All the WTT announcers agree that once the terminology and league's scoring system are mastered, the biggest problem is keeping up with the action. Often a winning shot is getting a big crowd reaction while the broadcaster is still a lob and an overhead behind.
"The important thing is to make sure you get the winning shot," says Lee. "You have to develop the knack of jumping ahead, getting the point called and then coming back to fill in. If you're still calling it and the crowd is going crazy, right then the listener is going to say, 'Hey, I know he didn't do it right.' "
The broadcasts involve more than just backhands and forehands. KNBR offers tennis tips, KGIL has a mike on the Strings' bench and gets midgame comments from the likes of Val Ziegenfuss, and Cleveland's Giltinan on WWWE gives the kind of insights only a team member could provide. One time the Gaters' Tom Okker was kicked off the court by the referee, went up to the radio booth and proceeded to sail paper airplanes at the official while doing color commentary.
As String fans found out recently, all of this does not mean that tennis will become a staple on radio. L.A. was leading Cleveland 24-18 in the final set when Shackelford had to sign off at 10 p.m. because of a program commitment by KGIL. Instead of Shack's calm voice describing cross-court winners, the tennis buffs out there in Radioland suddenly found themselves listening to a program in Cantonese.