CBS and Tennis Channel analyst Mary Carillo is a New Yorker—OK, well yes, she now lives in Naples, Florida, but she is proud of growing up in Douglaston, Queens just like her buddy John McEnroe. Also, she is proud of starting off her broadcasting career in the Big Apple working for the USA Network, PBS and the Madison Square Garden Network before moving on to ESPN and CBS.
We know Carillo as a brilliant tennis analyst as well one of the smartest and most versatile broadcasters in the business. Some forget her tennis career; as a matter of fact, few people know that the mixed doubles team of Carillo and McEnroe took home the 1977 French Open Championship.
So, as she does double duty at the U.S. Open working for both the Tennis Channel and CBS, we talked about New York. How the U.S. Open and the city are made for each other, and how, in many ways, they draw energy from each other.
JW: How is the U.S. Open and New York alike?
Carillo: They are both demanding. The Open is the final major of the year, and players come here after a long season. They are banged up, tired and ready to close things out for the summer. They want to win the Open title but in some cases their bodies and their will just aren’t up to it. New York and the crowds that come to the Billie Jean King Tennis facility demand that players give them their best performances.
You can see the players summon up and draw strength from the crowds, digging down deep, to play with the last bit of energy they have in their tanks. You either are equal to the task or you aren’t—and if not—then losing in New York can be tough.
JW: Is playing at the Open too demanding for some?
Carillo: Absolutely, for many it is. Even for some of the best in the world. Look at a brilliant player like Bjorn Borg, considered by many to be one of the greatest tennis players of all time. He had 11 Grand Slam titles. He was never able to win in New York; he wasn’t comfortable, and despite being a world class talent, he simply could not win a U.S. Open title. We have seen some players break through, like Rafael Nadal and the defending champion Novak Djokovic, making their marks here as champions, while guys like Andre Agassi got his win late in his career.
JW: What else is unique?
Carillo: The movement on the grounds at the tennis center. There is the New York style hustle and bustle as fans move from court to court. There is the same type of hustle and bustle for the players as they go from their hotels in Manhattan out to the tennis center in Queens. They face the same traffic as other New Yorkers. But the players love the crowds, the fans love the players and everyone enjoys being part of the U.S. Open and coming to New York.
All quotes used in this story were obtained first hand via a phone conference call done last week through CBS Sports.