We find ourselves in the grandest window of the major tennis season. The All-England Club offers pageantry. The Wimbledon Championship evokes passion. The end result is a magical two-week smorgasbord of tennis without parallel in the sport.
For those of us not lucky enough to make the trek across the pond, the coverage on ESPN is a lifeline. While there are a number of familiar faces in the booth from longtime ESPN anchor Chris Fowler to former players like John McEnroe and Darrin Cahill, one announcer stands out.
Brad Gilbert is a former Pepperdine standout, a world-class tour player (consistently finishing in the top 20 in an era filled with greats of the game), a top coach and best-selling author. It is an “all-court” broadcasting game.
As one writer said about Gilbert, he says what everyone is thinking, but “is afraid to say.” In addition, Gilbert also brings nice versatility. He is a commentator offering thinking for the serious tournament player. He too is someone that is adding humor and cleverness that also makes ESPN’s coverage accessible to the weekend hack.
Several years ago, I had the opportunity to get a deeper view of Gilbert when I read his book, Winning Ugly. It is a great guide for young people looking to navigate the tournament tennis scene. He covers topics such as how to have success against certain player profiles (like the enigmatic “pusher” that replicates a backboard). It is an essential read for the serious player.
Moreover, as I mentioned in my recent article entitled “Summer Reading: Tennis,” Gilbert also is singled out in Andre Agassi’s book Open. He clearly was someone that had a huge impact on Agassi, helping him both rediscover his passion for tennis and win matches on the major stage.
When it comes to his role as commentator, it is hard to overstate the value of Gilbert’s time as a coach. You get to hear many insights in the early rounds about what young players need to do to move to the upper echelon of the game. Jack Sock, I hope you are listening (and working on the backend and second serve).
And so, as you eat your strawberries and cream and watch the telly, you might turn up the volume just a tad. You will hear Brad Gilbert holding forth, with insights that are both valuable and disappointingly rare. It will, I assure you, make the best two weeks in tennis even better.