crossing the line

mulligan, 27 January 2005, Comments Off on crossing the line
Categories: Uncategorized

Today, I have to cross the line — over into the tennis world. The reason: I am so peeved by the utterly pathetic and biased commentating of Mary Carillo and Dick Enberg at yesterday’s match at the Australian Open between No. 4 Maria Sharapova and No. 7 Serena Williams. It reminded me of 2 things: (1) how easy it is for TV commentators to “pile on” athletes when they’re down (just as they did with Tiger) and (2) how much better golf commentary is than tennis.

So here’s what happened yesterday, if you missed it. Serena pulled out a gutsy 3-set victory over the rising star Sharapova, (2-6, 7-5, 8-6), which included staving off 3 match points.

But the real story was how biased Mary Carillo was. If you didn’t know better, you would have thought Carillo was in love with Sharapova, with all the gushy praise she heaped on Sharapova. From the beginning of the match, she emphasized how technically sound Sharapova’s form was – from all strokes. But that wasn’t enough: Carillo then proceeded to criticize Serena’s forehand and serve as being “bad” — that was her exact word. She also spent about 5 minutes goading her sidekick Dick Enberg and then Pam Shriver to agree with her that Serena’s skills are in “decline.” She also suggested that Serena should be looking at videotape of her own self, to see how much work she needs. And then Carillo gushed about how great Sharapova’s game was, with inane “oohs” and “aahs” from Enberg after her shots.

Of course, it was easy to say all this when Serena was losing the 1st set pretty badly (2-6). But is it fair? I don’t think so. Serena is a Grand Slam champion and former No. 1 in the world. Because of injuries and the murder of her half-sister, she hasn’t been at the top of her game lately. What really crossed the line was Carillo’s constant praise for Sharapova and criticism of Serena. It continued all throughout the match. Only begrudgingly did Carillo say something good about Serena’s forehand or serve, after she had laced several winning shots past Sharapova at key moments in the match.

But, at the end, after Serena had just beaten Sharapova, Carillo even had the audacity to say something along these lines: “I think Sharapova is still the better player.” Not even the sharp-tongued Johnny Miller would ever say something as biased as that. Someone needs to tell Carillo that the commentator’s role is NOT to pick who the “better” players are — the match determines that.

UPDATE: I corrected an error: the lifetime record between Serena and Maria is now 2-2; Maria had won the last two. Here’s an excellent article from Australia about Serena’s mettle.


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