked number one in the world and won Grand Slam titles, but he has made the absolute most of his ability by always giving 100%. He still does. I remember talking to Pat Rafter about Hewitt when Lleyton was first emerging on the Tour. He said, “he is the most competitive b…..d I have ever come across, who hates to lose at anything, whether it is tennis or tiddlywinks.” Needless to say, Pat said it with a smile on his face.  I hope this helps. Best wishes, David.

And the Biofile we did by email

Dear Mark, Thanks for your email of 11th May and I have now had a chance to compile the answers to the questions you sent me. They are:-

First memory of tennis: Watching on television the 1956 Wimbledon final between Lew Hoad and Ken Rosewall. 

Last book read: Our Kind of Traitor by John Le Carre. 

Tennis inspirations: My father, John Crooke – coach to the Welsh National Junior squad, Ken Rosewall. 

Favorite movies: The King’s Speech, Chariots of Fire, The Italian Job (original version), Ben Hur. First job: Lawyer. 

Childhood dreams: To win Wimbledon. 

Greatest career moment: Umpiring and subsequently commentating on the Men’s Singles Final at Wimbledon. 

Most painful career moment: When I played on the equivalent of the Futures Circuit in 1971, realising very quickly that I was never going to make a living as a tennis player. 

Funny career memory: commentating on a British Davis Cup tie in Poland I sat under an umbrella as rain was coming through the roof of the commentary box and was in danger of dripping onto the electrical equipment. 

Embarrassing career memory: While commentating on the French Open for BBC Television, saying that there had been “an erotic start” to a match when I meant to say erratic. 

Favorite players to watch (present and past): Rosewall, Laver, Graf, Edberg, Leconte, Federer. 

Favorite sport outside tennis: Golf. 

People qualities most admired: honesty, modesty and a sense of humour.

RIP friend David, you left behind a special mark on the sport you loved…

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  • Christopher Stone · August 29, 2020 at 1:38 pm

    David was a classic BBC style commentator (understated, might not talk for minutes.) He, along with Peter Fleming did the classic Sampras vs Federer Wimbledon match that is available on DVD. Clearly a class act and true professional.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 29, 2020 at 2:04 pm

    Chris, Fully agree. His voice during a tennis match was like a musical instrument contributing to the overall orchestra. Perfect harmony. I feel so fortunate to have connected to this great man and to have collected some of his unique, revealing, insightful and always entertaining perspectives. The US Open absolutely should give him a moment of silence tribute. He is far more deserving than the one Osaka wants us to pay respect.



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