Jan/19

8

Jimmy Arias Is The Best TV Analyst


By Scoop Malinowski

A realization dawned on my last night watching the Tennis Channel’s Down Under coverage. Jimmy Arias is the best TV commentator in the business.

Last night Jimmy was in the studio with Lindsay Davenport and Steve Weissman doing the pre-match discussion and he shined brightly.

He made several memorable quotes and comments that I remembered hours later which inspired me to write this article. One of the qualities Arias has is he will poke the viewers with the truth even if it veers from the narratives the media wants to promote. Talking about Frances Tiafoe’s progress, Arias noted his talent but added that he’s an inconsistent player with inconsistent results and it may keep him stuck where he is in the rankings, around the 50 range.

Then during the Steve Johnson vs Leonardo Mayer match in Sydney, with the Argentine up 7-5 and on serve early in the second, Arias commented that he felt Johnson needed to change up his tactcs and he should try serve and volley or a kick serve and come in because “Mayer was winning all the baseline rallies.” And it was exactly that – Maywe was the superior player from the baseline and rolled to the straight set win.

Later they talked about Diego Schwartzman and if the diminutive Argentine could duplicate his superb 2018 season which was highlighted by very nearly cracking the ATP top ten. Arias wasn’t so sure he would bet on that happening but added that when Schwartzman is playing well he could even outplay Rafael Nadal on clay as he was doing at Roland Garros last year, reminding us that the little powerhouse was actually beating Nadal on clay.

It’s these kinds of sharp, astute, clever and witty comments that make Arias stand out. While most of the commentators sound at times like publicists and cheerleaders, Arias will give viewers a dose of reality. It happened again when Davenport was crowing about how great the qualies are for the fans, how they get to see qualies matches and players practicing. Arias reminded us that it’s not so fun for the players trying to qualify by winning three matches as it’s a difficult task.

You just always get a feeling that your getting the truth from Arias, not any kind of agenda or piffle. The straight truth softened with some tact and some extra sugar coating if need be. This keeps the other analysts in line and sharp and honest because Jimmy is such a master, they don’t want to look like a shill.

Arias has been to the top of tennis and devoted his life to the sport. He was top ten in the world, he’s won titles, he’s played on the biggest courts in the world, he’s competed against the all time great champions, he even won a mixed doubles major as a teenager at the French Open. He’s coached college players, he’s played on the senior Tour. Arias has been there and done that. With his professorial or even doctorly demeanor – you can easily envision him dressed in a surgeon or dentist’s white outfit diagnosing a necessary operation and it’s intricacies – Arias is in my opinion the very best in the business right now when it comes to talking about professional tennis, the players and analyzing matches. And he has a friendly, engaging voice which you like, with no hint of arrogance or smugness. And he won’t sit there spouting one cliche after another, like about hitting big targets and trusting the process.

Arias, who was hired as the new IMG Director of Player Development late last year, is the very best in the TV tennis business right now. And he’s already making a major positive impact on improving the Tennis Channel broadcasts with his unique perspective, sense of the action and a sense of humor.

I still remember a tennis friend of mine and myself discussing how Arias was one of our favorites to listen to on TV and I asked this person why he liked Arias so much and he said he liked his match analysis and the fact he’s funny, citing one episode where Arias was commenting on Nadal’s $400,000 watch and he added that his $15 dollar Seiko works just as well.

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24 comments

  • Dan Markowitz · January 8, 2019 at 9:45 am

    I like Arias a lot too. Is he my favorite analyst? At times, yes, but I also like Gilbert a lot too and Davenport I think does a nice job. Arias is very good because like you say, he calls it like he sees it and I don’t think he has the affiliation with the current players the way someone like Gimelstob obviously does, so he’s not afraid to criticize a particular player. This might change though–we have to see–with his new job at IMG.

