Jon Wertheim is happy with today's roster of tennis broadcasters.
Chris Lewis reveals his All-Star team of golf announcers.
Best of the Rest
Richard Deitsch fills us in on the top announcers from a variety of sports.
Let's say this off the top: for all that ails tennis, the quality of commentary isn't high on the list. Be it on the main networks, ESPN, or the ever-improving Tennis Channel, the folks in the booth tend to be a competent bunch with a nice mix of styles. Tennis' vox populi moan about the choice of matches that are covered and the erratic hours of telecasts. But critiques about the commentators are fairly muted.
My pet peeve: The persistent myth about tennis is that it's a gentlemen's past-time, a precious, genteel exercise. Golf with more sweat and less walking. The truth is that tennis is a vicious, arduous, gladatorial sport, the object of which is the break down your opponent. Its closest analogy is boxing: two competitors in a confined space with no teammates to help pick up the slack. The winner exults. The loser is left to nurse wounds that, while not black-and-blue, often run deep.
It is the rare tennis announcer who captures the mano-a-mano component of a match. The thrust and parry. The subtle momentum shifts, the psychological warfare. Some commentators don't get beyond forehands and backhands. Others giggle and gossip and prattle as though they're at a quilting bee. The best ones know when to inform the viewer but also know when the action speaks for itself. The best ones are journalists, who know about the players' backstories and personal demons and can convey them in a way relevant to the match at hand. The best wear flowery pants.
Gianni Clerici and Rino Tomassi, two irrepressible Italians, could top our list of favorites. But limiting this to American announcers, here is our starting five:
MY TOP ANNOUNCERS
1. Jim Courier: Far and away, the best of the former players. Courier, a four-time Grand Slam champion, is insightful, articulate, thoughtful and knows when to get out of the way. Though he is only a few years removed from playing, he is honest and forthright and isn't afraid to step on toes. It's just a shame we don't get more of him.
2. John McEnroe: Yes, he cleaves public opinion. Yes, he is disrespectful of lower-ranked players and too quick to criticize the sport. Yes, his lobbying for the nonexistent post of "tennis commissioner" is, at once, annoying and absurd. But on balance, we'll take Johnny Mac over almost anyone. As was the case when he played, he mixes genius with unpredictability. He has a singular gift for making the most lopsided blowout entertaining.
3. Mary Carillo: Too often tennis booths are awash with the kinds of conflicts of interests that would never be permitted in other sports. Tournament owners commentate on their events. Davis Cup captains commentate on their players. Carillo comes without strings. And it shows. She pries. She divulges insider info. She sugarcoats nothing. Plus she is wickedly funny. The highest compliment: time and again, folks are surprised to learn she was a former player.
4. Pat McEnroe: He ought to recuse himself from commentating on matches involving American Davis Cup players. But otherwise, The Captain is thoroughly competent and has a nice eye for subtlety. He also acquits himself well in the studio.
5. Bud Collins: In this era of style-over-substance, Collins' on-air presence has diminished. And the sport is immeasurably worse for it. You will not find a more erudite historian, a more worldly journalist, a more gifted wordsmith. And we miss that involuntary spasm of "Let-Court!"
FIVE GUYS I'D LIKE TO SEE IN THE BOOTH
1. Ted Robinson: Full-time. Calm and prepared and an ideal straight man for McEnroe. We love him at the Open and then he disappears for months.
2. Kevin Harlan: Roddick lines up the passing and -- LOOK OUT FOR DEAR LIFE! -- the ball whistles past Henman.
3. Michelle Tafoya: Tennis is the rare sport that could stand to use more sideline reporting.
4. Snoop Dogg: We still can't get this exchange out of our head:
Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch: What sport would we be surprised to know you like?
Snoop: Tennis. I used to like Ivan Lendl. He was sharp. An old schooler. Make it happen and roll out. Now I like Venus and Serena, but Ivan was the truth.
5. Charles Barkley: We give him a day at a tournament and we can hear already it: "All's y'all's nuts!"
React: Masters of the Mic -- Tennis
Sports Illustrated senior writer Jon Wertheim covers tennis for the magazine and is a regular contributor to SI.com.