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The three of them, all former tennis stars themselves (Carillo never rose very high in the rankings, but did do well playing mixed doubles with her childhood friend John Mc Enroe), sat in a booth at the All England Club commentating on statistics, rules, rackets, and court conditions for hours every day.They proclaimed Venus and Serena Williams would be the next big thing in tennis, and debated about who was the better athlete.While other kids developed crushes on boy bands or Britney Spears, I was instead enraptured by three middle-aged ladies opining about competitive tennis.On any given summer afternoon I could be found locked in my bedroom, perched on a metal folding chair, pulled within inches of the small television atop my dresser.Women who, in a lot of cases, weren’t much older than I was.The athleticism and confidence of these women made them seem like superheroes to me.I had played tennis myself a few times with friends on the free courts at the park, but we mostly ended up loping about the court chasing balls.
Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, and Mary Carrillo called the matches (along with John Lloyd, Barry Mac Kay, and Jim Lampley).
For 25 years, HBO aired the oldest and most prestigious tennis tournament in the world, The Championships, Wimbledon.
For the last of those years, from 1996 to 1999, I planted myself in front of the television to watch as much as I could of HBO’s coverage of grass court tennis.
Navratilova mesmerized me with her thick eastern European accent and quick witted, precise commentary.
And best of all was the self-deprecating and funny, Mary Carrillo, whose deep voice defied gender.
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I came away from the television feeling like I too, could maybe someday make something of myself, maybe.