Mary Carillo can go home again. The Queens, N.Y., native, who as a child sneaked into the U.S. Open at Forest Hills, is back in her old neighborhood again this month, covering the tournament for CBS.
The 34-year-old Carillo’s lexicon — calling a match point ”a religious experience” and chastising Andre Agassi for playing a ”pouty” game — usually places her somewhere between Damon Runyon (”I did a lot of him when I was younger”) and John Madden (”I’ll take that any day of the week”). And she’s not above dropping in a few literary references. During last year’s Open coverage, she likened the Pete Sampras-John McEnroe semifinal to Moby Dick, with Sampras playing the great white and McEnroe ”trying to spear him any time he can.” Still, Carillo does more than talk a good game. ”She’s an excellent reporter, she has respect for the language, and she’s also fun,” says Bud Collins, NBC’s longtime tennis analyst and Carillo’s announcing colleague for the Madison Square Garden Network (MSG) in the late ’80s.
Carillo, whose four-year pro career included a 1977 French Open mixed doubles title with McEnroe, retired in 1980. But before she could even ponder life beyond the baseline, she practically tripped into broadcasting. At the 1980 Avon Championships, an MSG announcer asked her to comment on a match, then invited her to stay for the rest of the broadcast. Within a few months, she had a job at the USA Network. By 1986 she had joined CBS, and in ’88 she signed with ESPN as well. Next year she’ll report on women’s skiing for CBS’ Winter Olympics coverage. But for now, the eight-months’ pregnant Carillo will spend less time following the bouncing ball and more time at home in Naples, Fla., with husband Bill Bowden, a tennis teaching pro, and son Anthony, 4.
Still, when Carillo’s in work mode, as she will be until the Open’s close, there’s no slowing her down. ”I work harder than anybody else to be taken seriously,” she says. ”I run around, hang around, and then give it a good think.” And more often than not, a smashing turn of phrase.