Top Tennis Commentators

ESPN

Its that time again, when most of the known world sits behind the tube, on their favorite couch, sporting their favorite beverage, chip crumbs strewn across their lap, ready to watch their favorite players battle it out in the final slam of the year, yes, you guessed it, its US OPEN time!  New York, the Big Apple, bright lights, city streets, and electricity abuzz, there really is nothing like the final major of the year, hosting the biggest stadium in the world, named after possibly the sport’s greatest ambassador ever, Arthur Ashe.

In these decadent times of economic slumber, people still need their fix of quality tennis but live action viewing seems reserved for the few unscathed pocket books, while the many depend on that blue screen in the living room to emit their pleasures and quench their US Open thirst.

All the talk and buzz circling the favorites to make the finals and revel in tennis glory hound the media in all forms, and monopolize most of the conversations surrounding this year’s final slam, but does anybody talk about who is presenting this information? I would like to. Who do you think are the top broadcasters in the business?

Tennis fans are pretty savvy and range in the above average intelligentsia range, and perhaps can be a bit snooty by nature. My girlfriend flings that term at me often, and I can’t necessarily deny it too much. We are a pretty demanding bunch, and the hardcore are very astute to the game and conditions that constitute quality play and format. The middle men, and women, are the difference between a fine Cabernet and a flat diet soda to accompany the main dish. Whether it’s the ultra chatty John McEnroe who seems to me an elitist impresario rather than an objective commentator, or the South African Sultan of Snoot, Clifford Drysdale, who characterizes the term “comedy of errors,” I think it more than appropriate to list of the top contenders for best commentator.

ESPN Broadcast

First thing first, before we get going on the best of the best, I have to say that Chris Fowler should be tarred, feathered, and thrown in the Hudson immediately. I don’t know who thought this guy should be the anchor of tennis for ESPN but his termination is long overdue. The steely chinned, slickly dressed, creepy eyed Fowler, who has never played the game professionally and maybe even recreationally, teeters back and forth between irrelevant commentating on player acumen, to really bad bantering between himself and Brad Gilbert. He continually undermines and questions the real authorities of tennis and rarely has any substantial evidence to back his claims.

He is just plain FOUL, and needs to go. He’s the type of guy that would shake your hand with added pressure to compensate for a fragile ego and a lackluster libido. He probably skins kittens for pleasure, and cheats his mom in poker. Bye Bye Birdie, see ya Fowler!

What about Pam Shriver? Is there anybody else out there who sees this woman as a beady eyed executioner rather than a competent commentator? She conducts herself with zero composure and takes it as a sign of bravado and class to speak your mind, no matter how smelly the stuff coming out is. James Blake, who is known for his sportsmanship and mannerly demeanor, scoffed at Shriver, as was his right, at Wimbledon this year, when the snarling Shriver decided to have an outloud conversation with herself courtside distracting Blake in a big match, which he eventually lost, albeit not entirely Shriver’s fault, she certainly played an integral role.

I think Gilbert is funny, and usually knows what he’s talking about, although he can be overboard. He does add a much needed spunk to the booth. Cahill, the Australian Mummy, always looks confused and nervous, although he is very knowledgeable; he possesses this overwrought persona of a nerd with no personality. He looks like he needs sleep. Or perhaps a polo mallet to the head.

The only people in my mind who know what they’re doing, and supply an ample balance of silence and talking are the European commentators for Tennis Channel. Jason Goodall, Robbie Koenig, and Doug Addler, are the best of the best. They’re commentating is fresh, insightful, spot on, and more than often compliments the match severity perfectly with little side comments and just the right amount of humor and wit. They are my top three, with Addler taking the top spot.

Navratilova is great as well. She brings a candidness and professionalism to the booth that is sorely missing from other pros, McEnroe especially. Carillo needs to go home and decide what gender she is and call me in the morning.

What is absolutely needed in the booth for ESPN is Jim Courier and Andre Agassi. Agassi commentated just one time in the history of broadcasting and it was a US Open match between Federer and Roddick a few years back and he was a pied prophet of articulation and spoke with so much wisdom and honesty about the players and the game, especially Federer. It was amazing to listen to and enhanced the match that much. I personally feel he may be a better broadcaster than a player. Courier is extremely intelligent, a former world number one, and knows the players and the game inside out. He can tactically break down a match like no other and uses a very dynamic vernacular to communicate that.

How sweet would it be if Agassi and Federer became broadcast partners one day? Rafa and Fed? Give me your picks folks. And please, don’t say Dick Enberg.

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