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Quite Contrary

Sept. 03, 2001
Sept. 03, 2001

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Sept. 3, 2001

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Quite Contrary

In tennis, a sport plagued by an endless parade of champions cum
commentators, Mary Carillo's pedestrian pedigree as a player
makes her an anomaly. "No one remembers me as a player," says
Carillo, who topped out at a career-high No. 33 in singles, in
1980. "Even I don't remember me playing."

This is an article from the Sept. 3, 2001 issue Original Layout

While Carillo, 44, may have been just another hacker on the WTA
tour (although she did pair with her CBS colleague John McEnroe
to win the French Open mixed doubles crown in 1977), she's
without peer as a tennis analyst. Along with McEnroe, Carillo
(left) is back at her usual perch this week as an analyst for
CBS's coverage of the U.S. Open. "For a long time broadcasters
felt that the role of a tennis commentator was to build the sport
and bring people into it," says Carillo, who joined CBS Sports in
1986. "It was always a love-fest. I can't say I ever approached
it like that. I adore the sport, but my attitude continues to be,
You hired me to tell you what I think, and that's what I'm going
to do."

What separates Carillo from tennis's chattering classes is that
she has bona fides as a journalist. While working as a
correspondent the past four years on HBO's Real Sports, Carillo
has reported on a melange of weighty subjects, from allegations
of racial discrimination on the South Florida women's basketball
team to former Philadelphia Flyers coach Roger Neilson's battle
with cancer. This fall she'll tackle a new sport as a
correspondent for HBO's Inside the NFL. (Try to imagine Chris
Evert interviewing Ray Lewis or Warren Sapp.)

While most of her peers, such as NBC's Evert and USA Network's
Tracy Austin, offer commentary as soft as one of Martina Hingis's
drop volleys, Carillo hits smashes. "In a day and age of what I
call puff commentary, Mary's not afraid to take a tough stand,"
says Brian Williams, a Canadian Broadcasting Company sports
commentator who worked with Carillo earlier this month at the
WTA's event in Toronto. "She's a shill for no one."

Unlike McEnroe, whose bombast occasionally overshadows the
action, Carillo is understated and nuanced, often falling silent
to let the pictures speak for themselves. "I believe I'll be the
last nonchampion to ever get a gig this good," Carillo says.
"Networks like champions. They like stars. They like getting the
freshest retired athletes into the booth. I just can't imagine
someone who had as few credentials as I did from my playing days
getting offered a hand into the booth. I don't think it will
happen again."

--R.D.

COLOR PHOTO: CARYN LEVY
Tennis coverage is dominated by softball analysis, but Mary
Carillo will take anyone down a notch.