US Open To Be Aired on ESPN
I knew that something bugged me when I heard that ESPN was to broadcast the entirety of the US Open (taking over from USA Network), starting in 2009. And it wasn’t just the annoyance of the :18 and :58 banners and breathless coverage of Clemens-gate on the bottom line banner.
But access to all the games will be a worry. From a Connecticut Post editorial:
You know what else makes the USA coverage outstanding? It’s always on. The matches start at 11 a.m., and that’s the time the USA theme song begins, a great start to every weekday until CBS takes over late in the tournament. There’s only a two-hour break in coverage from the first serve until the final point, and that break is often blown off if the matches are interesting enough. One of the first things I noticed with ESPN2’s coverage is that it will start at 1 p.m. during the first week. That’s two hours of tennis uncovered. Sigh.
It turns out that tennis will be covered. It’ll air on The Tennis Channel, which generally costs extra. Perhaps I’ll order TTC during that time span, but perhaps not; I pay more than enough for cable television as it is. To add insult to injury, the middle weekend night sessions — which have featured such matchups as James Blake vs. Roger Federer in past years — will be on TTC. That means a whole bunch of regular viewers will miss those matches, and possibly lose interest in the tournament as a result.
And there are other issues. The USTA made it clear it wants ESPN and tennis to become synonymous. The network already handles the other three Grand Slam events, often ruining them by focusing way too much on Americans, even in blowouts, ignoring live matches to show the American routs on tape.
The worst thing a network can do in showing a sport where Americans are not entirely dominant is… showing mostly Americans. Makes the sport look boring. If you watch the World Cup and only see the Americans, you think soccer is a slovenly, boring sport that sucks 90 minutes out of your life.
And those midweek matches are the most fun – late evening, watching two players who can’t break that top-ten ceiling fighting and struggling to win a 3 (for the women) or 5 (for the men) set match on pure grit and sweat, on an 85 degree night in Flushing? That’s the joy of the US Open right there. Those are the tickets I used to get and enjoy. And the AM games? When I was in high school, I’d go to any of those games I could get tickets to (okay, they were free. I didn’t have that kind of loot in HS!) and watch minor players try to prove they belonged.
And I am NOT buying the tennis channel for a month.
I can see the finals and semis drawing a strong crowd to ESPN, but otherwise, they’re just burying the early round matches to tennis fanatics, and there aren’t many of those anymore.
Photo above is of the great Gabriela Sabatini (purr); below is video of her 1991 US Open win over Steffi Graf.