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Last Updated: Friday, 7 July 2006, 14:15 GMT 15:15 UK
Q&A: John Barrett
BBC commentator John Barrett
We gave you the chance to send your questions to legendary BBC commentator John Barrett.

John will commentate for the last time at Wimbledon at the women's final on Saturday.

He succeeded the late Dan Maskell as the BBC's voice of tennis when Maskell retired from commentating in 1991.

As a player he had a very successful career representing Great Britain in the Davis Cup and playing in every Wimbledon from 1950 to 1970.

After retiring, he swapped a racquet for a microphone and has commentated for the BBC at Wimbledon since 1971.

He is now stepping down so he can enjoy spending time with friends and family at future championships.

John answered the best of your questions and the answers appear below.

Interview by Joe Speight


What are some of your favourite tournament venues to travel to?
Lieven Meert, USA

I love going to Melbourne for the Australian Open because Melbourne in January is preferable to London in January!

It's also very well designed, everything is in the right place and it's an absolute delight.

The Monte Carlo Country Club is the most beautiful tennis club in the world. It's built on four levels of terraces and overlooks the wonderful Mediterranean sea.


John, you will have seen many changes in tennis like, rackets, balls, clothing, tie-breaks and Hawkeye, which has been the worst?
Colin Hedley, England

The decision to allow non-wood rackets to proliferate has totally changed the game.

Unfortunately we will never be able to compare the likes of Ken Rosewall and Lew Hoad with today's great players because it's a different game and it's changed the way the game's played.

Now everyone plays with a semi-western or western grip on the forehand and often two hands on the backhand and they smite the ball mightily.

They are wonderful athletes but it's made the game less interesting to watch as you don't get as much finesse anymore.


In all your years of commentating, have you ever seen a better display of grass court tennis than when McEnroe destroyed Connors in the 1984 Wimbledon final?
Chris, UK

That was the most sublime performance.

I interviewed him afterwards and I said, 'have you ever played better?'

He said, 'No, when I woke up that morning I knew something special was going to happen because everything I did was crystal clear and sharp. When I started hitting it seemed as if time had slowed down and I was able to do anything with the ball.'

And that's exactly what it looked like, he did the most amazing things with a tennis ball that day against Connors.


Having seen both players at Wimbledon, who do you think is/was the better player if both judged at their peak - Pete Sampras or Roger Federer?
Hamid Khan, United Kingdom

That's a question that can't be answered yet because we don't know what Federer's peak will become as he is a work in progress.

Until Federer's arrival, Sampras was the best player on grass and his record speaks for itself and the way he played was majestic.

But Federer has got more shots where as Sampras had a more conventional grip having grown up in the wooden era.


If you could chose four players, past or present, for a mixed doubles match, who would you chose and why?
Sarah Jane Robinson, England

I think I would pick Bill Tilden and Suzanne Lenglen, because I never saw either of them play and that's one of my great regrets.

Tilden was a majestic force in the men's game in the late 1920/30's and had every conceivable shot at his command. Suzanne was a peerless player and enjoyed a magnificent unbeaten streak.

From modern times it's a much more difficult one as today's players don't play mixed doubles.

But to go back a little way I think I would ask for Ken Fletcher and Margaret Court who won the mixed doubles Grand Slam in 1963.


Do you think Wimbledon will ever see a men's champion again whose game is predominantly serve and volley, such as Ivanisevic in 2001?
Stewart Peters, UK

I don't, because it is impossible to be a successful volleyer when today's rackets allow the return to have such a command of top spin.

Today's rackets allow you to flick at the ball with your wrist to get the top spin shots, whereas if you had attempted that with a wooden racket you would have broken your wrist.


Can a Briton ever win Wimbledon in the future and what needs to change in UK tennis for that to happen?
Andy, England

Absolutely, I don't think anything that the LTA attempts will ever produce a champion, because champions are not produced by any systems, they evolve themselves.

If five years ago you have said that there would be two Belgians in the top three in the world in women's tennis you'd have been labelled crazy.

Similarly, if you have said there was a Swiss winning Wimbledon you would have said, 'impossible' because Switzerland don't produce tennis players.

But champions have those inner qualities that wherever they live they will find a way, so it could happen in Britain.


What is you most abiding memory of your professional playing days, and who was the greatest that you ever played against?
Nicholas Tidswell, UK

I was fortunate enough, or unlucky enough, to have played Ken Rosewall three times here at Wimbledon.

He was the player I would have gone furthest to watch because he had such marvellous mastery of ball control.

He was a wonderful player.

And once I even took a set of him!


You have been at the top of your profession for 35 years - what makes a good commentator? Ben, Birmingham

The key is not talking too much and knowing when to speak and when to be quiet. You have to try and enlighten the viewer about things they are seeing that they couldn't possibly know themselves.

It's all about timing.



SEE ALSO
Q&A: Tracy Austin
03 Jul 06 |  Tennis


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