The Best TV Commentators in Tennis

Jeff Cohn@jeff_cohnCorrespondent IIIJuly 26, 2011

The Best TV Commentators in Tennis

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    Some tennis matches can be very boring, especially if the commentators bring nothing to the table.

    But they can also be made fun and entertaining by great analysis and comments about the players and the match.

    Many of the great commentators have played professional tennis as a previous career, but it does not necessarily matter if the person was that good as a player.

    Here is a list of the best tennis commentators who are still currently broadcasting for television networks.

Justin Gimelstob

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    The way Gimelstob talks is easily understandable by the people and makes the most sense to non-tennis fans.

    He breaks down many players' games effectively and is a great representative of all American players.

    Gimelstob wasn't the best player in his day, but he is one of the best supporters of tennis today, which makes up for his lack of a major impact as an athlete.

    It is always fun to see him and Andy Roddick crack jokes at each other and to watch him discuss strategic outlooks on matches. His personality livens up all matches.

Martina Navratilova

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    The major networks usually feature men, but Navratilova was and will always be one of the brightest thinkers in tennis.

    Perhaps the greatest female player of all time, she improvised well and executed game plans to near-perfection. She eventually retired and is now carrying out the same characteristics in commentary for the sport.

    The best part about her is that she recognizes hidden talents in fairly unknown players—particularly the recognition of when to approach the net and how to outmaneuver the opponent. She sympathizes with great players who have not quite made their mark yet, most likely since she was once that person before she evolved into a new level of greatness.

    Many commentators do not root for or even compliment the underdogs, but Navratilova appreciates them. She breaks down strokes and talents like no one else is capable of doing.

Dishonorable Mention: Cliff Drysdale

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    I used to appreciate this man for his wonderful accent, but I have lost nearly all respect for him.

    Almost everything he says is just a reiteration (stuttering included) of what the current scoreline is. If it isn't that, it is him "analyzing" players' strokes in slow motion, where he seems to make up many facts about the given dynamics.

    Novak Djokovic had praised Drysdale during a Wimbledon interview earlier this year for "breaking down his game so well," but everybody knows the No. 1 player in the world loves to joke around.

Darren Cahill

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    Darren Cahill has been a great speaker for the game over the years, even while balancing his job as a coach for certain players.

    He gets straight to the point and does not waste time restating facts (although he does enjoy discussing past results of players on occasion). Another reason why he is important as a commentator is because he is very involved with the players and shares the conversations he has with them with the viewers at home.

    He may display simpleness on certain days, but sometimes that is the best way to let the crowd enjoy the match.

John McEnroe

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    You cannot be serious! But he happens to be when he speaks about today's tennis players.

    He knows the game very well—not just from experience but from knowledge.

    Johnny Mac appreciates and accepts the way the game has changed since his era. He acknowledges the great movers and base-liners of today's game. But he is also usually found suggesting that players move in to the net, which is characteristic of the way he played.

    As nutty as he was playing on the court, he is shockingly very calm and normal in the booth.

Dishonorable Mention: Bud Collins

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    This man's outrageous outfits are indicative of the way he speaks about tennis.

    He claims to be a "tennis historian," but the only truth I find in that is that he has lived through nearly the entire history of tennis.

    He offers no insight, and the only time I was ever amused by him was when he revealed a fun fact about tennis that was unknown to me—anybody can just read off trivia, though.

    I still cannot believe Bud Collins was ever hired by a network to commentate for tennis—and he worked for over 35 years on top of that.

    I am happy that he is no longer a main commentator, and I will definitely not be reading any of his books in my lifetime.

Brad Gilbert

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    He may fist-bump with players after interviews, crack jokes about anything and make nicknames for every athlete, but he is by far the greatest commentator for tennis, in my opinion.

    He says what everybody else is afraid to say, and he adds an interesting flavor to it as well.

    Gilbert breaks down players' abilities and suggests possible working strategies for them to win their matches (unfortunately for them, they cannot hear him during a match).

    His humor adds vibrancy to a typically dull television set, and his personality amuses all the time, even if he sometimes seems to cross the line (although I enjoy it).

    The only bad part about watching him talk is how often he moves his hands around—but this is an essential technique for being a television spokesperson, and I have even grown to like it.

    It sure is nice to have Gilbert talk about tennis instead of Collins (see previous slide). Gilbert is somebody the game of tennis needs.


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