30th ANNIVERSARY OF “BREAKFAST AT WIMBLEDON” HIGHLIGHTS NBC SPORTS COVERAGE
“His achievement is even more difficult than what Tiger Woods pulled off.” – NBC’s McEnroe on Federer’s 14 Grand Slam titles
“Nobody looks better than Serena, not even her big sister.” – NBC’s Carillo
NEW YORK – July 1, 2009 – The 30th anniversary of “Breakfast at Wimbledon,” one of the great traditions in sports, highlights NBC Sports extensive coverage of The Championships, Wimbledon which continues all this week. In all, the network is presenting high definition coverage of more than 38 hours from Wimbledon concluding with live coverage of “Breakfast at Wimbledon,” the Ladies’ Final Saturday at 9 a.m. ET and the Gentlemen’s Final July 5 at 9 a.m. ET.
For NBC Sports, this is the 30th anniversary of “Breakfast at Wimbledon” and the 40th anniversary of NBC’s Wimbledon coverage from the prestigious grass courts at the All England Lawn Tennis Club.
Host Ted Robinson anchors NBC Sports coverage from Wimbledon, joined by three-time Wimbledon champion John McEnroe and Mary Carillo, with interviews and essays from Jimmy Roberts.
NBC Sports yesterday conducted a media teleconference with McEnroe, Carillo, Robinson to preview its coverage of the tournament, joined by associate producer Bob Basche, who coined the term “Breakfast at Wimbledon.” Highlights of the call follow:
MCENROE ON ROGER FEDERER’S PLACE IN HISTORY: “That’s one of those questions there’s no answer to. It’s just a matter of opinion and lots of people have different opinions. Rod Laver was my idol and he won two grand slams. So it would be hard to say anyone is better than that because I don’t think you will see guys even win one grand slam. Roger has won on all surfaces. I think Pete Sampras may be a better fast court player than Roger Federer, but all around I think Roger is the greatest player I have ever seen.”
MCENROE ON FEDERER AND TIGER: “The thing that Roger has done getting to twenty grand slam tournaments in a row is like Joe DiMaggio. I’m biased as a tennis player but I think his achievement is even more difficult than what Tiger Woods pulled off. He’s running and he’s playing on different surfaces. Doesn’t Tiger only have to play on grass? But Tiger is magnificent, obviously. Even though I think they have inspired each other, ultimately they are looking at their own sport and I think it has been helpful for both of them that they have had this friendly rivalry from a distance and developed a friendship. I know Roger is a class act and I’ve met Tiger a few times and he seems like the same way. So it ends up impacting both sports.”
MCENROE ON RODDICK AND MURRAY: “As much as we’d love to see Roddick win that second major and at least make a real run as an American it would be quite exciting for the sport of tennis if Andy Murray was able to get to a grand slam final like he did at the U.S. Open. That would really be quite the match-up if he were to play Roger in the finals.”
CARILLO ON THE WILLIAMS SISTERS: “They have played each other twenty times and they are locked at ten a piece, so that just shows what it’s like. Venus got the better of Serena in last year’s Final here but then Serena got Venus in the U.S. Open. Venus is the best grass court champion of this generation including her sister, but to me nobody looks better than Serena, not even her big sister. So I’d be a little surprised if somebody can take this title from Serena.”
CARILLO ON SERENA WILLIAMS: “I love the way Serena has been playing lately, fairly late in her career, she kind of just relaxed and kicked back. I don’t think she has ever been more dedicated or more focused. When she won her tenth major this year in Australia, she realized she is capable of being one of the all time greats and in the same conversation with the best women’s tennis players that we have ever seen. She is taking it very seriously and she’s my pick, for sure she is my pick.”
ROBINSON ON THE ROOF: “It’s the year the roof. I couldn’t help but think when the roof closed yesterday for the first time during play that all during the classic final last year, especially in the fifth set, it was impossible to not every so often have to take your eyes off this classic match to glance up to the sky and ask, ‘are we going to be able to play? Is it going to rain again? Is it going to get too dark? Is this match actually going to have to come back and finish on Monday?’ What the roof does is make sure none of that is ever a factor again in a championship match.
