May 1, 2016

2016 Australian Open Seeds Announced

Rod Laver Arena

(January 13, 2016) Tennis Australia has announced the seeds for the 2016 Australian Open. The seeds are as follows:

 

Men’s seeds Women’s seeds
1.   Novak Djokovic (SRB) 1.   Serena Williams (USA)
2.   Andy Murray (GBR) 2.   Simona Halep (ROU)
3.   Roger Federer (SUI) 3.   Garbine Muguruza (ESP)
4.   Stan Wawrinka (SUI) 4.   Agnieszka Radwanska (POL)
5.   Rafael Nadal (ESP) 5.   Maria Sharapova (RUS)
6.   Tomas Berdych (CZE) 6.   Petra Kvitova
7.   Kei Nishikori (JPN) 7.   Angelique Kerber (GER)
8.   David Ferrer (ESP) 8.   Venus Williams (USA)
9.   Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) 9.   Karolina Pliskova (CZE)
10. John Isner (USA) 10. Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP)
11. Kevin Anderson (RSA) 11. Timea Bacsinszky (SUI)
12. Marin Cilic (CRO) 12. Belinda Bencic (SUI)
13. Milos Raonic (CAN) 13. Roberta Vinci (ITA)
14. Gilles Simon (FRA) 14. Victoria Azarenka (BLR)
15. David Goffin (BEL) 15. Madison Keys (USA)
16. Bernard Tomic (AUS) 16. Caroline Wozniacki (DEN)
17. Benoit Paire (FRA) 17. Sara Errani (ITA)
18. Feliciano Lopez (ESP) 18. Elina Svitolina (UKR)
19. Dominic Thiem (AUT) 19. Jelena Jankovic (SRB)
20. Fabio Fognini (ITA) 20. Ana Ivanovic (SRB)
21. Viktor Troicki (SRB) 21. Ekaterina Makarova (RUS)
22. Ivo Karlovic (CRO) 22. Andrea Petkovic (GER)
23. Gael Monfils (FRA) 23. Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS)
24. Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) 24. Sloane Stephens (USA)
25. Jack Sock (USA) 25. Samantha Stosur (AUS)
26. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (ESP) 26. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS)
27. Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) 27. Anna Karolina Schmiedlova (SVK)
28. Andreas Seppi (ITA) 28. Kristina Mladenovic (FRA)
29. Nick Kyrgios (AUS) 29. Irina-Camelia Begu (ROU)
30. Jeremy Chardy (FRA) 30. Sabine Lisicki (GER)
31. Steve Johnson (USA) 31. Lesia Tsurenko (UKR)
32. Joao Sousa (POR) 32. Caroline Garcia (FRA)

 

The official draw for Australian Open 2016 will take place at Melbourne Park on Friday 16 January at 10.15am. Australian Open defending champions Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic will attend.

 

Share

ESPN 2016 Australian Open Broadcast Schedule

AustralianOpenLogo

AUSTRALIAN OPEN 2016

(For these charts, all times are Eastern, and each day “begins” at 6 a.m. ET.

Therefore, the listing Sat., Jan. 23, at 3 a.m. ET is actually very late on Saturday night.)

 

Date Time (ET) Event Network  
Sun, Jan 17 –

Fri Jan 29

7 p.m. All Courts (up to 16), all day (English)

Multiple Courts

(Spanish)

WatchESPN LIVE
Sat, Jan 30 12 MID Men’s Doubles Championship

Men’s Singles Championship

WatchESPN LIVE
   
Sun, Jan 17 7 p.m. – 7 a.m. Early round play ESPN2 LIVE
Mon, Jan 18 9 p.m. – 7 a.m. ESPN2 LIVE
Tue, Jan 19 3 – 6 p.m. ESPN2 Same-day
  9 p.m. – 7 a.m. ESPN2 LIVE
Wed, Jan 20 3 – 6 p.m. ESPN2 Same-day
  9 p.m. – 7 a.m. ESPN2 LIVE
Thu, Jan 21 3 – 6 p.m. ESPN2 Same-day
  11 p.m. – 7 a.m. ESPN2 LIVE
Fri, Jan 22 3 – 6 p.m. ESPN2 Same-day
  9 p.m. – 7 a.m. ESPN2 LIVE
Sat, Jan 23 9 a.m. – Noon ESPN2 Same-day
  9 p.m. – 2 a.m. Round of 16 ESPN2 LIVE
  3 – 7 a.m. ESPN2 LIVE
Sun, Jan 24 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. ESPN2 Same-day
  9 p.m. – 2 a.m. ESPN2 LIVE
  3 – 6:30 a.m. ESPN2 LIVE
Mon, Jan 25 3 – 6 p.m. ESPN2 Same-day
  9 p.m. – 2 a.m. Quarterfinals ESPN2 LIVE
  3 – 6 a.m. ESPN2 LIVE
Tue, Jan 26 3 – 6 p.m. ESPN2 Same-day
9 p.m. – 2 a.m. ESPN2 LIVE
  3:30 – 6 a.m. ESPN2 LIVE
Wed, Jan 27 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

