McAvaney filthy: "I thought it was a bad call"
LEGENDARY sports broadcaster Bruce McAvaney admits he thought: "What have I done?" as he watched last night's epic Australian Open final from his loungeroom at home.
McAvaney, who has called the Grand Slam since 1990, opted to take this year off due to a busy work schedule with Channel 7 in 2016.
But it just happened to coincide with two of the game's greatest ever players, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, meeting in arguably the most significant final in Grand Slam history.
The 63-year-old has also revealed that after 27 years he is likely to call it quits from tennis altogether in the Australian summer.
Instead of being at Melbourne Park with thousands of sports fans to witness history, McAvaney was watching from his Adelaide home with wife Annie.
"It was mixed emotions because there was a part of me that thought: 'Oh wow, I picked the wrong year to take off'," McAvaney said.
"Certainly last night I thought it was a bad call not to be doing it.
"I sent a message to Jim (Courier) after the first week and said: 'How good is this?'
"Then when Federer won the semi-final against Wawrinka I sent a two-word message which said 'Al Michaels' - who famously said 'do you believe in miracles' in 1980.
"Once Federer and Nadal were getting closer and closer I was thinking; 'Gee this is not the best career decision I've ever made'.
"But to be truthful, and part of me was thinking what a fool I am; I have had a terrific summer and really enjoyed the break.
"I still felt I made the right decision even though I was gritting my teeth while saying it.
"But can I say this quite sincerely - I thought the commentary was outstanding, and I did say to Anne a couple of times: 'Gee I couldn't do it as well as these guys.' "
The only other open McAvaney has missed since 1990 was 1999 when Yevgeny Kafelnikov beat Thomas Enqvist in the final.
He has been a regular fixture for the men's final whether hosting or calling, as well as acting as MC for the presentation after the women's final.
While Seven's coverage was headed by Jim Courier, Todd Woodbridge and Lleyton Hewitt, McAvaney said he was enthralled in the five-set final like everyone else.
"Annie and I watched it together and I probably drove her slightly mad but I felt she was a very good co-commentator," he said with a laugh.
"Every now and then she would nod when I would say something.
"Most people who love their sport probably throw a few words in watching the telly.
"It was the impossible dream wasn't it?
"It was a little bit like Ali and Frazier and the Thrilla in Manila, seeing those guys walk down that corridor for the umpteenth time, but maybe the last time together.
"I would say in 20 years' time this will remain the match that's most talked about.
"And the way they conducted themselves in the presentation is a lesson for all sports people.
"That sportsmanship, humility and goodwill just topped off what was an absolutely great night and fortnight."
Channel 7 Tweeted during the tennis that McAvaney had taken a well-deserved holiday after a busy year covering the Rio Olympics, AFL season and Spring Racing Carnival and he would return to screens in February.
McAvaney said it was his call to have a rest this summer after his 2016 commitments were extended by things such as the retrospective Brownlow Medal presentation in December.
"I was in a position where we could plan going forward and I went to the network and said: 'I reckon I am needing a decent break'," McAvaney said.
"Dennis (Cometti) retires and Greg Miles retires and I'm thinking: 'Hang on, I'm in between those two guys in age, what's my next few years looking like?'
"I thought in terms of lengthening my career and some feeling of preservation I needed to get a bit of a break, and look I would think that from now on I would not be working in January.
"I would think this is the beginning of probably cutting the tennis out now, and concentrating on football and racing and Olympics.
"I'm about to go to Melbourne for the Nitro (athletics) series and that's an add on, then next year we're about to go to a Winter Olympics and a Commonwealth Games in April.
"So it's a busy program, I'm 63 years of age and I felt I needed to look forward rather than try to do everything."