BEST SPORTS ANNOUNCERS – PART 3: Tennis

Tennis is a sport that I have frequently played and passionately loved. For following it on a professional level, I am very thankful that ESPN has taken over coverage of so many tournaments. No tape-delays, additional courts broadcasted thanks to ESPN3 and respectful coverage are a few of the reasons why tennis fans should be happy their sport is prominently featured on ESPN. That’s not to say it’s all peachy as I get annoyed with some things like their announcer pairing musical chairs and occasionally the direction and delivery of Chris McKendry as Studio Host. With the fan-less US Open ongoing, here’s a likes/dislikes from the broadcast booth:

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Favorite Play by Play

  1. Cliff Drysdale (ESPN) – Cliff was the voice of ESPN Tennis in the 20th Century, so when the network started acquiring the majors in the 2000s, you would assume that Cliff would be the lead in the #1 spot. Nope. Big whig Chris Fowler comes marching in with zero experience, relegating Drysdale to non-premier match duties. Not only is it unfair to a long-standing, dedicated employee, but he is also by far the best voice. Calling tennis is unlike any other sport and Cliffy does it so well with succinct information and timely “oohhh’s” for big shots. He is a gentleman and a master in the booth.
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  2. Ted Robinson (NBC) – His role has dwindled since NBC only has the French and he no longer is on Tennis Channel. Still, a long time voice that did fairly well. My lone complaint is how frequently he’ll stray towards general conversation as opposed to focusing on what is in front of him.
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  3. Jason Goddall (ESPN) – A newer voice that has done pretty well. He is a natural who slides into matches well.

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Favorite Analyst

  1. Darren Cahill (ESPN) – Phenomenal all-around and does not get enough credit. His analysis and insight is always spot on and that goes with a personality that makes him a joy to listen to. He works fine in the courtside “BG” role, but is even better in the booth.
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  2. John McEnroe (ESPN/NBC) – It is incredible that he is the voice I have heard at nearly every Wimbledon, French and US Open Final for my sports-knowing life. There will be a huge void when he is gone, which will hopefully not be for awhile. Who knew this would be his most famous post-playing role. John can often stray from the action, but he is an entertaining listen.
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  3. Chris Evert (ESPN) – I was happy to hear her in recent years as she is so smooth with her description of the players and the action. She brings a level of class to the booth.

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Dislikes

  1. Pam Shriver (ESPN) – Not too many people make me cringe at the sound of their voice, but she is one of them. In addition to sounding shrill, she is an incredibly annoying person and adds zero value. Remember this disgraceful display when she loudly yapped during a James Blake match at Wimbledon? (go to 4:15)
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  2. Tom Rinaldi (ESPN) – So easy to mimic a Rinaldi interview…”Roger….(fake smile)…..what a match…..(fake smile)…..tell me how it feels right now”. That’s usually followed up a couple more generic statements and questions. I’d honestly feel creeped out if Tom ever approached me.
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  3. Mary Carillo (NBC) – My wife refers to her as “The Toilet Lady” because of a piece she did on toilets during the Olympics. She doesn’t elicit the strong feelings that I have for the other two, but still she’s not great for tennis coverage.

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