    Arias can be funny and he has great insight on the game. Sometimes he can be a little too cute I think, but I like that he doesn’t take the game too seriously, in this way he’s like Annacone, who I haven’t seen commenting lately on Tennis Channel, but I like Arias better because I think his take on the game is fresher than Annacone’s.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 8, 2019 at 10:04 am

    Dan, Arias has the unique talent to make any match better just because he’s in the booth commentating. No matter how uneventful a match can be, Arias still manages to make interesting points and enlivens the ride. He’s not too full of himself, he’s fair and respectful and honest about all the players, he is always on gamesmanship alert and will question a star player if he suspects them resorting to mental trickery. With some of the other commentators I find myself drifting away mentally but Arias keeps your attention, he’s one of those rare experts who can keep an audience tuned in. Emanuel Steward was like that in boxing, so was Gil clancy. Phil Esposito in hockey. Phil Rizzuto in baseball. Howard Cosell in any sport. These are the very best and I rate Arias in that elite echelon. I enjoy Gilbert too and Davenport is pretty good. But Arias is the best, in my opinion.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 8, 2019 at 10:09 am

    Another example of Arias hilarity… I remember last year he and Leif Shiras were doing a match from Delray Beach or Houston and Leif and Jimmy are good friends and they play together during the tournament and Leif was talking about it and asked Jimmy on the air during a match telecast about his own game, What would you say my weaknesses are? And Jimmy replied in about a second, “What are your strengths?”

  • jg · January 8, 2019 at 10:31 am

    Arias predicted the Tiafoe loss last night, isn’t that 4 losses in a row this season for Tiafoe, he could very well get a tough first round in the AO and lose 5 straight to start the year. Maybe its time for a new coach (even just to recharge), he doesn’t appear to be improving and as Arias says may be stuck in the same place, some good matches but no consistency.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 8, 2019 at 11:53 am

    Team Tiafoe has to be majorly concerned right now, he’s stuck in a slump and forgetting how to win matches. But he is the type of player who can snap out of it in an instant, his first ATP win last year in New York Long Island was a perfect example. He was not playing particularly well and lost the first set in the first round to Sebi Korda and almost lost the match in the second but won that match and got on a hot streak and then won Delray very impressively. Whatever Ginepri is saying isn’t getting through.

  • Ryan Balon · January 8, 2019 at 12:10 pm

    Happy New Year Scoop and Dan,

    There is a great podcast on SI.com with Jimmy Arias and Jon wertheim – worth this listen

    Look forward to reading you both again this year

    RB

  • Hartt · January 8, 2019 at 1:20 pm

    Jimmy Arias has done commentary for the Rogers Cup for many years, so I have heard him then and occasionally at a Slam. Sometimes he drives me nuts, but I agree that he is a good commentator, someone who is honest in what he says.

    I remember when, many years ago, Milos had his big run to the Rogers Cup final. As you can imagine, Canadian fans were beyond excited, but Arias did a good job of keeping things in perspective, without being nasty about it.

    I am clearing out my recordings of the USO, and just watched the match between Milos and Simon, with Arias doing the commentary. He explained the strengths and weaknesses of each player, and talked about technical things, like the way Milos bent his wrist just before serving, giving him more snap.

    During a dull patch he and the other commie talked about when they first met Fed. Arias said it was when Roger played the Orange Bowl final (in 1998). He didn’t know much about the youngster, but had a 15 minute interview with him. He did not talk to Roger again for 10 years. when Tony Godsick introduced them. Fed said I remember you, you did the announcing for my Orange Bowl final. Fed never forgets anything to do with tennis! This was a fun story for a Fed fan.

    I was glad to hear that Arias will continue to work as a commentator, along with his new role.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 8, 2019 at 1:29 pm

    Thank you Ryan, thanks for continually supporting the site. I was told this podcast with Arias is very good and have the link but have not listened yet.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 8, 2019 at 1:31 pm

    Nice details Hartt, thanks for sharing. Reminds me of when Johan Kriek said he met younger Federer on the credential line at Wimbledon, Johan said he was not expecting Federer to know who he was but was mildly surprised that he did.

  • Dan Markowitz · January 8, 2019 at 2:06 pm

    Thanks Ryan. I saw your man Cuevas in the Auckland draw I think and thought of you, being the big Cuevas fan you are. Going into the new year, who are the five players you’re most intrigued watching when you make your annual trip to Indy Wells?

  • Ryan Balon · January 8, 2019 at 3:23 pm

    Hey Dan,

    Cuevas I believe is coming back from injury and got into the Auckland main draw as a LL, he lost 5-7 1-6 to the young french lefty Humbert. Cuevas should shake off any rust and be back to himself come Indy Wells. If Pablo is playing at a tourney i am attending i will always be there. He by far has one of the sweetest one handers i have ever witnessed.

    I’m curious to see if de Minaur, Khachanov and my boy Coric can back up great 2018 seasons this year.

    My dark horse for 2019 is Nicolas Jarry

    As always excited for yet another remarkable year of tennis!

