Tennis: British commentator butchers Māori pronunciation during ASB Classic opening

  • 01/01/2024

There were plenty of Kiwi viewers left peering through their fingers with cringe after a British commentary team butchered a series of Māori words during a pōwhiri to open the ASB Classic tennis tournament on Monday.

As local wildcard Monique Barry took to the court alongside Russian opponent Elina Avanesyan and director Nico Lamperin to start proceedings on centrecourt, World Tennis' London-based announcer proceeded to acknowledge the welcome ceremony with unintelligible pronunciations of the words 'Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei' and 'pōwhiri'.

"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," he said.  

"The Māori welcoming ceremony, officially called a pōwhiri."

'Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei' sounded more like 'ingatee wahtua orakay', while 'pōwhiri' came out as 'pau weary'.

Broadcasters Sky Sport have scaled back their production of the tournament this year, which means using the world feed rather than local commentators.

An NZ team will only be used for the centrecourt doubles matches, which aren't covered by World Tennis.

Kiwis doubles stars Erin Routliffe and Michael Venus are two of the main attractions at the men's and women's competitions, which take place over the next fortnight.

Lamperin said the commentator should have been briefed more thoroughly. 

"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," said Lamperin.

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

Wildcard entry Barry went on to lose a hard-fought match against highly favoured Avanesyan  in straight sets.