By P.J. Simmons
This post is dedicated to fellow serious tennis fans and serious sports commentators who want to make an earnest effort to honor players by pronouncing their names correctly (or at least somewhere in the ballpark).
Ever have the cringe-worthy experience of hearing someone refer confidently to the mega rock star “Bono” as “BONE-oh?
That’s the way I feel every time I hear John McEnroe and many other preeminent broadcast tennis journalists bungling the pronunciation of “Medvedev” and many other player’s names.
Unfortunately, we can’t rely on most English-language broadcast journalists for reliable pronunciations, whether due to linguistic incapacity or lack of effort. And that’s a shame, because once McEnroe or other top commentators lock into a mispronunciation, it’s easy for everyone else to follow suit.
I can’t imagine how disheartened the world’s current #3 player Daniil Medvedev must feel when hearing McEnroe and most other prominent tennis commentators repeatedly butcher his last name – stressing the wrong syllable and with a blatantly incorrect vowel.
For the record: It’s correctly pronounced “med-VYAY–dev” (not “MED-veh-dev”). Don’t believe me? Listen to Daniil pronouncing it himself here.
To be clear, I’m not advocating commentators veer into pretentious territory by trying to pronounce names with a foreign accent. For instance, I wouldn’t advocate we all pronounce Carlos Alcaraz’s last name exactly the way someone from Spain would (turning the z into a “-th” at the end). But I DO think it’s important that we try at least to stress the correct syllables and generally get the vowels right (e.g. “AAHL-cah-rahz.”). Ditto for Tsitsipas (“tsit-see-PAS”, not the McEnroeism “Sissypas”). And Khachanov (ha-CHAH-nov, not the McEnroeism “CATCH-uh-nov). And everyone else.
The good news is that The ATP and WTA have made it quick and easy for us all to get it right in a matter of seconds.
Here’s all you need to do:
For a shortcut, check out my cheat sheet below, which I’ll continue to try to update as new players come onto the scene with easy-to-mispronounce names.
If commentators can get Shapovalov and Swiatek generally right (which they do), I have faith they can get Medvedev, Tsitsipas, and others right too with a little more effort.
Even John McEnroe. But until he does, I plan to refer to him affectionately as:
SAY IT RIGHT: A Cheat Sheet for Pronouncing Hard-to-Pronounce Tennis Stars’ Names
Below is my best attempt at spelling out pronunciations in a way I hope makes sense to English language speakers. For more accuracy, visit the official ATP or WTA sites, search for a player’s profile page, then click on the sound icon to hear a recording of players pronouncing their own names.
The syllables in BOLD UNDERLINED CAPS are the correct syllables to stress.
- Felix Auger-Aliassime: “FAY-leeks” “owe-ZHAY” “ah-lee-ahh-SEEME”
- Pablo Carreno-Busta: “PAHB-lo” “Car-RAIN-nyo” “BOOST-ah”
- Borna Coric: “BORE-nah” “CHORE-eetch”
- Alex de Minaur: “AL-eks” “duh-min-OHR“
- Laslo Djere: “LAHS-low” “JEHR-eh” (“Dj” sounds like first syllable in “Jerry”)
- Novak Djokovic: “NO-vak” “JOKE-oh-vich”
- Borna Gojo: “BOR-nah” “GO-yoh” (like “yo-yo”) (if audio missing see this video)
- Hubert Hurcacz (if audio missing see this video instead): “HOO-bert” “HOOR-kahtch”
- Karen Khachanov (if audio missing see this video instead): “kah-REN” “huht-CHAHN-off” (Note: the “K” in Khachanov is a soft ch as in Loch Ness monster – but represented with an h here because that’s actually closer than using a k)
- Dusan Lajovic: “DOO-shon” “LIE-yo-veetch”
- Jiri Lehecka: “YEAR-zhee” “luh-HETCH-kuh”
- Bernabe Zapata Miralles: “BER-na-be” “sa-PAH-tah-mee-RAH-yays”
- Daniil Medvedev: “duh-NYEEL” “med-VYAY-duff”
- Holger Rune: “HOLE-ger” “ROON-neh” (Rune is 2 syllables)
- Stefanos Tsitsipas: “STEF-ah-nos” | “tsit-see-PAS“
- Mikael Ymer: (if audio missing see this video instead): “MIKE-uhl” “EE-muhr”
- Alexander Zverev: “alex-ZAN-der” “ZVER-ef” (Zverev is 2 syllabes only)
- Ekaterina Alexandrova: “yee-kah-teh-REEN-ah” “ah-leks-ahn-DROVE-ah”
- Caroline Garcia: “caro-LEEN” “GAHR-sya”
- Beatriz Haddad Maia: “BAY-ya-trees” “hah-DAHD-djee” “MY-ya” (note the beautiful and fun little extra “djee” sound between Haddad and Maia, due to the softening of the final d in Haddad)
- Daria Kasatkina: “DAH-ree-ya” “KAHSS-at-kee-nah”
- Barbara Krejcikova: “BAR-ba-rah” “kray-CHEE-ko-vah”
- Veronika Kudermetova: “ver-OH-nee-ka” “koo-der-meh-TOE-vah”
- Ons Jabeur: “OHNS” “zha-BURR”
- Karolina Muchova: “caro-LEE-na” “MOO-ho-va” (Note: the second syllable is a soft ch as in Loch Ness monster – but represented with an h here because that’s actually closer than using a k)
- Elena Rybakina: “yell-AY-nah” “ree-BAY-kee-nah”
- Arena Sabalenka: “aah-REE-nah” “sa-ba-LYANG-kuh”
- Iga Swiatek: “EE-ga” “shvee-YONE-tek”
- Marketa Vondrousova: “Mar-KETT-ta” “von-DROW-sow-vah”
Got a favorite player with a hard-to-pronounce name who you’d like to see on this cheat sheet? Let me know in the comments below!