Listening to Henri Leconte's commentary the other night I was reminded of the old adage: a change is as good as a change.
DESPITE the bagging they have received in some quarters, Strewth reckons the Seven Network commentators at the Australian Open haven't been too bad, if you can ignore their mind-numbingly repetitive habit of spruiking Seven's new programs for 2010. But former French tennis star Henri Leconte took the art of commentary to a new level during the match between his countryman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Spaniard Nicolas Almagro on Monday night. Throughout the tight fifth set, Leconte took to shrieking with delight whenever Tsonga won a point, and even allowed himself a "Go, Jo" in the middle of one long rally. It was shamefully biased, totally devoid of any kind of in-depth analysis . . . and easily the most entertaining commentary stint during the tournament.
Anyone who left the television on Channel 7 after the Federer Vs Hewitt will have experienced a breath of fresh air in the form of Henri Leconte’s commentary during the Tsonga Vs Almagro match.
Exciting new era? Allez, Henri? Allez oops, more like.
Why was Henri such a hit with so many people? Callers to SEN were raving about him, and when one bloke - Mark from Mt Eliza - said Henri was shit, he got short shrift followed by a dull put-down about not having a sense of fun.
It's not as if Henri was particularly bad, good, dreadful, excellent - he was just different. Like Agadoo is different, or Pass The Dutchie. You get where I'm coming from?
By comparison with the rest of the Seven tennis coverage he was a refreshing change from the usual commentators.
I mean, John Alexander is also "shamefully biased, totally devoid of any kind of in-depth analysis" but would anyone outside of the Channel Seven publicity department dare to suggest he is a good commentator? He is also boring and pissed off that Jim Courier gets all the good, well, better anyway, lines.
When Tracy Austin announced that "Cougar Town looks good" it conjured up all sorts of weird minds-eye pictures.
And as for Roger Rasheed's expert analysis: "Lleyton's a person who's on heat during a grand slam, and there's not quite the stigma that surrounds Federer that there was at his peak, when he was untouchable. A few more guys have got wings, and Lleyton's just got to find a way to get in his kitchen." Pigeon English.
The fact that viewers loved Henri Leconte's commentary says more about the dreadful nature of the rest of the Seven commentary than it does about Henri's relentlessly frantic "Unbeeeleeeeeeeevable".
Just because a commentator is different doesn't automatically make him good. Far too many cricket fans go on about Mikey Holding's cricket commentary. "He's got such a wonderful accent." Sure, but does he say anything worthwhile? Not when I've been listening. You may as well have Gore Vidal commentate, or James Mason, or David Attenborough. They might not know anything about tennis, but they would sound good talking rubbish. It shouldn't matter that Mason is dead; they can do to his voice what VB have done to John Mellion's voice... now there's an idea.
Eventually Henri's comedy stylings would force you to invoke The Merci Rule. "Different" commentary is like a novelty song: you listen to it once, maybe twice, then after that it's not long before you are banging your head against the wall.