Ed Note: Bloguin has launched a brand new tennis blog, Attacking the Net, for the 2014 French Open. Here Matt Zemek examines the first week of the television coverage in an in-depth way the likes of which you probably haven’t seen before.
The way in which tennis networks cover major tournaments has been a constant source of exasperation for American tennis fans (and also Canadian fans when their sports networks cede coverage to the American ones).
Yet, complaining can only do so much. Why not simply document the various moves American tennis networks make during a major tournament, especially during the cluttered first week? That’s what we’re doing here at Attacking The Net: We’re going to allow you to decide what you would have done if you were in the production truck or the executive suite, choosing how to structure the coverage of a prestigious tennis event.
We’ll follow this extensive documentation of the first week with a brief closing commentary on Tennis Channel and NBC.
COVERING THE COVERAGE:
WEEK ONE AT ROLAND GARROS, AS IT HAPPENED ON AMERICAN TV
8:12 a.m. ET, Sunday, May 25: ESPN2 showed a Roger Federer post-match interview during a break point for Venus Williams at 4-3 in the first set against Belinda Bencic. ESPN2 didn’t return to a split screen until after Venus broke for a 5-3 lead.
8:34 a.m. ET: ESPN2, returning from the first changeover in Serena Williams’s match against Alize Lim – which was expected to be a blowout – stayed with Serena’s match even though Venus Williams’s much more anticipated match against Bencic had moved into the second set. Venus bolted to a lead and pulled away from Bencic in that second set while ESPN2 stuck with the early stages of Serena’s match.
11:04 a.m. ET: Tennis Channel’s panel talks at the anchor desk while, on Court 2, American Sam Querrey tries to break for the first set, leading 5-4 against Filippo Volandri. Tennis Channel later picked up a portion of Querrey-Volandri (before noon Eastern time).
12:03 p.m. ET: NBC comes on the air and, after a two-minute introduction, picks up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Edouard Roger-Vasselin live. The conclusion of that match filled less than half an hour of programming. For the remainder of NBC’s three-hour block allotted to tennis on Sunday, taped matches (Roger Federer and the Williams Sisters) were shown.
Approximately 2:10 p.m. ET: American Varvara Lepchenko begins her match on a court that is available to be covered on television (Court 2), while both NBC and Tennis Channel air taped matches instead.
Monday, 10:08 a.m. ET: ESPN2, going beyond its original broadcast window (scheduled until 10 a.m.), airs the match between Novak Djokovic and Joao Sousa. Tennis Channel, which was supposed to take the handoff from ESPN2 at 10, comes on the air and shows the Djokovic match as well. It is the first instance of simultaneous two-channel coverage of the same match at Roland Garros in 2014.
12:01 p.m. ET: NBC comes on the air in the East, but with this being a Monday and not a Sunday (even though it’s a Memorial Day holiday), other time zones in the U.S. report a lack of live tennis on NBC.
12:40 p.m. ET: Eastern time zone viewers report that NBC and Tennis Channel are showing the Rafael Nadal-Robby Ginepri match at the same time.
1:01 p.m. ET (12:01 p.m. Central): NBC comes on with tennis in the Central time zone. Viewers in Chicago and Western Illinois report that NBC is showing taped tennis. The Nadal-Ginepri match had arrived at match point in real time, but apparently, NBC was starting its coverage in the Central time zone at an earlier point in the competition.
1:30 p.m. ET: Tennis Channel picks up coverage of a journeyman’s match between Julien Benneteau and Facundo Bagnis at 11-all in the fifth set. (No final-set tiebreakers exist at the French Open and the other non-U.S. Open majors.)
Tuesday, 10:26 a.m. ET: Tennis Channel airs a match between Gael Monfils and Victor Hanescu at 5-2 in the first set, while a women’s match between Caroline Wozniacki and Yanina Wickmayer sits at 4-3 in the second set. After Monfils closes out the set, 6-2, Tennis Channel stays with that match, while Wozniacki and Wickmayer move to 5-4 in the second set (with Wickmayer leading by a set). Wozniacki eventually wins the set, 6-4, without any live look-ins from Tennis Channel.
10:47 a.m. ET: Tennis Channel shows the conclusion of the second set between Andy Murray and Andrey Golubev.
10:51 a.m. ET: Tennis Channel goes back to Monfils-Hanescu, ignoring the third and deciding set of Wozniacki-Wickmayer.
10:58 a.m. ET: Tennis Channel conducts an anchor-desk interview with American ATP player Jack Sock.
11:07 a.m. ET: Wickmayer defeats Wozniacki, 6-2 in the third, without receiving coverage in the final two sets. (The first-set tiebreaker was aired live.)