ESPN Deportes

LIVE
Thu, Jan 28 2 – 6 p.m. Men’s Semifinal #1 ESPN2 Encore
  3:30 – 6 a.m. Men’s Semifinal #2 ESPN

ESPN Deportes

LIVE
Fri, Jan 29 2 – 6 p.m. Men’s Semifinal #2 ESPN2 Encore
  3 – 5:30 a.m. Women’s Championship ESPN

ESPN Deportes

LIVE
Sat, Jan 30 9 – 11 a.m. Women’s Championship ESPN2 Encore
  3 – 6:30 a.m. Men’s Championship ESPN

ESPN Deportes

LIVE
Sun, Jan 31 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Men’s Championship ESPN2 Encore

 

DIGITAL MEDIA, AT HOME AND ABROAD; INTERNATIONAL TV; ESPN DEPORTES; ESPN CLASSIC  

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 and interactive poll questions. Digital Serve video, Baseline Buzz and daily Aussie Open reports and analysis from contributors Jim Caple, Matt Wilansky, Peter Bodo and Greg Garber will add to the depth of coverage.  Preview stories:

 

  • A four-part look into tennis’ future. Is this the last year of this golden era? The aging stars are resolute in their quest to bring home gold in Rio, but after that, how much will we see the likes of Federer, Serena, Venus, the Bryans et al?
  • Johnette Howard looks at Roger Federer’s legacy.  Although considered by many to be the all-time greatest champion , of late is more frequently the game’s foremost bridesmaid. .
  • What will the landscape on the tour look like in three years?
  • Draw analysis and predictions from both tours.

 

ESPN Social Platforms

@ESPNTennis, ESPN’s official tennis Twitter account, and ESPN Tennis’ official Facebook page will be posting additional, exclusive content including interviews, profiles and more behind-the-scenes looks of the Australian Open.

 

ESPN Interactive TV, seen on DIRECTV and WatchESPN, will present a six-screen mosaic, featuring the ESPN/Tennis Channel linear feed and five TV courts, during the first seven days of the tournament.  Allen Bestwick will serve as the studio host and is joined by announcers Chanda Rubin, Jeff Tarango, Leif Shiras, Elise Burgin, Doug Adler, Nick Lester, Christen Bartelt, Steve Weissman, Mark Donaldson and Brian Webber.

 

ESPN Deportes will present extensive, live coverage of the tournament across multiple platforms. ESPN Deportes+, the Spanish-language broadband channel available via ESPNDeportes.com and WatchESPN, will present wall-to-wall coverage, streaming more than 100 live hours of all rounds, the quarterfinals and the women’s semifinals. The men’s semis and both Championships will be televised live on ESPN Deportes. Online, ESPNDeportes.com will also provide up-to-the-minute news and information including highlights, recaps, chats, and the daily web series “ESPiaNdo el Australian Open”.

 

ESPN Classic is airing memorable Australian Open matches much of the week.  Highlights:

  • 2003 Women’s Final, Venus Williams vs. Serena Williams, Tues., Jan. 12, 1 p.m.
  • 2005 Men’s Semifinal, Roger Federer vs. Matt Safin, Tues., Jan. 12, 3 p.m.
  • 2009 Men’s Final, Rafael Nadal vs. Roger Federer, Tues., Jan. 12, 8 p.m. (also Thur., Jan. 14 at MID/9 p.m. PT)
  • 1995 Men’s Championship, Andre Agassi vs. Pete Sampras, Wed., Jan. 13, 5 p.m.
  • 2015 Women’s Final, Serena Williams vs. Maria Sharapova, Fri., Jan. 15, 3 p.m.

 

ESPN International will televise over 110 hours of live HD coverage to tennis fans via its networks in Latin America and the Caribbean.  Showcasing the biggest names in tennis, broadcasts will air in three languages, including Spanish in Mexico, Central America & South America; Portuguese in Brazil; and English in the Caribbean.  ESPN+ Brazil will air over 80 hours of live complementary coverage throughout the early rounds, while ESPN+ in South America will air over 20 hours of additional Spanish coverage. In addition, ESPN will also televise two one-hour recaps and a two-hour “Best Match of the Day” daily.   In Canada, TSN (English) and RDS (French) will again provide ESPN coverage on television and digital services, while in India, the newly launched SONY ESPN platform will carry ESPN coverage.

 

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 Play (Watch ESPN  in Brazil), ESPN’s broadband service in Latin America and the Caribbean will provide wall-to-wall coverage of the year’s first Grand Slam, streaming over 1,300 hours of live tennis coverage from every available televised court, including the men’s & women’s quarterfinals, semifinals and finals. Live streaming action will be available throughout Latin America and the Caribbean in English, Spanish and Portuguese language.

