In a country with no Grand Slam winner (male or female) since the 1970s, the current BBC Tennis panel might be considered as good as it gets – the cream of the crop, even. Sue Barker’s French Open win of 1976, coupled with three other Grand Slam semi-finals, perhaps warrants her role as the leading lady. But can the same be said of Andrew Castle, who’s best Grand Slam achievement was a third round appearance at the US Open?

And what of the nearly man, Tim Henman, who has driven the Great British public to a state of euphoria only to leave them more deflated than a punctured tyre more times than one cares to remember?

…know more about the game…

Nay-sayers will no doubt express their objections to calling such presenters tennis experts. When viewing football or rugby, a majority of supporters seem to honestly believe they know more about the game than those speaking into the camera. With the likes of Henman, Castle and John Lloyd (another BBC pundit never to have won a major tournament), tennis fans may feel this statement to be truer than ever.

Have these pundits been there and done it? In terms of lifting prestigious trophies, no. In terms of winning finals, they are no more experienced than the casual follower of the game sat back home. When a truly successful athlete speaks their mind, a real authority reverberates from what they are saying. In a typical BBC Tennis studio, this authority seems to be missing.

…the quality of the broadcast…

Yet, the conclusion that the number of combined trophies won between a team of broadcasters determines the quality of the broadcast may justly be considered a false one. This judging criterion undoubtedly seems rather narrow. Indeed, playing tennis and commentating on it are two different ball games; the aim of both is to entertain, but how this is done via the two mediums could not be more divergent.

Although Andrew Castle has never risen above a world ranking of 80, his flamboyance and charisma supersede that of many greater players. Even if he weren’t the most talented athlete, Castle’s technical analysis and honest appraisal of what he sees on court is second to none in terms of accuracy, and award-winning in its articulation. After all, he’s not the voice of tennis for nothing.

…no one developed more of a bond…

Similarly, Pete Sampras may have been the best player of Tim Henman’s day, but no one developed more of a bond with the British nation than the media-friendly serve and vollyer-turned-BBC critic. Though both Castle and Henman spent as much of their playing careers in awe of the better players as they have done since becoming sports journalists, their expertise is nonetheless invaluable. For over a decade, these men would have risen early day after day, done their training, played their matches and learnt the tricks of the trade. Mentally and physically, they know what it takes.

And so, the likes of Henman, Castle and co. can rightly feel at home sitting alongside a top ten player of any era – thanks to their unrivalled observational skills and the ability to express these observations as well as they do. They have duly dedicated a career’s worth of knowledge for the benefit of the viewing public.

…have certainly contributed…

Despite never accomplishing landmark achievements, these tennis personalities have certainly contributed outstandingly to the sport, while no one would have learnt more from their defeats than them themselves. 

About The Author

An aspiring sports journalist - I've seen the light, I don't want superficial riches. I want to be happy and report on sport for a living. Intern with and Sports Editor at the Beaver. Write for a few sites, including this one :) so follow me on Twitter @TimothyPoole to see more!

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