Sunday, August 15, 1999

SPORTS ON TV-RADIO


McEnroe an ace in the booth

BY JOHN FAY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Patrick McEnroe's training to be a big-time tennis broadcaster began at age 11.

        “I've always been fairly comfortable talking in public,” McEnroe said. “I've been doing it since I was 11, talking about my brother.”

        McEnroe's brother, of course, is John, one of the greatest tennis players of the all-time. John is also one of the best tennis commentator working today.

        And while Patrick never emerged from John's shadow as a player, he has carved a nice niche as a broadcaster. In fact, he's John's equal — different by equally as good. Patrick's been in Mason, doing the Thriftway ATP Championship for ESPN. (The finals air today at 5:30 p.m. on a tape delay).

        Patrick is everything you want in a broadcaster: He's smooth, knowledgeable, and he doesn't take the game over seriously. He's did both color and play-by-play this week and handle each equally as well. For the finals, he'll serve as the analyst with Cliff Drysdale.

        “He's insightful, relaxed, humorous,” Drysdale said. “He has a very good feel for the game. I think he's a good complementary partner for me. We enjoy ourselves very much.”

        McEnroe ended up at ESPN by happenstance. A bad shoulder put his playing career on hold in 1996.

        “They had me up in booth a few times while I was hurt,” he said. “It came naturally.”

        When the shoulder forced him to retire in 1998, ESPN hired him “full-time, part-time.”

        “I enjoy it,” he said. “It's a good transition out of playing. I love tennis. This keeps around the game.”

        McEnroe's style as a broadcaster is as different from his brother's as their playing style was. John is brutally frank. Part of the fun of listening to him is you never know what he might say or who he might rip next.

        “He's great,” Patrick said. “He tells it like it is. He's good for the game. Obviously, he knows tennis. But that's his personality. I don't try to be like him, and he doesn't try to be like me.”

        “We come at it from different perspectives. He was a great champion. I was a grinder, a successful pro, but nowhere near his level.”

        Patrick's strength is his knowledge of the current players. He was on t he tour so recently that many of the players are his contempories. He also has a great feel for nuances of the game.

        Because of that Patrick can bring the game to the level of a club player. When he breaks down Pete Sampras' serve, he does it in a way that might help you when you play your buddy at the club.

        “I had to work at the game to win,” he said. “I was good at strategy. This isn't a brainless pursuit. I like to talk about the thought process players are going through.”

        McEnroe's style is conversational, as if he and Drysdale were sitting around talking about the tennis match among themselves.

        “We're talking to the viewers obviously,” Drysdale said. “We try to talk in a way that's imformative and interesting, but we want to conversational, not too frenetic.”

        McEnroe explains the game in simple terms, but he sees things that the avergae fan might not pick up.

        “I try to talk about things that any club player can relate to,” he said.

        XAVIER HOOPS: Channel 64 is interested in having Dave Ashbrock produce its Xavier broadcasts.

        Ashbrock is the long-time producer of University of Cincinnati games on Channel 19. Ashbrock does an excellent job on UC and would do a great job on Xavier as well.

        Ashbrock had no comment.

        Bill Pulliam, general manager of Channel 64, said he hopes to have a decision this week.

       



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