Tennis Announcers

Watching Wimbledon on two different networks gives us exposure to many, many tennis announcers. Who do you like?

For me, telling me what is happening (or just happened) in the active tennis match on the screen is first and foremost, describing the play on the court with a close-up view they have… Was there a great shot, bad call, racquet miss-hit, injury, etc.

And then, even more interesting, what is the context of what is happening… does this player have “a history” we should know about, a tendency in certain situations to play the same shot, etc.

For me, here is how some of the top talkers resonate:

  • Cliff Drysdale – An old pro who pairs well with Patrick McEnroe; and has the style of giving his partner the softball questions to answer, “Why do you think the players put topspin on the ball?”
  • Patrick McEnroe – Does better in the studio than in the booth. He states much of the obvious and over does “The Droppa!”
  • John McEnroe – Like he was on the court, John is aggressive and not afraid to speak his mind about what is happening (or how tennis should change). Does an excellent job.
  • Darren Cahill – A rising star in the tennis TV world, Darren uses his playing and coaching insight to break down the match. But he tends to be “too nice” and not want to say ill about others.
  • Brad Gilbert – Is the most prepared one of the group. As he did as a player, he “does his homework” before coming to work. And is not afraid to go out on a limb to make predictions.
  • Mary Jo Fernendez – She is low-key, but very professional and presents a calm view of what is going on.
  • Pam Shriver – They seemed to have found her niche: not doing play by play, but “out and about” like Bud Collins used to do.
  • Luke Jensen – A fresh, new face. He comes to the screen slightly unpolished, but with a great enthusiasm for the game.
  • Mary Carillo – Is bright and clever; but sometimes that overwhelms what her real job is. She has good, strong opinions; but sometimes wants to tell them regardless of the action on the court.
  • Dick Enberg – “Oh my!” what can you say about Dick. Does OK in the booth; but better on the mood pieces.
  • Ted Robinson – Is a professional sports announcer who does well in the tennis game; uses his knowledge and Voice to call a good match, asking the real pros for their insights.
  • Jim Courier – Not on anybody’s Wimbledon team; but one of the best announcers out there. He is not afraid to state his opinion; but says that is all it is.

Who do you like?

7 thoughts on “Tennis Announcers

  1. The only commentator not mentioned was Bud Collins who had a lot of on-air exposure this year. I enjoyed his recollections/history of the sport. But for the
    regulars, I like Patrick McEnroe the best — he has good insights on the men’s game especially being Captain of the Davis Cup Team. Brad is always on the edge but you can learn from him by listening. You didn’t mention Fowler either — to me he is the glue in the broadcast — keeping things moving — good interviews — and de-coding what Brad Gilbert says when it’s not clear!
    For the ladies – Mary Carillo is entertaining (sorry Bill) and I think Mary Jo Fernandez has improved a lot this year. Pam Shriver (whom I met in the Wimbledon players lounge back in the mid-80s) made you feel part of the crowd especially her sequence at “Henman Hill” when Murray was playing.

  2. George,
    I heard Andre at the US Open and I thought his insights were right on and he could easily move into the announcer booth if he wanted too.

  3. Personally, I like Joel Drucker’s announcing style best. But you have to have a satellite feed from Bangladesh television to hear him…..

    But seriously, I do like John McEnroe’s style. He can be a little like Johnny Miller is in golf. That is, he is not afraid to speak his mind and say something that may be obvious but that other announcers don’t have the guts to say. Like: “So and so really choked on that point.”

    Patrick McEnroe is kind of boring to me. He says all the right things. But to a longtime player and student of the game, he never really surprises me and nev er says anything too controversial. He is kind of like the Wonder Bread of announcers.

    I don’t know why Dick Enberg is so low on your list, George. I absolutely love Dick Enberg’s voice. To me, his is the voice of “Breakfast at Wimbledon.” I don’t care if what he actually says may be more like Patrick McEnroe than John McEnroe. Dick has the voice of “The Championships.”

    Brad Gilbert is a real student of the game. I like to listen to his commentary because I rarely do not learn something from him. If I had the money, I would hire him as my personal tennis coach…..

    I enjoy listening to Mary Carillo — sometimes — but the best word I can find to describe her is pedantic. She seems to be very full of herself a lot. That can get annoying.

    I agree about Cliff Drysdale’s fluff questions/ comments. But having had Cliffy as my coach a number of years at Tennis Fantasies camp, I can state from personal knowledge that this is only the two dimensional side to him. TV is too stifling for Cliff’s real personality to come out. The real (i.e., three dimensional) Cliff is very sarcastic, very glib, and a very clever raconteur. I won’t/ can’t get into any more detail than that, except to say that I wish Cliff were more free to say what he wants on television. He would be a scream….

    Luke Jensen is just plain weird. If I am going to listen to somebody goofy and slightly funny, I prefer his brother, Murphy. But Murph is only available on the Tennis Channel as far as I have found. Oh, well.

    George, I agree with your comments about Darren Cahill and, especially, Jim Courier. I think they are both very knowledgeable about the game and I would like to hear them more on television. Especially, Jim Courier. He seems to have the potential to be even more Johnny Miller-like than John McEnroe. If there are any TV producers/ moguls out there reading this who are tennis players (Kay Koplowitz are you listening???), please, please, please hire Jim Courier to do more announcing. THe guy is a diamond in the rough.

    My $0.02.

    – Marty Judge

  4. The best on the duo Patrick and Cliff is that I have a MUTE button. They are talking all the time, tennis related or not! I agree with Marty that Cliff is extremely smart, and Cliff and Fred were the best team in my opinion. Luke’s commentating in Miami is rediculous. He talkes more about South Beach then tennis. In general commentating on the Tennis Channel is much better.

    Nobody needs to tell us “that was a great shot”! Tennis players can see that, beginner or advanced. SHUT UP during play is the message!!! They should listen to the commentating when Emmo, Fred and Newk played, they can learn a lot from those commentators!


  5. Bob – I agree that Chris Fowler was an oversite… he is a strong part of a good broadcast team. Bud i had tired of Bud Collins a year ago.

    John – I agree! I loved Andre on the court and enjoyed him in the booth.  Did you hear his comment about Boris Becker’s Tongue?
    Marty – Dick Enberg does have the professional voice; and on Cliffy, i am amazed that he doesnt slip once and use the F word on tv!

    Rolf – I used my mute button in the Old Days when Howard Cosell did Monday Night Football!

  6. George, I am also amazed that Cliffy has not F-bombed at least once on TV.

    Were you a Tennis Fantasies camper the year that Cliff went off on somebody — I think it was Fred Stolle — in a minute long harangue spoken in Afrikaans? It was priceless. No one knew anything of what Cliff said, but you could just tell from his body language and facial expression that it could not have been spoken in English.

    Anyway, I have a theory about why Cliff is the master of the fluff question…. That style has been his favorite pick up line all of these years. Is there really that much difference between the question, “Pam, why is topspin a safer shot in tennis than a flat shot,” and the question, “You know, you have the most beautiful blue eyes. They remind me of a flower that grows near Johannesburg”?

  7. My 2 cents;
    Johnny Mac, makes to many refernces to himself and how great he was. I find that annoying. Outside of that, I think he’s the best one. BUT………I really really like Luke Jensen. Unpolished yes, but his energy is INFECTIOUS, it’s what we are going to need to capture the next generation of viewers.

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