For the most part I think Eurosport do a fairly good job with tennis; they’ve covered the Australian Open incredibly well for many years now, their Roland Garros coverage isn’t too bad either, and this year they’ve expanded into taking full exclusive US Open coverage in the UK following Sky not renewing their rights. That said, as many have probably already noticed just by watching, Eurosport–or at least British Eurosport–has been absolute shambles this time around, especially with their commentary, bias, and what not.
I’m not one to hate on the achievements of the likes of Mats Wilander and John McEnroe. Both are evidently great players and champions, but if you’ve tuned into the US Open you would have most likely have heard the amount of utter nonsense both have said. Before I go into those, I’ll give you a taster of some previous gems from Mats Wilander over the years at Eurosport. “If Roger wins today I’ll die a happy man” during the Roland Garros 2011 semifinal against Djokovic, obviously very disrespectful to the man on a 43-match winning streak. Or how about “Djokovic is just a little bit better than (Andrey) Kuznetsov”. At times the disrespect towards certain players such as Novak Djokovic is evident to see.
As for current examples from this year’s final Major, Wilander claimed “Murray is EASILY the best player in the world at the moment and the most enjoyable to watch”. I’m no genius but I’m pretty sure the best player in the world is the guy ranked #1 and that’s not Andy Murray. Novak Djokovic, who despite a poor Wimbledon and Olympics, has still won two Majors this year and four Masters events (including Toronto, which was not only fairly recent but seemingly forgotten by everyone at Eurosport), is by far the best player in the world. Everything shows this, the difference in ranking points, achievements this year, and so on. But of course, Murray is still easily the best player in the world right now according to him and most of the Eurosport team. I wonder why.
I won’t even go into other examples but I will mention the most laughable: just before Novak Djokovic’s quarter-final match against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, he essentially claimed Tsonga had a chance because he looked like Muhammad Ali. No, I’m not even joking, that was him analysing that match.
Moving onto John McEnroe, his commentary performance during 4th seed Rafael Nadal’s loss to Frenchman Lucas Pouille was abysmal. He felt the need to claim that the whole match was in Nadal’s hands all match long. Whenever Nadal got ahead in the score it was due to him raising his game, and whenever he went behind it was, as you guessed, Nadal’s poor play causing it. To clarify, I’m not saying this wasn’t the case; when it comes to the great players they of course control their own destiny more times than not. However, when someone plays out of their mind such as Pouille did, they deserve credit for it.
To make matters worse, this whole US Open he has spoken throughout matches non-stop and tennis fans have rightfully called him out. Commentators talking outside of points consistently is bad enough, but he’s been talking during points just as often. In the Nadal/Pouille match I just previously mentioned this was also a huge issue. He would talk so much that he was the only one talking for lengthy periods of time while his fellow commentators didn’t say a word. He even felt the need to talk during points about irrelevant stuff such as towels too. Make of that what you must.
— Diana Wallace (@wallace_diana) September 7, 2016
In fact, in the third set with Pouille leading 2-1 McEnroe claimed the Frenchman to be “lucky” to be a break up despite the 14-time Grand Slam champion having just narrowly avoided going down a double break. Just when you think it couldn’t get any more laughable, after the match they started fawning over Pouille. A bit late and if anything ridiculously classless if you ask me.
What about the pair combined? Well, during Andy Murray’s loss to Kei Nishikori Wednesday night, McEnroe was in commentary for the most part with Wilander as the on court-analyst. Throughout the match they both claimed that the British #1 would win as if it was with 100% certainty, not showing respect to his Japanese opponent–similar to in Nadal vs Pouille. I understand they both wanted Murray to win and are commentating for a huge British audience, but once again there is a limit and they go beyond it.
It’s not only them on Eurosport that are the problem. Before Murray’s second round match against Marcel Granollers, other commentators felt the need to pretty much consistently tell viewers that “Murray is next on court”. After a while I think we all understood that Murray was next on in fact I’m pretty sure that people who don’t even understand English would have figured it out rather quickly. But of course they kept saying it again and again.
My personal favourite, however, is from after Andy Murray’s loss. Annabel Croft claimed Murray lost because he was tired. Let me get this straight. These analysts claim Murray has amazing fitness, he just beat Grigor Dimitrov dropping 5 games in his last round playing “one of the best matches of his career,” but somehow in what was a five-set match with a few quick one-sided sets against a man he had a 7-1 H2H against he got tired. I’m not sure I buy it; I mean you don’t win three Slams and get tired in a match like that, given he won his previous rounds comfortably for the most part. But it just sums up Eurosport’s whole US Open.
Overall Eurosport has just been outright bad during their first time with exclusive US Open coverage. Their commentary has been disrespectful and annoying with so much nonsense being shared. It’s been simply terrible to watch as a fan to put it mildly. If anything we must just hope that during the last four days of the US Open they somehow redeem themselves. With Murray out of the picture they’ll surely improve at least a little and I guess that is better than nothing.