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TNT doesn’t know tennis

Believe it or not, I love tennis. While many people find the silence and dignity of the game just a little on the stodgy side, I think that tennis is a sport full of colorful athletes, a lot of strategy and a dash of luck.

With anticipation, I look forward to the major tournaments every year. Although my internal clock does not allow me to stay up and watch ESPN in January when the Australian Open is on, I was glued to ESPN2 for the French Open last month, and I love the prestige of Wimbledon. Of course, the U.S. Open is my absolute favorite, but we still have two months to wait for that.

Watching Wimbledon, with the worn, green grass of the All England Club I turned my TV to TNT and settled in to watch the first week of the fortnight. I had my doubts about TNT from the start. How well would the network that “knows drama” cover a sporting event of Wimbledon’s caliber? I was right to be concerned.

I can handle Rod Laver and Patrick McEnroe on ESPN; I love John McEnroe and Ted Robinson on USA Network, but I draw the line at Marv Albert. His kinky past aside, the voice of NBA games grates on my last nerve when he’s calling games and aces on the tennis court. And to sting my already bleeding ears, TNT hired Jim Courier to add expert tennis analysis. I loved Courier as a player, when he played to his potential and won, but as a commentator his off-color comments about the state of the women’s game and his analysis are flawed.

It’s a toss up, however, between hanging Courier up by his thumbs or Mary Carillo and Martina Navratilova. While Martina was a fiery player, her commentary and analysis alongside Carillo border on biased. The most glaring offense was a match last week in which Kim Clijsters was in trouble. The No. 1 men’s seed, Lleyton Hewitt, and Clijster’s boyfriend, was wrapping up a fairly routine win, when Carillo commented that he should come over and help “the little woman out.” I’m sorry, what century are we in?

And, unfortunately, the players aren’t helping matters any. Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi losing in the first week definitely affected how much time I set aside to watch the rest of the tournament. I don’t so much care about Pete, his game is old and dried up, but I mean, without Andre, what’s the point? I had hopes on Friday that Andy Roddick, the 19-year-old American hothead, who reminds me of Anakin Skywalker, would breathe life back into the men’s side, but he let his opponent, Greg Rusedski, England’s adopted son, psych him out of the match. Now, the only excitement comes from Tim Henman, England’s perennial bridesmaid. And, although I like the guy, his game is about as exciting as watching paint dry.

As I suspected a week ago, the real excitement of the tennis season will come at the end of August when tennis’ elite descends on New York City, and the U.S. Open begins. The thrill of the Open is definitely aided by the bustle of New York, but with John McEnroe in the booth, exclaiming, “You have got to be kidding me,” it just feels more like Game 7 of the World Series. Plus, USA knows how to cover the sport. Maybe TNT should stick with fictional drama and leave the drama of real-life sports to experts.