Much has been made of the qualities that make up a star tennis player. Determination, drive, killer instinct, and incredible skill are all part of a world number one’s arsenal, but many people don’t talk about one of the most important jobs off the court: that of the commentator.
Without great commentary and insight, most tennis games wouldn’t be as interesting to sit through. The high drama of each point, each rally, and each deuce wouldn’t come across anywhere near as well without someone behind the microphone who really knows what they’re talking about. Here are some of the qualities we think that make up a great tennis commentator.
Love for the game
It should go without saying, but any great tennis commentator should adore the game of tennis in all its forms. No good tennis caster just wants to watch professional-level games; if you live and breathe tennis, you should be just as comfortable watching amateur games as you are watching major Open tournaments.
In an interview with sports betting platform Betway, commentator Andrew Castle said that it was “unbelievable” to return to tennis casting after a prolonged absence due to COVID-19 protocols. Legendary player and commentator John McEnroe reportedly felt the same. That’s the kind of dedication and adoration you need to be a tennis caster.
Insight and analytical skill
Of course, even if you love tennis, that doesn’t mean you know enough about it to be a great commentator. There’s a good reason many of the legends behind the microphone are former players themselves; it’s because they know tennis inside and out, and can analyse players’ performance and the ebb and flow of a game effortlessly.
Next time you watch a tennis game, pay attention to the way the commentators remark on the game. You’ll notice that they aren’t just discussing the score or each play in a banal sense. They’re always looking for what each point means, how players’ performances are changing, and how the overall game is being impacted.
A flair for drama
Even with incredible tennis knowledge and analytical skill, it’s important to have a flair for drama when you’re behind the microphone. Tennis games can be dramatic, especially when the score is close; straight sets are one thing, but deuce after deuce requires an understanding of just how tense the situation is.
There’s a difference, though, between a flair for drama and overstating the case. Tennis isn’t a contact sport and it’s not as constant as something like football; there are regular breaks between points, games, and sets, so you also need to know when to back off and let the game state speak for itself.
A thick skin
As a sports personality, a commentator is going to come under fire regularly for their perceived commentating style. There are many fans who don’t like particular commentators, and while the reasons for this can sometimes mask uglier truths, personalities clash, and that’s a fact of life.
If you’re going to be a sports commentator, you’re going to need a thick skin to weather the storm of criticism you’ll inevitably receive over the course of your career. Don’t let constant comments about your presenting style bother you; just accept that you are who you are, and nothing can change that.
Everyone has their favourite player, but rooting for Murray, Djokovic, or Raducanu while you’re commentating is a big no-no. Even if your nationality corresponds to the player you’re supporting, a commentator should remain completely impartial and simply comment on the game as it happens.
This is true in other sports as well, but it’s especially true in tennis, where nationality often plays second fiddle to individual personalities. As a tennis commentator, the drama of the game and the skill with which it’s played should be the most appealing aspects to you. Your personal opinion about players shouldn’t enter into the equation.
A head for statistics
Tennis games can be enhanced to no end by knowledge of the statistics in the background of the game. For example, if two players are facing off against one another, you should know their prior match history, their current standing in the world rankings, and what the outcome of the game could mean for each player.
Of course, nobody expects you to be an encyclopedia, but the more knowledge you have, the better you’ll be at your job. This means you should study the world of tennis outside of the games themselves in order to shore up your knowledge and be better-prepared for each individual match.
A good voice
Unfortunately, this aspect of tennis commentary is something you can’t really control. If you want to be a well-loved commentator, you’re going to need a voice that’s as smooth as honey. People should want to listen to you talk for protracted periods of time, so if your voice isn’t aesthetically pleasing, you might not get very far.
We say that you can’t control this element of your personality, and to a certain extent that’s true, but there are voice coaching services available that should help if you’re worried. These lessons can help you with diction, delivery, and tone, and while they won’t change the fundamental timbre of your voice, they will go a long way towards making your commentary style feel more professional.
These are just some of the qualities that go towards making a great tennis commentator. Of course, there’s much more to it than just this; there’s an indefinable quality that great commentators have. Still, if you put the work in and believe that you’re a great commentator, you’re bound to achieve success!