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Thursday, April 26, 2018

Pam Shriver Crossed Line With James Blake Commentary

James Blake hasn’t exactly performed up to his expectations as of late. The American tennis pro was thoroughly ousted from the first round of Wimbledon on Tuesday following a 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 defeat at the hands of Robin Haase. Adding to Blake’s frustration was an exchange with ESPN commentator Pam Shriver mid-match. The video of the exchange has been removed due to copyright infringement, but luckily for us, Greg Couch of Fanhouse has a transcription of the incident including his personal commentary, starting with Blake’s response to hearing Shriver down on the court:

“Amazing you used to play tennis,” Blake yelled up at her. “I can still hear you.”

And then he went on to the next point. Note, he wasn’t complaining about what she said, only that she was too loud. Up to there, no harm, no foul. Just an accident.

But then Shriver got defensive during the next point.

“James just yelled at me,” she said, not talking any quieter, clearly wanting Blake to hear her again. “I’m way above the court, but evidently he can hear me. He’s got rabbit ears.”

Yes, he can hear you. And he’s playing at Wimbledon. The normal response would have been to whisper.

“You have to be an ass about it, too?” Blake yelled after the next point. “And act like I’m at fault.”

And Shriver was offended again.

“And there he is, talking again,” she said.

In a setting that demands as much etiquette as any in all of sports, you have to wonder how it’s conceivable for this conversation to happen at all. Blake was clearly frustrated with his play, and even if he probably should not have addressed Shriver directly, there is no doubt that he has a right not to listen to color commentary during his own match. Perhaps ESPN will take precautions, such as reconsidering the press box set up, in order to avoid the possibility of similar exchanges in the future.

Regardless of what Blake said, however, Shriver is clearly at fault here and she needs to review her job description as a commentator. It may be Shriver’s job to provide commentary, but she is out of line responding directly to Blake while on air. Couch points out that if another spectator had repeatedly caused a disruption during play, that fan would be escorted out of the stadium. I see no reason that the same rules should not apply here, and Shriver needs to recognize her mistake and make amends with Blake.

James Blake Blasts ESPN’s Pam Shriver at Wimbledon [Fanhouse]
Photo Credit: Hamish Blair/Getty Images

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