Wimbledon Almanack: Do adjust your sets

JOHN McEnroe will be back on Centre Court at Wimbledon this year. But referees need not invest in ear-plugs: his comments will be reserved for the viewers of NBC television. McEnroe will be commentating in NBC's little box on Centre Court (the one next to the scoreboard) with another US star whose finest days probably now await alongside, rather than on the court, Tracy Austin.

Behind the wall of studios and trucks at the back of Court 14, approached through tunnels hung with liana-like cables, the NBC 'compound' is a temporary oasis of Astroturf and hanging baskets. Bronzed, brisk women talk of the 'turnamint', of 'Wimpletin'.

Here NBC's producer, John McGuinness, commands 80 staff - 40 flown over, 40 from Britain. Almanack asked him how Wimbledon rates as a challenge. 'The Olympics is hardest to cover in terms of sheer scale,' he said, 'but Wimbledon would be right up there with any others in terms of difficulty. You have the weather to contend with, of course, and the uh . . . ' he smiled a little bitterly, 'the possibility that the senior players you need for competitive action may get knocked out early.'

How have his star commentators adapted to the challenges of their new careers? 'John McEnroe brings the same style to the commentary box as he did to the court,' his boss reckons. Forthright, then? 'He's not afraid to say if a player is 'choking', or to praise a younger player.' And Tracy Austin, a fresh recruit? 'Tracy is terrific. She brings us that immediate, locker-room stuff. After all, if it hadn't been for the injury she'd be out there on court.'

NBC's team are not the only American stars on commentary duty this year. Pam Shriver is juggling her BBC commitments with the Ladies' Doubles and a strong, alas short-lived, run in the singles. Almanack caught up with her after a tough singles victory. How difficult is it to combine the long-term view of the pundit with short-term concentration? 'It's an art-form in tennis to have so many conflicts,' she admitted. 'But the TV people are understanding. If I win, they let me tape the show. If I lose, I do the show live. Now more than ever I don't want to turn my back on my next life.'

Tracy Austin, in the Portakabin marked 'Talent' on the NBC compound, is modest about her broadcasting. 'If you practise,' she said, 'you get better all the time. But I've had compliments from some of the players and that, to me, is the highest praise.' What's it like to work in the little NBC box on Centre Court? 'It's a great seat. You're that close to the court, and yet it's so quiet. There's three of you in there, though, and the stats person, so it's pretty tight.' So how about a pundit's prediction: who does she expect to watch in the final? 'I'd love it to be Martina, she's the sentimental favourite. And from the other half of the draw, maybe one of the youngsters - Lindsay Davenport is strong.' She smiles, and excuses herself, and Tracy Austin, once the youngest star at Wimbledon and now tipping her successor, strides off to the studio.

(Photograph omitted)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Solution Architect - Contract

£500 - £600 per day: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Solution Architect is requir...

360 Resourcing Solutions: Export Sales Coordinator

£18k - 20k per year: 360 Resourcing Solutions: ROLE: Export Sales Coordinato...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Telesales Executive - OTE £35,000+

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest developer of mobile...

SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

£22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue