Semifinals, Finals of Tennis’ First Major of the Year Move to ESPN
Golden Era, GOAT Debate Continue; Will 2014 See More Dominance or Breakthrough Players?
The great names and rivalries of an oft-cited Golden Era in tennis will return to the court at the sport’s first major of 2014, the Australian Open, starting Sunday, Jan. 12, and ESPN will again provide U.S. tennis fans with plenty of live, late-night and overnight action with 100+ live hours on TV and 500 live hours from the seven TV courts on ESPN3. Most of play will be on ESPN2, but for ESPN’s 30th consecutive Australian Open the men’s semifinals and both finals will air on ESPN.
Daily action continues each night and into the morning, plus encore presentations the following afternoon, through the women’s championship Saturday, Jan 25, and the men’s championship Sunday, Jan. 26, both at 3 a.m. ET with reairs at 9 a.m. All telecasts are also available through WatchESPN online at WatchESPN.com, on smartphones and tablets via the WatchESPN app and streamed on televisions through ESPN on Xbox LIVE to Gold members, Apple TV and Roku.
ESPN3’s live presentation allows fans to choose among action on up to seven TV courts with all matches available on-demand after completion. ESPN3’s coverage starts at 7 p.m. over the first 11 days of the tournament with the first ball each day of all TV court matches. Additionally, ESPN3 will offer live the men’s, women’s and mixed doubles championships and the finals of the boys and girls divisions.
Tennis Channel and ESPN’s ongoing Grand Slam alliance includes the Australian Open and gives viewers near round-the-clock tournament enjoyment from Melbourne. ESPN produces the Australian Open for both networks, with each utilizing its own commentators and cross-promoting their combined television offerings.
Surveying the Fields
The dominance of today’s top players has many tennis journalists and fans saying the current era features both the men’s and women’s GOAT – the Greatest of All Time – but debates rage on. The top stars:
· The “Big Four” of men’s tennis – Roger Federer (17 career major wins), Rafael Nadal (13), Novak Djokovic (6) and Andy Murray (2) – have won 34 of the last 35 Majors and comprise 25 of the last 26 Major finalists and 53 of the last 62.
· The “Big Three of women’s tennis – Serena Williams (17), Maria Sharapova (4) and Victoria Azarenka (2) – have won eight of the last nine majors. The other, Marion Bartoli, retired after claiming Wimbledon last summer.
· The top-ranked players of 2013 – Nadal and Williams – each won two majors last year but neither was victorious down under. Nadal, who won in 2009, did not enter the event as he was still recovering from injury. Williams was upset in the quarterfinals by rising young American hopeful Sloane Stephens but has taken the crown in Melbourne five times, most recently in 2010.
· Ironically, both the defending champions — Azarenka and Djokovic finished the year ranked No. 2 and are seeking to extend winning streaks at the Australian Open: Azarenka is the two-time defending champion while the Serb is seeking his fourth consecutive title there and fifth overall.
· The men’s field also includes four-time trophy winner Federer, plus reigning Wimbledon champion Andy Murray and a number of other contenders, only one a Major winner (Del Potro, 2009 US Open): David Ferrer, Juan Martin Del Potro, Tomas Berdych, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Stanislas Wawrinka.
· The women’s field includes only one previous winner besides Azarenka and Williams – Sharapova (2008). Only two of the other players currently ranked in the top 10 have ever won a major: Li Na (French Open 2011), Agnieszka Radwanska, Petra Kvitova (Wimbledon 2011), Sara Errani, Jelena Jankovic, Angelique Kerber and Caroline Wozniacki.
TV: IN THE U.S. AND AROUND THE WORLD
The ESPN Tennis Team, the best tennis team in television returns for 2014:
· Darren Cahill, who once reached the US Open semifinals and the Australian Open doubles finals and went on to coach fellow Australian Lleyton Hewitt and Andre Agassi, has worked for ESPN since 2007.
· Cliff Drysdale, who was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame in 2013, reached the US Open finals and is a two-time Wimbledon and French Open semifinalist. He has been with ESPN since its first tennis telecast in 1979. Drysdale was a leader on the court – a top player for many years who was one of the first to use a two-hand backhand – and off the court, as the first president of the ATP.
· Chris Evert, a Hall of Famer who joined ESPN in 2011, her 18 major titles includes a record six US Open titles. She recorded the best career win-loss record in history. Played the Australian Open six times (1974 the first), reaching the finals every time, winning twice.
· Mary Joe Fernandez, who played in three Major singles finals and won two Majors in doubles, won a Gold Medal in doubles at the 1992 and 1996 Olympics and a Bronze in singles in 1992. An ESPN analyst since 2000, she leads the United States’ Fed Cup team and coached the 2012 U.S. women’s Olympic team.
· Chris Fowler, who joined ESPN in 1986 and has hosted College GameDay on football Saturdays since 1990, has hosted tennis since 2003, branching out over the years to also call matches. His diverse resume includes World Cup soccer, college basketball including the Final Four, the X Games and Triple Crown horse racing events, after first serving as host of Scholastic Sports America and then anchoring SportsCenter.
· Brad Gilbert, whose flair and unique nicknames for players has enlivened ESPN’s tennis telecasts since 2004, parlayed his playing career – once reaching the quarterfinals of the US Open and at Wimbledon – into coaching Andre Agassi (six Major titles with Brad), Andy Roddick (US Open victory) and Andy Murray.
· Patrick McEnroe, who has worked for ESPN since 1995, was the U.S. Davis Cup captain 2001-2010 and in 2007 the team won its first championship since 1995. A three-time singles All-American at Stanford – where the team won NCAA titles in 1986 and 1988 – he is General Manager, USTA Elite Player Development. He won the 1992 French Open doubles title and reached the 1991 Australian Open semifinals in singles.
· Chris McKendry, a SportsCenter anchor since joining ESPN in 1996, serves as a host at the Australian Open and the US Open. She attended Drexel University on a tennis scholarship.
· Tom Rinaldi will serve as a reporter and will call matches. His features and interviews have graced a wide variety of ESPN programs – including SportsCenter, Outside the Lines, E:60 and event telecasts such as Wimbledon, golf’s Majors, college football and more – since 2003, winning numerous Sports Emmy Awards.
· Pam Shriver, who started working for ESPN in 1990, long before her Hall of Fame career ended, played in the US Open finals at age 16 (losing to Evert) and won 21 Grand Slam titles in women’s doubles (another in Mixed) including five at the US Open plus a Gold Medal in doubles at the 1988 Olympics.
ESPN Interactive TV, seen on DIRECTV and ESPN3, will again present the Australian Open in a six-screen “mix channel” format. For eight hours each evening during the first eight days of the tournament, viewers will be able to watch the ESPN2 feed or select from five other courts, all with commentary and customized graphics. Interactive data features include the tournament draw, up-to-date scores, daily order of play, and social media interaction. SportsCenter’s Steve Weissman will anchor the coverage, providing studio updates and news from around the tournament. Joining the announce team are former players Chanda Rubin, Jeff Tarango, Leif Shiras, Elise Burgin, Doug Adler, Nick Lester, and Christen Bartelt, along with play by play announcers Mark Donaldson and Brian Webber. New for 2014, viewers will enjoy advanced interactive features providing player bios, as well as match-specific Twitter Feeds and “bottom line” information.
ESPN International will deliver over 110 hours of live HD coverage to the pan-regional ESPN networks in Latin America. Showcasing the biggest names in tennis and players of local relevance, broadcasts will air in three languages, including Spanish coverage in Mexico, Central America & South America, Portuguese coverage in Brazil, and English coverage in the Caribbean. ESPN+ Brazil will air over 60 hours of live complementary coverage throughout the early rounds, while ESPN+ in South America will air over 30 hours of additional Spanish coverage.
ESPN Classic, starting tonight, Monday, Jan. 6, at midnight will become the “Australian Open Great Matches Channel,” airing 85 hours of memorable action from the past around the clock until Friday, Jan. 10 at 11 p.m. (with the exception of a brief interruption early each morning). Highlights:
· The three oldest matches scheduled, from 1988, air Tuesday, Jan 7: Mats Wilander vs. Pat Cash in the Men’s Final at 1 p.m., the Women’s Semifinal, Evert vs. Martina Navratilova, at 3 p.m., and at 5 p.m. the Women’s Final, Steffi Graf vs. Evert (Evert’s final appearance in a Major final).
· Three five-hour epic duels: 2005 Men’s Semifinal (Federer vs. Marat Safin) Wednesday, Jan 8, at midnight (9 p.m. PT); 2003 Men’s Quarterfinal (Andy Roddick over Younes El Ayanoui with a 21-19 fifth set) Thursday, Jan. 9, at 2 p.m.; back-to-back men’s classics from 2009 – a semifinal between Nadal and Fernando Verdasco Thursday at midnight (9 p.m. PT) and the Nadal-Federer final Friday at 7 a.m.
