Aussie Tennis Gives McKendry Brief Respite From Studio
SportsCenter anchor Chris McKendry's jaunt to Melbourne to co-anchor the channel's Australian Open coverage represents the best of both worlds. She gets an all-expenses paid escape from Bristol for a couple of weeks as well as getting to keep her day job.
Not that anchoring the midday edition of everyone's favorite sports news show, as McKendry does from noon to 3 p.m. ET each weekday with John Buccigross, is a bad thing, mind you.
But getting out of the studio and experiencing the games firsthand every once in a while is a nice thing, too, not to mention escaping the cold and snow of the Northeast for the warmth of the early summer in Australia.
"I really believe there's nothing like being at the big event, the energy, the buzz," said McKendry, in an interview last week. "That's what you really get into sports for, to go to the game, to see everything, to witness what we're fans of, to have the best seats in the house for free."
For the record, it's not as if ESPN executives could only see McKendry at an anchor desk and not out reporting. To the contrary, it was her decision to carve out a career path that would allow her to spend as much time as possible with her two young boys that landed McKendry on the weekend morning and now weekday afternoon SportsCenters.
"It's been with a great sense of purpose that I've maybe not put myself in a plum position for the highest rating or the Next Big Thing," said McKendry. "But I think it's been a healthy balance between having a really healthy home and a healthy career."
Now that her boys, who are in second grade and kindergarten, respectively, are older, McKendry, who anchored at the Australian and French Opens, as well as at Flushing Meadow, says she is more willing to get out on stories and remote assignments.
And tennis is a natural sport for McKendry to explore, given that she was a scholarship player at Drexel in her native Philadelphia.
"It sounds more impressive than it really is," joked McKendry, who played three years in college before giving up the game to pursue a broadcasting career.
The sport is in a good place, McKendry believes, because, save for a few participants here and there, the players have grown up and are more mature now than a few years ago when teenagers ruled the game.
"Tennis is getting older because of the equipment," said McKendry. "You have to be older and stronger to handle the equipment. I don't think the sport is well served when it has this look of child prodigies and families living off them. It's much better when you have these mature adults that have a life story and it's their career and they seem to be in control of it."
McKendry believes men's tennis is in a "golden age," topped by Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, who are the subjects of a "water cooler discussion of who's the greatest player of all time and both of them are still playing."
Their dominance, McKendry says, excludes talk of such fine players as Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Andy Roddick, all likely Grand Slam winners if not for the Dynamic Duo atop the rankings.
"How many majors would they have?" asked McKendry. "Look at poor Andy Roddick. How many Wimbledons would the poor man have if not for Roger Federer?
On the women's side, there's a tremendous amount of mystery, as a collection of players tries to fill the void left by the absence of Serena Williams, McKendry said.
There's really no clear cut favorite in the women's draw, and top seed Caroline Wozniacki, who has yet to win a tournament this season, faces doubts over how strong her hold on the top would be if Williams were there.
"I think she (Wozniacki) is looking at questions of 'I have to legitimize this No.1 ranking' like so many others have had to do in the women's game," said McKendry. "Although she has the No.1, Serena Williams is the best player in the world when she's healthy and dedicated to playing tennis. It's that simple."