As Tennis Channel prepares for its annual viewer countdown of the network’s best matches of the year in December, three members of its on-air talent team have weighed in with their own favorite matches of 2011. Primary Grand Slam commentator Martina Navratilova, US Open analyst Jim Courier, and US Open Tonight host and network analyst Lindsay Davenport revealed their top competitions of 2011, three memorable, different Grand Slam moments in a year that proved to be historic.
In early November Tennis Channel asked its viewers to visit www.tennischannel.comÂ and vote for their favorite matches of the past tennis season. The result is LOVE 30: 30 Matches in 30 Days, encore presentations of the top 30 matches of 2011, counted down from No. 30 on Thursday, Dec. 1 to No. 1 on Friday, Dec. 30. Each night at 8 p.m. ET Tennis Channel will air the match of the day, according to where it ranked with viewers, a month of top-caliber competition during the holiday season.
When asked about her favorite match of 2011, Hall of Famer Navratilova picked the US Open women’s final, in which Australian Sam Stosur pulled off a surprising win over American Serena Williams. Courier’s preference, on the other hand, was the French Open semifinal between Serbia’s Novak Djokovic and Switzerland’s Roger Federer, with the former’s year-long undefeated streak on the line. Davenport noted the first Wimbledon crown for Czech Petra Kvitova against Russian Maria Sharapova, known as one of the toughest competitors in the professional circuit. (Quotes about these matches from Tennis Channel talent follow, below.)
Tennis Channel is also treating clay-court, grass-court and hard-court fans to surface-related theme weeks throughout December, running the best matches based on a particular court surface every day from 6 a.m. through 5 p.m. ET. The theme weeks are: Outdoor Hard Court – Dec. 5-11, Clay Court – Dec. 12-18, Grass Court – Dec. 19-25 and Indoor Hard Court – Dec. 26-Jan 1.
In addition to voting for their favorite matches on Tennis Channel this year, online visitors had the opportunity to weigh in on the Biggest Storyline of 2011 as well. More than half of the participants voted Djokovic’s accomplishment (his early winning streak, advance to the No. 1 singles ranking and collection of three Grand Slam singles titles) as the top event, with 50.55 percent of the respondents favoring the Serb’s history-making season. Voters also ranked these events as part of the top five this year (percentage of viewers who ranked the event first in parentheses):
Roger Federer does not win a Grand Slam title for the first time since 2002 (36.6 percent)
Li Na becomes the first Chinese player to win a Grand Slam singles title (6 percent)
Serena Williams has an angry meltdown at the US Open (3.66 percent)
Mardy Fish passes Andy Roddick as the top-ranked American singles player (3.19 percent)
TENNIS CHANNEL TALENT’S FAVORITE MATCHES OF 2011:
“I think my favorite match is the US Open final between Sam Stosur and Serena Williams. Williams was a heavy favorite and frankly we were just hoping for a close match. Stosur came out with a solid game plan and was able to execute it. While Stosur faltered at the French two years ago where she was the favorite, she stood toe to toe with Williams. Serena had a brief resurgence when she got fired up after an altercation with the umpire at the beginning of the second set, but again Stosur held her ground and ended up winning in, to me, the biggest surprise of the year. By the way, Kvitova’s win was great but not as much of a surprise.”
- Martina Navratilova
“My favorite match of the year would be the French Open semifinals when Djokovic was playing for the No. 1 ranking, he was playing to tie McEnroe’s streak and playing for his first French Open, and Federer knocked him off in a brilliantly played match, in a high-intensity match. So that was one that I thoroughly enjoyed. I was there in the crowd, I wasn’t working it, I wasn’t calling it for television, I was just sitting there enjoying the match and just astonished by the level of tennis that those guys played. It was breathtaking at times.”
- Jim Courier
“My favorite match was the Wimbledon final between Petra Kvitova and Maria Sharapova. I really had no idea what to expect of this final. It’s not easy for most players to play their best (or near their best) in their first Slam final, and Maria really had a ton of momentum going into the match. But it was apparent early on that Kvitova was ready to ascend to the top. This was one of the few matches that I’ve been able to just sit and watch live… and it was a treat. The sound of Kvitova’s ground strokes was unlike any I had heard; very clean, very strong. It was so apparent she had become the best ball striker now in women’s tennis. After watching and playing against Maria for years, I know the strategy: try and take the play out of her hands by striking early in the rally, but it is not easy to do. Kvitova had no problem doing this throughout the match. Hard, heavy ground strokes, huge returns and a big serving day. It was an honor to see this shy Czech lady come out of her shell on the biggest stage.”
- Lindsay Davenport