“When the All England Club does something, they do it well and they do it right. Imagine trying to put a roof over Wrigley Field or Fenway Park and that’s what it’s like trying to cover Centre Court. It’s a smaller piece of real estate, but the fact that they put this modern structure on without compromising it at all or altering the character of this traditional venue, I think the club did a great job.”
ROBINSON, CARILLO AND MCENROE TALK ABOUT THEIR BROADCAST PARTNERSHIP:
ROBINSON: “I came to my first ever tennis major event in 1987 and Mary was my partner in the U.S. Open. I was a complete knucklehead who was a young baseball guy and got thrust into a different world, and Mary was fabulous in walking me though it. Mary was instrumental in breaking me in for my first ever major. Then John retired from playing and NBC put us together, three people from New York who are all left-handed, so there’s probably a little bit of abhorrent behavior responsible for that there. The great thing about John and Mary is that they are not only professional tennis players and John was a champion, but they are very good broadcasters and that’s what makes a difference. In working with a lot of analysts in different sports, when you get somebody who understands broadcasting and are tremendous broadcasters, it just makes it so simple.”
CARILLO: “I am just going to speak on behalf of Ted. There is no one better to sit next to. That booth, the three of us next to each other, to me is a very special combination. There is a certain relaxed attitude. We all know what we are trying to do and what we like to do with our broadcast. Our producer and director follow what we are saying and we try to follow what they are doing as well. I think there is a nice sound that comes out of that booth and there’s a lot of respect and friendship there.”
MCENROE: “Ted was the first guy who ever listened to me when I started doing commentary. Most of the guys would be doing their own thing and he’d actually respond to what I’d say and that made it all much more fun. I am a little biased here, but I think we make a great team. Mary and I go way back as kids and we have such a history already. We played mixed doubles together so there’s something special, a synergy that will always be there. She is great at telling stories and has a little bit different way of approaching it than I do it. She comes so well prepared. Hopefully I add a level of expertise, having been out there and get a sense of what the two players are trying to accomplish. Ted knows when to let us do our thing. It’s really worked into a beautiful thing.”
30TH ANNIVERSARY OF BREAKFAST AT WIMBLEDON:
The year was 1979 and Chet Simmons the president of NBC Sports and Don Ohlmeyer the executive producer of NBC Sports persuaded the network to give up its Saturday morning children’s programming block in order to present the Gentleman’s Finals from Wimbledon live to the U.S. Simmons and Ohlmeyer saw this as an opportunity to take advantage of the growing popularity of the sport with the emergence of superstars like John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors and Bjorn Borg.
During a seminar in Florida a few months before Wimbledon, the production team gathered to discuss how to take advantage of this new development. In the course of the conversation about the idea of watching a major sporting event at 9 a.m. on a Sunday morning, Bob Basche, an associate producer suggested that it would be like having “Breakfast at Wimbledon.” The rest, as they say, is history.
Roscoe Tanner had upset Connors on the way to the final and was set to take on Borg in the first “Breakfast at Wimbledon.” But there was one large wrench thrown into the plans. The organizers at Wimbledon insisted that the players walk onto the court at 8:50 a.m. ET and the first serve be at exactly 9 a.m. ET. With the broadcast scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. ET this would not allow the viewers to see the walk-on or, likely, the first serve. Enter NBC Sports’ secret weapon, analyst Donald Dell. In addition to being an analyst on the broadcast, Dell was a very powerful player agent who happened to represent Tanner. Dell came up with a scenario in which he persuaded Tanner to delay in the locker room with a “bathroom emergency.” Tanner did not exit the locker room until just after 9 a.m. ET and NBC Sports got both players coming onto the court. What ensued was a five set match that Borg won in just over three hours.
Breakfast at Wimbledon was then cemented in history the following year by the legendary “Battle of 18-16,” the epic tiebreaker between Borg and McEnroe. Historic championship matches followed with teenager Boris Becker becoming the youngest-ever winner of the Gentleman’s singles title in 1985 at the age of 17, the Williams sisters riveting the crowd with their athleticism, and of course Pete Sampras’ record run of Wimbledon crowns. And last year, Wimbledon showcased the classic match between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal that McEnroe coined “the greatest match we’ve ever seen.” That epic five-setter started as “Breakfast at Wimbledon” and concluded near dinnertime in the States, drawing the best audience in 17 years.
