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Channel Seven's Aussie cheerleaders - sorry, commentators - have gone too far

Nick Kyrgios takes on John Isner in the Davis Cup. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Expert
20th January, 2017
24
3002 Reads

The Nick Kyrgios versus Andreas Seppi match on Wednesday night, and the affiliated Channel Seven cheerleading team, was one of the most uncomfortable and disheartening things I have seen in tennis – in fact sport – for years.

Channel Seven’s nationalistic nonsense has driven me mad for decades, yet this year it seems to have been taken to a new level.

It’s hard to even find a match played by non-Australians on TV in the first four days of the tournament.

In my house, we wait for the majority of the Aussies to be knocked out so we can begin to see some of our real heroes play.

We are not unpatriotic, yet our enjoyment in watching Australians is stifled by outrageously biased commentary, egging on players whose chances of success are grossly overstated.

Using the official Open app to check scores from all courts enunciates just how many great matches are taking place while Seven continue their obsession with an array of low-grade Aussies, who have little chance of progressing past the second round.

While Kyrgios is certainly in another class and his matches demand broadcast time, the barracking and one-sidedness of the commentary during his matches is obvious – and thankfully, over.

The Seven crew were at their best-worst during Kyrgios’ match, as the Australian-centric commentary distorted the contest.

Comically, the commentators spoke of Kyrgios feeling stressed when he went down a break late in the third set. They were concerned for his welfare and he obliged with a childish demolition of a racquet.

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Did they once think of the stress that his opponent may have been feeling throughout the first two sets, when he was utterly blown off the court by the brilliantly talented Australian? If so, they might have mentioned it.

The argument about media attention and letting a young man make mistakes as he grows has worn thin. When you go to work, you behave a certain way, respect the institution and give your best.

Andreas Seppi, is a 32-year-old veteran who has played with grace, honour and dignity over the course of his long career. He deserves better than having to put up with the crap that the recently suspended Kyrgios dished up.

Kyrgios spat the dummy while leading two sets to love, frustrated that his speedy freight train, which demolishes opponents in a short space of time, had hit its first hurdle for the week. At the first sight of stress, Kyrgios crumbled into a heap, yet was urged on.

The complete and utter disrespect shown towards Seppi late in the fifth set, when Kyrgios returned a ball between his legs, was typical of the madness he often produces on the court. However, the understated role that Seppi played in the contest, according to the commentators, was cringeworthy.

Hearing Lleyton Hewitt make excuse after excuse for Kyrgios after he slowly imploded was hilarious. Off-camera, I wonder if Hewitt might in fact be concerned about how to turn this flawed, arrogant and immature tennis genius into someone who might one day play Davis Cup with the passion and commitment that he once did.

Surely Hewitt, an abrupt and tough character when he wants to be, would have a far more critical and honest appraisal of the foolish Kyrgios. I never thought I would see the day when Hewitt became a commercial television cheerleader.

Lleyton Hewitt retires from tennis

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The appalling abuse directed towards ball kids who were a little tardy in presenting Kyrgios with his towel was glossed over and the comments directed at his own box were Andy Murray-like in their curiosity and aggression.

Throughout it all, the commentators were completely Australian-centric and the saddest feature is that the crowd displayed a similar attitude by cheering opposition errors and booing against a worthy opponent.

It’s bad enough that we are forced to put up with TV personalities impersonating tennis aficionados – Nathan Templeton, Basil Zempilas, Jim Wilson and Dave Culbert take note – but why must we put up with cheerleading from people who should know better, considering their experience in the game?

Listening to Rennae Stubbs attempt to convince me that Sam Stosur’s match-up with Heather Watson was perfect for the Australian, despite not providing any credible evidence as to why, was laughable.

As the match turned in the ever-improving Watson’s favour, and the reality of Stosur not having won a singles match for many months became clear, Stubbs’ analysis was exposed as the ramblings of a single-minded nationalistic Australian, cheering on a player rather than critically analysing the contest.

The commentary only gets worse when Daria Gavrilova hits the court. Watching Ana Konjuh have her faults cheered against by the crowd and Todd Woodbridge showing as much class as Donald Trump’s critique of a disabled reporter, is a poor reflection on us as a sporting nation.

As Konjuh approached the net and Gavrilova passed the Croation, Woodbridge exclaimed, “great forehand”.

When the roles were reversed, Woodbridge whined, “Oh she made the pass.”

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That’s cheerleading, Todd, and, as a tennis professional, it should be below you. John Fitzgerald has refused to join your kind and you could learn a lot from him.

I enjoy seeing a young Aussie do well and Jaimee Fourlis’ success was heartwarming. Seeing teenager Alex De Minaur win a round was brilliant and watching young Jordan Thompson win in five tight sets was gripping television.

What I don’t need is tennis commentary that is merely cheerleading in disguise. Call the game as it unfolds.

Understand that many of us love tennis, not just Australians who play. We want to watch many of our heroes – Australian or not – compete, without the dark cloud of ridiculously unrealistic Aussie-optimism ruining the coverage.