Thursday, 28 June 2012

Wimblemund 2012: day 4

Anyone who has been watching the European Championship football this summer will be aware that the TV coverage of the game in Britain is increasingly blighted by its presenters and commentators. You can read a pretty succinct summary of the key issues here.

So Wimbledon running concurrently is a good time to celebrate the quality of the commentary teams on televised tennis in the UK.

The 'lead' commentators are yet to succumb to the dread of silence (or letting the action do the talking) that seems to afflict their football covering contemporaries, let alone the HORROR of thinking they've become personality in their own right. Meanwhile, the 'colour' commentators, the ex-professional players, are unobtrusive and analytical, offering technical insight and analysis.

Obviously, there are exceptions. A number of the American broadcasters are considerably more notable for being walls of sound, particularly John McEnroe, who treats the microphone like a particularly talkative churchwarden doing the public address at the village fete. Boris Becker can sometimes give enough information as to other sporting events that have been or will be on the BBC as to make the continuity announcers redundant. And Andrew Castle's forays as a GMTV presenter give his commentaries the terrifying feeling that he may be about to throw to an outside broadcast with Cheggers at any moment - although this is hardly his fault.

On the whole, though, tennis fans are particularly lucky. Voices such as David Mercer, Andrew Cotter, Mark Petchey, Sam Smith, Jo Durie, Tim Henman, Greg Rusedski, Peter Fleming and the great Barry Davies are all consistently authoritative and informative without ever being obtrusive or at odds with the viewer's enjoyment of the game itself. And in John Inverdale, the BBC can boast perhaps the finest sports television anchorman in Britain today.

It's all a far cry from my dream last night, where Andrew Castle accidentally says "bollocks" during coverage of today's second round match between Andy Murray and Ivo Karlovic. Castle apologised immediately, as one would expect from a professional broadcaster. However, Tim Henman was rather more reluctant to do so a few minutes later when he referred to the Scot as a "shithead".

It was a classic piece of commentary, but more importantly a timely reminder that - at the moment at least - disastrous, annoying or ghastly tennis commentaries luckily still only exist in theory, or in the imagination of idiots. Hello.

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