BASCHE ON BREAKFAST AT WIMBLEDON: “I guess I am the old guy right? When I came to NBC Sports, hired by Don Ohlmeyer, the tournament wasn’t televised live and with all of the interest in tennis with McEnroe and Borg and Connors and Chris and Martina, Don was able to persuade the network to give up its morning children’s show block to do the first ever live telecast in 1979. During a production meeting we had on how we would do things differently, I mentioned that in New York and the East coast it would be 9 a.m. so it will be ‘Breakfast at Wimbledon.’ And everyone kind of stopped in the conference room and everyone looked around and they said, ‘oh my god breakfast at Wimbledon,’ and that’s sort of how the term came about.”
BASCHE RECOUNTS HOLDING TANNER: “Don (Ohlmeyer) was flabbergasted that the club wouldn’t give us two to three, three and a half minutes to get on air before the players walked on, which is a very dramatic moment. The club said absolutely not. It’s tradition that the players walk on at 1:50 p.m. GMT and the ball is in the air at 2 p.m. We went back and forth during that second week and the club was not giving in. During one of our talent sessions Donald Dell, who represented Roscoe Tanner, said he might have a solution and he asked Roscoe if could delay in the locker room claiming a bathroom break. He didn’t walk out until 2:02 or 2:03. So Roscoe went along with it in the stall and came out and walked out on cue after the opening and everything was great.”
CARILLO ON HER MEMORIES OF 1979: “Live always matters me to me. I remember that morning well. It makes a big big difference watching stuff live. I remember being very affected by it. Those are moments that you just remember when it’s right there in front of you and you don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s nothing better.”
SATURDAY MORNING CARTOONS PREEMPTED BY “BREAKFAST AT WIMBLEDON” IN 1979:
- Yogi’s Space Race
- Godzilla Power Hour
- The New Fred and Barney Show
- Krofft Superstar Hour
- Fabulous Funnies
- Baggy Pants and Nitwits
LIVE AT WIMBLEDON: NBCSports.com is your online companion for NBC Sports coverage of Wimbledon. Live at Wimbledon a joint venture of NBC Sports and the All England Lawn Tennis Club and powered by Microsoft Silverlight will offer live streaming of up to four concurrent courts, on-demand replays of the best matches from every day of The Championships, alternate camera angles for NBC Sports semifinal and final match coverage, daily video highlights, and Golden Moments from the Wimbledon archive.
Live at Wimbledon is available throughout The Championships, Wimbledon with on-demand coverage concluding with the Ladies’ Final on Saturday, July 4 at 9 a.m. ET and the Gentlemen’s Final on Sunday, July 5 at 9 a.m. ET.
WIMBLEDON ON NBC SPORTS MOBILE: Again this year, NBC Sports provides live mobile coverage of The Championships, Wimbledon. Throughout the championships, tennis fans can watch NBC’s coverage on either NBC 2Go or NBC Sports Mobile, including live coverage of every exciting point of the Gentlemen’s and Ladies’ Finals. Plus, tennis fans will be able to get news and scores right on their cell phones with the NBC Sports Mobile Web site or exclusive text alerts; users can just text the word TENNIS to 51515 or visit http://mobile.nbcsports.com.
NBC Sports’ Remaining Wimbledon Broadcast Schedule
Date Time Round
Wednesday, July 1 10 a.m.-1 p.m., all time zones Gentlemen’s Quarterfinals (live and same-day tape)
11:35-11:50 p.m. ET/PT Wimbledon Update
Thursday, July 2 Noon- 5 p.m. all times zones Ladies’ Semifinals (same day tape)
11:35-11:50 p.m. ET/PT Wimbledon Update
Friday, July 3 Noon- 5 p.m. all time zones Gentlemen’s Semifinals (same day tape)
11:35 p.m.-12:05 a.m. ET/PT Wimbledon Update
Saturday, July 4 9 a.m.-2 p.m. ET “Breakfast at Wimbledon”
(live) Ladies’ Final
Sunday, July 5 9 a.m.-3 p.m. ET “Breakfast at Wimbledon” (live) Gentlemen’s Final
*All telecasts are subject to change due to rain delays.