National | Māori

ASB Classic commentary struggles with Māori pronunciation following pōwhiri

The decision not to have a local commentary team for the ASB Classic had repercussions almost immediately.

While the Classic is being broadcast on Sky Sport, the broadcast features commentary from the London-based world feed for all singles matches on Centre Court. Sky will only be providing commentary on doubles matches, as the world feeds don’t cover doubles.

Sky has previously employed a local commentary team, made up of Kiwi and overseas experts, based at Stanley St.

This year’s feed got off to a rocky start before the opening match of the tournament between Kiwi wildcard Monique Barry and Elina Avanesyan, following a pōwhiri by Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei.

“That is a very special Māori welcome to everyone ahead of this match on the main stadium, performed by Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei and in front of the tournament director Nico Lamperin. The Māori welcoming ceremony, officially called a pōwhiri,” the British commentator said, his pronunciation of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei and pōwhiri barely intelligible.

ASB Classic organisers said in a statement that while they provided a run sheet to the commentary team in London, they did not provide phonetics as the run sheet was not intended for script use.

“The ASB Classic television commentary this year is provided by the World Tennis commentary team based in London. This year, Sky Television, who are hosting the coverage in New Zealand, chose not to provide their own local commentary team as has been done in the past.

“The run sheet for the opening presentation was passed on to the London commentary team for their information only and was not intended for script use, as no phonetics were provided.

“The ASB Classic organisers will ensure only complete and accurate information is provided in the future.”

Herald tennis writer Michael Burgess said on X that the pronunciation gaffe was an embarrassing start to the commentary for the event.

Barry lost the match in straight sets in her first career appearance in a WTA tournament. She started strong, going up 2-0 in the first set, before losing the opener in a tiebreak.

The second set was more straightforward for world No. 74 Avanesyan, taking it 6-2 for a clean start to her campaign.