This is an interesting article, although I disagree that MaryC and JMac were "pro Agassi" (DickE, obviously). They were just commentating the match as I think many of us saw it.
September 13, 2005
Adjectives Tangled in the Net
By RICHARD SANDOMIR
In the third set of the United States Open men's singles final Sunday, CBS's announcers seemed to be forecasting doom for Roger Federer against Andre Agassi.
Maybe, John McEnroe said, Federer's conditioning lagged behind Agassi's, or he couldn't keep pace with Agassi's service returns. Federer was "tight," he was not attacking Agassi's serves. Federer, the 24-year-old Swiss superstar, was off his game, McEnroe said, but Agassi was playing sagaciously, Dick Enberg said.
"Goodness," Enberg said, "we haven't seen Federer this error-prone in a long time." Federer, McEnroe added, "is having transmission problems."
The temptation for Enberg, McEnroe and Mary Carillo was to play the Agassi card.
Agassi, the geezer of the final, the underdog with the bad back, had pumped up CBS's and USA's ratings, so why not ride him like Seabiscuit?
It was an easy position to adopt. Agassi has made the transition from brat to statesman, from Canon rebel to family man, and from longhair to no hair. And while Federer is the superior player and a classy gent, we don't know him quite as well and we didn't watch him mature on court and in commercials.
But Agassi, the Las Vegan, the philanthropist, the workout fiend, the greatest service returner in tennis history, is the better tale.
Who knew if this was his last match, or at least his Grand Slam final finale?
Even as Federer picked up his game, CBS's voices seemed less willing to give him as much love as he deserved. He might have "dialed back into his sweet rhythm" (Carillo), but moments later he "lost a little pop on his serve" (McEnroe).
After Federer came back from 2-4 to tie the set at five games each, McEnroe called him too "conservative," and Carillo said he was still letting Agassi dictate the pace.
A backhand error by Federer then prompted McEnroe to declare: "It's been a long time since I've said this, but Federer's choking." Could he be serious?
Agassi went ahead by 6-5, but even Federer's easy game to push the set to a tie breaker did not fully persuade Enberg, McEnroe and Carillo to diagnose that Agassi, 35, might be tiring, wilting, tightening or even choking. (Later, McEnroe called Agassi "irritated.") Only after Federer's 7-1 tie-breaker victory and the start of his fourth-set dissection of Agassi did some overdue praise start coming - Federer was finally attacking Agassi's serve, he was the game's greatest ball striker and a great guy.
"He played a great three sets," McEnroe said of Agassi, who was behind by 0-4 in the fourth. Yes, Carillo reminded him, "but he only won one of them."
Still, the more effusive praise was for Agassi's effort.
Again, the approach was understandable - an easy, but lopsided, stance to take. Agassi was Jimmy Connors redux, the guy making a surprising run in the face of Federer's greatness and the type of star that networks find irresistible.
Agassi, after all, possessed a 44 Q score among tennis fans, according to a March survey by Marketing Evaluations, the company that puts out such scores.
The Q is a gauge of how well known and well liked a celebrity is, and in the tennis world, Agassi has more Q than anyone but Serena Williams (49) and more than double Federer's 21. But among a broader swath of sports fans less familiar with tennis, Agassi's Q is a 17 and Federer's an 11.
Henry Schafer, the executive vice president of Marketing Evaluations, said: "When it comes to tennis players, they tend to be narrowcasting to their own world. Outside the realm of tennis, they don't transcend their sport."
The "Agassi" final produced a 6.2 preliminary overnight rating, double last year's, when Federer defeated Lleyton Hewitt, underscoring the need for star power like Barbra Streisand's erstwhile Zen master's.
Kim Clijsters's romp over Mary Pierce on Saturday night produced a 3.1 overnight, a 24 percent increase from a year ago. Each overnight rating point equals 761,564 TV households.
Fox's Saints-Panthers broadcast Sunday produced no rating from the hurricane-ravaged New Orleans market, but it recorded a 10.1 in San Antonio, where the Saints will play three games, and a 4.0 in Houston (where it competed against the Texans-Bills game on CBS), one of the cities where many Gulf Coast evacuees were moved.