Australian Open Championship Weekend on ESPN: History on the Line

espnstdNo. 1 Azarenka vs. No. 6 Li Tonight

No. 1 Djokovic vs. No. 3 Murray Late Saturday

The Women’s and Men’s Championship matches of the Australian Open presented by Franklin Templeton Investments on ESPN – late tonight and late Saturday night at 3 a.m. ET (midnight PT), respectively – will  provide historic storylines no matter the outcomes.

Pam Shriver and Chrissie Evert will be in the booth for the matchup of top-seeded Victoria Azarenka and No. 6 Li Na.  Tom Rinaldi will report from courtside while the on-site studio will be manned by Chris McKendry with Darren Cahill and Mary Joe Fernandez.

The men’s championship, No. 1 Novak Djokovic and No. 3 Andy Murray, will have Chris Fowler on the call with Patrick McEnroe and Cahill courtside.  McKendry will host the set with Brad Gilbert.  In addition, Gilbert will be fielding questions from fans during both matches at the ESPN Tennis home on Facebook: www.facebook.com/ESPNTennis.

The live telecasts – originally schedule for ESPN2 before being moved to ESPN this week – are available through WatchESPN online at WatchESPN.com and on smartphones and tablets via the WatchESPN app.  Both championship matches will receive two encore presentations on ESPN2, at 9 a.m. and in prime time.

ESPN’s 29th consecutive Australian Open represents the company’s longest uninterrupted professional sports programming relationship.

Women’s Championship

Late tonight at 3 a.m. ET (Friday at midnight PT), the Women’s Championship will see two players each seeking their second major title – top seeded Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, the defending champion, and No. 6 Li Na, winner of the 2011 French Open.  While the 6-foot tall, 23-year old Azarenka is a player on the rise, Li, at 30, is a respected veteran of the tour still capable of competing at the top level of the sport.  In the semifinal, she dismissed No. 2 seed Maria Sharapova 6-2, 6-2.  Also, although Azarenka has taken five of their nine meetings, Li won 6-3, 6-3 at the 2011 Australian Open.

Li also reached the final match at the 2011 Australian Open, falling to Kim Clijsters in three sets.  That match made Li the first Chinese player to reach a Grand Slam singles final and she is sure to have strong support in the crowd tonight in Melbourne as the event is the highlight of the tennis calendar in the Asian-Pacific region.

Men’s Championship

After the conclusion of the Men’s Championship late Saturday at 3 a.m. on ESPN, there will either be the first three-peat at the Australian Open in the Open Era with a Djokovic victory, or the first time a first-time Grand Slam winner wins at the next major in Andy Murray.

Djokovic, who owns championship trophies from the 2008, 2011 and 2012 Australian Opens, has five major titles overall.  The 6-2 native of Serbia holds a 7-10 career mark over Murray, including a victory in the semifinals of last year’s Australian Open.  Murray exacted revenge later in 2012 in the finals of the US Open.  It was the first major title by a man from Great Britain since 1936.  That win, along with Murray’s Gold Medal in front of a “home” crowd at Wimbledon in the Olympics last summer, has seemingly given Murray the confidence to compete against any rival.  On Friday, the 6-3 Scot advanced to his sixth Grand Slam final – and third Down Under by outlasting No. 2 seed Roger Federer, the four-time winner of the event 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-7 (2), 6-2.  It was the first time he had defeated Federer at a major in four tries.  Interestingly the two 25-year olds were born a week apart in May 1987.

Australian Open Championship Weekend

The remaining Australian Open television schedule (For these charts, all times are Eastern, and each day “begins” at 6 a.m. ET.  Therefore, the listing Sat., Jan. 26 at 3 a.m. ET is actually very late on Saturday night.):

 

Date Time (ET) Event Network  
Fri, Jan 25 3 – 5:30 a.m. Women’s Championship

Azarenka vs Li

ESPN LIVE
Sat, Jan. 26 9 – 11 a.m. Women’s Championship ESPN2 encore
  10 p.m. – MID Women’s Championship ESPN2 encore
  3 – 6:30 a.m. Men’s Championship

Djokovic vs. Murray

ESPN LIVE
Sun, Jan 27 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Men’s Championship ESPN2 encore
  7:30 p.m. – 12:30 a.m. Men’s Championship ESPN2 encore

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