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September 06, 2011

Women's Tennis Deserves Better TV Commentators

Tennis is the only sport I know of where you can tune in to watch a match and spend the entire time hearing the players you wanted to watch being ridiculed. 

Certainly, TV announcers and commentators are often critical of play during NFL or NBA games. But the majority of the time is spent describing the play, and highlighting outstanding examples. 

Not women's pro tennis. 

Announcers for tennis, in general, are pretty poor, below the standards of other sports. Still, there are a handful of good, male announcers. Darren Cahill is excellent. Jimmy Arias and Jim Courier are both quite good and, if you can put up with his peculair personality, Brad Gilbert can be fun. 

But on the women's side, only Martina Navriltova is decent. Sue Barker is good, but we rarely get to hear her. The rest of the women announcers actively detract from enjoyment of the match and, ironically, don't seem to like their own sport. Chris Evert, Pam Shriver, Mary Jo Fernandez all are net negatives for WTA tennis. 

If Chris Evert broadcast a World Series baseball game, she'd describe a grand slam home run as a lousy pitch, the glass being invariably half empty.

There is a long tradition of critical analysis -- theatre and opera critics can be extradonarily harsh (it's said opera critics believe everything is gold or merde with nothing in between).

But you don't have to listen to their critiques while you're watching the play or the opera. 

The constant negatively ruins womens tennis for viewers -- and it misses much of what makes womens tennis so entertaining. Ironically, the male announcers are often extremely positive during WTA matches only to have their female peers put down their complements. 

Lindsay Davenport, French Open For the last year, Lindsay Davenport has told anyone with the audacity to watch a WTA match, that:

1) the match isn't worth watching because Serena Williams isn't there {that has been her main point of discussion no matter what is happening on the court or who is playing, or whether that has any relevance at all to the current match -- for an entire year}

2) the players are truly lousy because they don't hit the ball hard enough or play aggressively enough, and

3) the player that hits the ball harder always dicates play and will win if she doesn't make mistakes. 

The last criticism, repeated by most female announcers, seems particularly strange. You never hear commentators during a men's match say, "John Isner hits harder than Novak Djokovic so Isner will dictate play and win if he simply doesn't make errors." Or, "Robin Soderling hits harder so he'll beat Roger Federer if doesn't mess up." So, why do you hear this during virtually every womens match? 

Tennis is about more than power. There is so much about WTA play to appreciate: Finesse, tactics, shot making, tenacity, the diversity of styles, taking a risk on big points (or not). 

When the ex-player female announcers tell us that all that matters is power, they are unintentionally telling us that their own sport isn't worth watching. Afterall, if the only thing you care about is power, then you wouldn't watch a single womens match since the men hit much harder. 

Perhaps, if these announcers spent less time talking and more time watching, they'd learn to appreciate their own sport. 

I know I do, when I can block out their torrents of negativity.

 

Reader Comments

I am totally disappointed in the commentators that were selected to cover the Sam Stosur/Maria Sharapove quarter final at the Tora Pan Pacific match. During a singles match there are always 2 players on court although you would not have realised this during this match. Come on, give every player coverage not just those that you as commentators think should win. What a surprise it must have been for you both when Sam Stosur won the match. Congratulations to Sam Stosur.

I want to know why the only announcer who pronounces Kvitova's name properly is Martina Navratilova, who pronounces it Kveetova. EVERYBODY else copies each other, saying "Ka-vit-iva". Where do they get that extra false syllable "Ka"? Come on! Let's all practice together: "Kveet-o-va".

Of course, as long as she is winning, I suppose it isn't so important to her.

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