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Brad Gilbert maintains East Bay edge, fandom

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Brad Gilbert, seen in 2007 when he was the coach of Andy Murray, has settled in as a commentator for ESPN. (Steve Holland/AP)
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LONDON — The tweet had nothing to do with tennis, but everything to do with Brad Gilbert. “Did you order your Durant Dubs jersey yet?” the messenger wondered. “Which one, baby blue, gold or home Wimbledon white.”

Gilbert had a ready if slightly inaccurate response. “I don’t wear jerseys, I am 55 years old, maybe a new lid though.”

The passion is real. Gilbert, who grew up in Piedmont, who lives in San Rafael, who once was a Wimbledon quarter-finalist, who does tennis commentary for ESPN, is just full of what is listed on his website, “sports knowledge.”

The age, however, is slightly off. Gilbert won’t be 55 until August, or when his Raiders start exhibition games.

He’s an East Bay guy, even living in Marin, cheering the Warriors, Raiders, Athletics. Even here, 5,000 miles and eight time zones east, Gilbert, who was an Olympic tennis bronze medalist in 1988, who coached Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick and Andy Murray, knows what’s going with his teams, especially the Warriors.

“What a bold move,” he said about bringing in Kevin Durant, “and full credit to Jerry West. This will be very exciting to see coach [Steve] Kerr make it work. He’ll have to push all the right buttons.”

It all looks good. But so at Wimbledon did top-ranked Novak Djokovic, upset by Sam Querrey. The reaction from Gilbert was much the same as when the Cavaliers, down 3-1, beat the Warriors in the NBA finals.

“You go to the courts often enough,” said Gilbert, perhaps intending the link between playing sites for both tennis and basketball, “and you see something you don’t expect. [Roger] Federer was up two sets a few years ago at Wimbledon and lost. The Warriors were up and lost. Hey, if Draymond [Green] had been suspended as people thought he should have against OKC, maybe we don’t get that far.”

As a player Gilbert was unconventional and to opponents irritating. John McEnroe, a Wimbledon (and Australian and U.S. Open) champion, also commenting here for the BBC, called Gilbert a pusher, who hit at a slow accurate pace, keeping the ball in play. McEnroe contended Gilbert was the most negative person he had played against and was agitated by Gilbert berating himself during matches

Brad would call that honesty. He sees, he comprehends, he speaks out. Then, duck.

“[Raider owner] Mark Davis is a joke,” said Gilbert. “He doesn’t want to listen. He just wants to do something, move like his dad did.

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“The A’s are hopeless. I’m more upset by them than anything. [Owner] John Fisher has tons of money. He hides behind Lew Wolff. The Giants sign their people. The A’s don’t.”

America’s male tennis players are a notch below the top names, Gilbert points out — “Right now we’re as good as we’re ever going to get” — but the coming generation of American women, meaning others besides Venus Williams, 36, or sister Serena, 34, could be dominant.

“Our women are better athletes,” he said. “Madison Keys, Coco Vandeweghe, Sloane Stephen are potential Grand Slam winners. I think Madison is a potential No. 1.”

On the internet and TV, Gilbert tosses out various nicknames — Federer is Fedfan, Roberta Vinci “Da Vinci Code,” Andy Murray “Muzzard” — that some find clever and others bewildering. ESPN, which never fails to take advantage of every possibility, even has a glossary of Gilbert listings, if all in tennis.

Gilbert owns a tennis shop in San Rafael.  Plenty of racquets and shoes. Maybe any day that Durant jersey. To sell, not wear.

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes onwww.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. E-mail him at typoes@aol.com.

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