· The marathon will conclude with last year’s men’s final, Djokovic vs. Murray, on Friday, Jan. 10, at 9 p.m.
DIGITAL MEDIA, AT HOME AND ABROAD
WatchESPN will deliver ESPN2’s and ESPN’s live coverage of the Australian Open online at WatchESPN.com, on smartphones and tablets via the WatchESPN app and streamed on televisions through ESPN on Xbox LIVE to Gold members, Apple TV and Roku. Additionally, ESPN3 will once again provide coverage of up to eight live feeds from the TV courts – 500 hours. For the first 11 days (Sun., Jan. 12 – Wed., Jan. 22), coverage will commence at 7 p.m. (11 a.m. in Melbourne, when play begins) and continue for at least seven hours. The courts to be included are the “TV courts,” the ones most likely to have top matches: Rod Laver Arena, Hisense Arena, Margaret Court Arena, plus Courts 2, 3, 6 and 8. For the remainder of the tournament, ESPN3 will continue with select live coverage from ESPN2, including the women’s (Jan. 25) and men’s (Jan. 26) finals, plus exclusive coverage of select men’s, women’s and mixed doubles play and the boys’ and girls’ finals. Fans can also access ESPN3 feeds from AustralianOpen.com. Each window will be available for on-demand replay following completion. With ESPN3’s dynamic interface, fans will be able to fast-forward, rewind and pause action – during on-demand replay and live action.
ESPN3 is ESPN’s live multi-screen sports network, a 24/7 destination that delivers thousands of global sports events annually via WatchESPN. It is available to 85 million homes at no additional cost to fans who receive their high-speed Internet connection or video subscription from an affiliated service provider. The network is also available at no cost to approximately 21 million U.S. college students and U.S.-based military personnel via computers, smartphones and tablets connected to on-campus educational networks and on-base military broadband and Wi-Fi networks.
ESPN3 carries thousands of hours of tennis annually, including all four Grand Slam events, plus ATP 1000 and 500 tournaments and WTA Premier Events, and the season-ending championships for both tours.
ESPN On Demand (TV & Mobile) Will offer highlights from past years tournaments as well as a highlight from this year’s men’s and women’s matches.
ESPN.com will once again feature Courtcast, a cutting-edge application presented by IBM, featuring official IBM tournament and real-time statistics, Hawk-Eye technology, a rolling Twitter feed, Cover It Live analysis and interactive poll questions. Slam Central, an aggregation of all the day’s top news, analysis, blogs and video, as well as a daily Digital Serve and At This Minute video segments with commentators in Melbourne discussing the results, will be a daily staple. News and analysis from contributors Melissa Isaacson and Tennis.com writers will add to the depth of coverage. During the second week of play, the staff will interact with fans via live blogging.
· Complete analysis of the women’s draw when it is announced.
· Pre-tournament feature on the Williams effect in tennis; as Serena Williams attempts to make history in 2014, how have her and sister Venus changed the game, from inspiring a new generation of players to redefining the marketplace for female athletes.
· Pre-tournament column on Maria Sharapova and her approach to 2014 after a turbulent and injury-ridden 2013.
· Melissa Isaacson will provide on-site coverage for espnW.com (and ESPN.com), including daily columns and analysis of matches.
· Daily espnW.com analysis segments from the Australian Open.
· Weekly video reports from The Word, discussing play to date.
ESPNtenis.com will have the following content: A daily webisode called “ESPiaNdo el Australian Open”; an “applet” featuring real-time, point-by-point scoring of all matches; live scores, results and brackets; columns, chats and blogs by TV commentators and other writers; polls; the “Ask ESPN” feature, prompting users to send their comments/questions via the website; video clips with highlights of daily action and analysis; TV scheduling information, and photo galleries.
ESPN International’s ESPN Play (Watch ESPN in Brazil) broadband service in Latin America will provide wall-to-wall coverage of the year’s first Grand Slam, airing over 500 hours of live tennis from every available televised court, including the men’s & women’s quarterfinals, semifinals and finals, all live. This streaming action will be available in 16 million homes throughout Spanish-speaking Latin America/Caribbean plus eight million more homes in Brazil.