  • Dan Markowitz · January 8, 2019 at 5:56 pm

    Beautiful Ryan. I always like to hear who you’re watching and if I get the good fortune to go out to Indy Wells this spring, I’ll look for you because you’re always hidden away somewhere on a backcourt watching a Cuevas or Jarry.

    True story, I see Ryan at the US Open first day of the event last summer and there he is sporting a beautiful pair of adidas shoes. The boy always treats himself nicely when he goes to tourneys.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 8, 2019 at 7:22 pm

    Good question Dan, my five most intriguing players to follow this year are: Djokovic. He could dominate for years and years if he can sustain this level. Nishioka is a little Rios like wizard, who could Muster his way up to the top ten or higher. I see a big year for Fritz, he’s got experience now and knows how the Tour works now. I see a big year for Tsitispas, crazy as it sounds he is on pace with Federer at the same age, same ranking. I think Tsip can win a Masters this year. How Sock rebounds from his nightmare 18 is a mystery.

  • Jg · January 8, 2019 at 9:50 pm

    How about Opelka as one to watch this year

  • Wayne Bradford · January 8, 2019 at 11:09 pm

    These are tremendous Fed stories, that is why this site is great. I had not heard them about Arias and Kriek. Fed really has a photographic memory, it is uncanny.

    You see this often in press conferences when he talks about players, I remember him analyzing Leonardo Mayer’s game before he played him for the first time. Fed was so geeked to face Mayer since he had not played him before. Then he was hyping up Tsitsipas 2 years ago and now the Greek is a star.

    No one’s tennis brain has or will ever compare to Federer.

  • Dan Markowitz · January 9, 2019 at 8:06 am

    That is a nice win for Nishioka over Rublev, but top 10 for NIshi, I think top 50 or 40 is his ceiling.

    I watched Opelka play DeMInaur last night and Opelks’a ground game and return of serve just don’t cut it now. He’s got an enormous serve obviously, but he hits everything as hard as he can from the baseline often resulting in short rallies. Davenport calling the match said a guy his size, his peak tennis will be played 4-5 years from now. It’s going to take him that long to really feel comfortable in his body.

    It’s funny Opelka has a young guy who seems like his only entourage and he spends the entire match ranting and gesticulating towards him and this guy doesn’t so much as twitch as Opelka goes on and on.

  • Hartt · January 9, 2019 at 9:56 am

    Fed’s interest in everything related to tennis and his memory for this stuff is amazing. You hear stories about him talking to a regular guy, not even a pro, about the fellow’s game and remembering the conversation much, much later.

    He is a true extrovert, who is sincerely interested in other people, and loves to talk about tennis. And he can be so relaxed before a match. David Law tells the story of how Roger came over to chat with him before Fed’s match while waiting for the current match to end. He chatted happily away until it was just a few minutes before he had to be on court.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 9, 2019 at 1:34 pm

    jg, Opelka should have been one to watch two years ago when he beat Anderson and he beat Sock last year in Delray. Opelka looks ready to do major damage this year. I see him being better than Isner.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 9, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    Wayne, thank you, we put a lot of work into this site, happy you and a few other appreciate our efforts. If you have not read my Facing Federer boo, I’m sure you will love it because there are many many insider stories about Federer from the players and other insiders which are comparable to the Arias and Kriek stories which I also found enjoyable.

  • Doug Day · January 13, 2019 at 10:56 am

    Arias is so smart and reserved its refreshing. Anybody know the Scottish-accented announcer Richie or Jamie somebody whose accent is like music? I think he could be Australian or BBC color guy. Meaty yet tearse, sometimes he wont speak for almost a minute. The dead air feared so much in our broadcast culture. Mark Knowles is underated too.

  • Hartt · January 13, 2019 at 2:22 pm

    Doug, I wonder if you are thinking of former doubles player, Colin Fleming, who does some commentary? He has a particularly lovely Scottish accent. I know of a couple fans who listen to him as much for his accent as what he says.

  • Doug Day · January 15, 2019 at 6:43 am

    Hart- Thanks but no; it was South African dubs player Robbie Koenig I was thinking of. He is riveting in form and content IMHO. Do you know him?

  • Hartt · January 15, 2019 at 6:53 am

    Anyone who follows tennis knows Robbie! He is a lot of fun as a commentator. Some of his sayings are famous. 🙂

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 15, 2019 at 8:53 am

    Hartt, I like Robby Koenig as one of the best commentators also. Is Rinaldi still missing? I like him too.

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