The US Open continues this week on ESPN, with the ESPN Tennis Team – the best in television – calling the action from the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
– Chrissie Evert, on working with Pam Shriver
Front Row had the chance to talk with Pam Shriver and Chrissie Evert – who while often rivals in singles (most notably in the 1978 US Open Championship, won by Evert) also were sometimes partners on the court, teaming in doubles.
Now they are often partners in the booth. They say there are many similarities between working together on the court and in the booth.
Evert first made a point to say, “We’re very competitive!”
And Shriver jumped in, “Yes, but we love each other.”
Are there any similarities between the partnerships playing together on the court versus calling the action up in the booth?
Shriver: Absolutely. We played against each other 25-30 times in singles, we played some team events together and some tour doubles events. Communication and listening are really important.
Evert: Well, we’ve known each other for 30-plus years (Shriver jumped in to correct, “38!”). So, the reason we have a good connection in commentating is because we’re friends, we know each other, we know each other’s humor. If you go into a match with someone you don’t know. . . .It’s difficult.
How much do you rely on one another to keep the energy going both on the court and in the booth?
Shriver: I try to match my energy with my partner and have it be in alignment with what’s going on down on the court.
Evert: She’s the anchor of the team! You’ve got to raise your level of enthusiasm or lower it together, you can’t have one that’s up there and very excited and one that’s really calm.
You had very different personalities on the court. Do you find bits and pieces of those on-court personas coming back out when you’re calling the action?
Evert: No (sarcastically, laughing). Yes, definitely. We both were high-level competitors, so we will get intense sometimes. I think we both can easily focus on what’s going on in the match, so we can get fiery.
Shriver: I think we both went about how played our game very differently, so we both might watch a match and see very different things.
– Pam Shriver, on working with Chrissie Evert
Evert: That’s true.
Shriver: Chrissie’s a more patient player, someone who rarely made unforced errors, most of her career she won from the back of the court
Evert: So I can talk about the baseliners more easily and Pam can talk about the power, the serve and the volleys.
Shriver: I understand the importance of being able to use the serve as your primary weapon; that was the cornerstone of my game. Also coming to the net and applying pressure from the net position, but that’s a little bit of a game that’s not played a lot anymore.
Evert: So we complement each other. Mentally, there are a lot of different kinds of players out there, some that Pam can relate to and some that I can relate to.
Shriver: Then obviously the greatest gift for me having Chrissie on the team is her experience late in the majors as a player. How few people could come up here and have that experience!