Drama Down Under
The Australian Open has a history of starting the tennis season off in a big way, with matches of historic lengths in the summer heat Down Under. Just in the last three years on ESPN2:
· In the fourth round of the 2011 Australian Open, Francesca Schiavone defeats Svetlana Kuznetsova in the longest women’s match ever at a Grand Slam event – 6-4, 1-6, 16-14. The match lasted 4:44.
· In tennis’ longest Grand Slam final ever, No. 1 Novak Djokovic outlasts No. 2 Rafael Nadal 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 7-5 in 5 hours and 53 minutes at the 2012 Australian Open on ESPN2. It was Djokovic’s fourth title in the last five Majors.
· On the way to his fourth title, in 2013 Djokovic outlasted Stan Wawrinka in the fourth round in a five-hour thriller 1-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-7, 12-10.
ESPN – All Four Slams, All In One Place
Tennis has been part of ESPN since its first week on the air and provided many memorable moments, but it has never been as important as today, with the US Open joining the lineup in 2009, giving ESPN all four Grand Slam events, something no other U.S. network has ever done, let alone in one year. ESPN has presented the Australian Open since 1984, the French Open since 2002 (plus 1986 – 1993), and Wimbledon since 2003, with exclusivity for live television with all other rights extended in a 12-year agreement starting in 2012. Exclusivity for the US Open in an 11-year agreement begins in 2015.
AUSTRALIAN OPEN 2014 on ESPN2 HD
(For these charts, all times are Eastern, and each day “begins” at 6 a.m. ET.
Therefore, the listing Sun., Jan. 20 at 3 a.m. ET is actually very late on Sunday night.)
|Sun, Jan 12||7 p.m. – 7 a.m.||Early round play||ESPN2||LIVE|
|Mon, Jan 13||3 – 6 p.m.||“||ESPN2||Same-day|
|9 p.m. – 7 a.m.||“||ESPN2||LIVE|
|Tue, Jan 14||3 – 6 p.m.||“||ESPN2||Same-day|
|9 p.m. – 7 a.m.||“||ESPN2||LIVE|
|Wed, Jan 15||3 – 6 p.m.||“||ESPN2||Same-day|
|9 p.m. – 7 a.m.||“||ESPN2||LIVE|
|Thur, Jan 16||3 – 6 p.m.||“||ESPN2||Same-day|
|11 p.m. – 7 a.m.||“||ESPN2||LIVE|
|Fri, Jan 17||3 – 6 p.m.||“||ESPN2||Same-day|
|9 p.m. – 7 a.m.||“||ESPN2||LIVE|
|Sat, Jan 18||9 – Noon||“||ESPN2||Same-day|
|9 p.m. – 2 a.m.||Round of 16||ESPN2||LIVE|
|3 – 7 a.m.||“||ESPN2||LIVE|
|Sun, Jan 19||11 a.m. – 3 p.m.||“||ESPN2||Same-day|
|9 p.m. – 2 a.m.||“||ESPN2||LIVE|
|3 – 6:30 a.m.||“||ESPN2||LIVE|
|Mon, Jan 20||9 p.m. – 2 a.m.||Quarterfinals||ESPN2||LIVE|
|3 – 5:30 a.m.||“||ESPN2||LIVE|
|Tue, Jan 21||3 – 6 p.m.||“||ESPN2||Same-day|
|9 p.m. – 2 a.m.||“||ESPN2||LIVE|
|3:30 – 6 a.m.||“||ESPN2||LIVE|
|Wed, Jan 22||3 – 6 p.m.||“||ESPN2||Same-day|
|9:30 p.m. – 2 a.m.||Women’s Semifinals||ESPN2||LIVE|
|3:30 – 6 a.m.||Men’s Semifinal #1||ESPN||LIVE|
|Thurs, Jan 23||2 – 6 p.m.||Men’s Semifinal #1||ESPN2||reair|
|3:30 – 6 a.m.||Men’s Semifinal #2||ESPN||LIVE|
|Fri, Jan 24||2 – 6 p.m.||Men’s Semifinal #2||ESPN2||reair|
|3 – 5:30 a.m.||Women’s Championship||ESPN||LIVE|
|Sat, Jan. 25||9 – 11 a.m.||Women’s Championship||ESPN2||reair|
|3 – 6:30 a.m.||Men’s Championship||ESPN||LIVE|
|Sun, Jan 26||9 a.m. – 2 p.m.||Men’s Championship||ESPN2||reair|