 

Share

USTA and ESPN Expand US Open and US Open Series Coverage

 ustalogo
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., July 21, 2015 – The USTA today announced that for the 2015 summer tennis season, ESPN will broadcast over 1800 hours of live tennis action across it’s platforms as the exclusive live domestic television and digital media partner for the US Open and Emirates Airline US Open Series.  2015 marks the first year of an 11-year agreement between the USTA and ESPN, which will see the US Open carried on ESPN through 2025.
The unprecedented tennis coverage will feature over 200 hours of live match play on ESPN and ESPN2, with more than 1600 hours to be featured on ESPN3 – ESPN’s live multi-screen sports network, a destination that delivers thousands of hours of exclusive sports annually.
“The opportunity for tennis to be seen across ESPN platforms affords the sport a stage that reaches far beyond the eyes of just the traditional tennis fan and into the homes of all sports fans,” said USTA Chairman of the Board and President Katrina Adams. “The ability to be top of mind throughout the summer is an incredible chance to highlight some of the greatest athletes in the world, including Serena Williams as she continues her historic pursuit of the calendar Grand Slam, and continue to grow the sport throughout the country.”
“We are delighted to work with the USTA to bring tennis fans even more comprehensive coverage of the most important tennis this summer between the Series and US Open over the next seven weeks” said Scott Guglielmino, SVP, Programming and Global X. “We are extremely excited for our first year of exclusive coverage of the US Open, giving us the opportunity to leverage our TV and digital media platforms to further engage fans with more ways and more hours to watch as the game’s greatest athletes compete.”
Over the five week calendar of the Emirates Airline US Open Series, ESPN2 will air nearly 70 hours of live coverage, while ESPN3 will carry more than 500 hours of action.  In total, there will be 34 consecutive days of coverage for these tournaments.  For the first time, fans will be able to access coverage on the Emirates Airline US Open Series main website – emiratesusopenseries.com – as well as the respective tournament websites, through the integration of the ESPN3 Media Player.  ESPN3 is also accessible on line at WatchESPN.com and on smartphones and tablets via the WatchESPN app.
During the 2015 US Open, ESPN and ESPN2 will combine to air more than 130 hours of live match play with more than 1100 hours of first-to-last ball coverage to be seen on ESPN3, which will also be hosted on the US Open website – usopen.org.  In an expansion of its US Open coverage, ESPN will feature play from 11 courts.
“This overarching agreement with and commitment from ESPN is incredibly important to the USTA and to tennis, at large, as it brings the sport to the fans on a larger scale than ever before,” said Gordon Smith, USTA Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer.  “The reach of ESPN is undeniable, and the ability to watch the US Open and Emirates Airline US Open Series throughout the summer, across a number of ESPN’s platforms markedly enhances the experience for the tennis viewer.”
For the 2015 US Open, the men’s singles final will return to its traditional Sunday (September 13) afternoon timeslot and the women’s singles final will be scheduled for Saturday (September 12) afternoon – both finals will air on ESPN.  The men’s singles semifinals will take place on Friday (September 11) afternoon, with the women’s singles semifinals scheduled for primetime on the second Thursday (September 10) night of the tournament. This schedule reaffirms the USTA’s commitment to providing a day of rest for singles competitors between the singles semifinals and singles finals.
Prior to the start of the tournament, ESPN will kick-off its coverage of the US Open on Sunday, August 30 with a broadcast of Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day presented by Hess from 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. (ET) and a US Open preview show from 2:00 – 2:30 p.m. (ET), both to be broadcast on ESPN2.  Additionally, leading into the men’s singles final, ESPN will televise a 30-minute “Blue Carpet” special, enabling the fans to get an inside look at the excitement, pageantry and celebrity surrounding the day.
In addition to ESPN’s coverage at the Open, Tennis Channel, for the seventh year, will offer pre and post-match coverage, analysis, and match encores throughout the two weeks of the US Open.
Share

ESPN Tennis Conference Call with Chris Evert, Patrick McEnroe and Pam Shriver

(March 16, 2015) ESPN tennis analysts Chrissie Evert, Patrick McEnroe and Pam Shriver spoke with media on Monday. Currently, ESPN3 is providing live all-day coverage from the three main stadiums at the BNP Paribas Open, with ESPN television joining on Thursday, March 19, through Sunday’s women’s and men’s championships.

Soundbites:

How good is Madison Keys?

· “I saw her at age 12. I think that everybody that saw her at that point thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, there’s so much raw power, that if she could just control it and harness it, she’s going to be a great player.’ Very much like a Serena, she has the second best serve out there, which she’s going to win a lot of free points holding her serve…But she’s got it all. She has natural ease and power in her shots.” – Evert

· “The first time I really came out of a match with my jaw sort of dropping was a couple years ago at the Australian Open when she beat Paszek, beat her routinely. She beat her with two weapons: the serve and the forehand. In my mind, in women’s tennis especially, when you can come through with those two big weapons, it can set you apart….I can tell you from my courtside position a couple years ago, I came out feeling fantastic that the U.S. had a true prospect to get to the top spot.” – Shriver

The strong state of women’s tennis:

· “The women’s game is as healthy as it’s been in a long time, to have Serena obviously doing what she’s doing. You’re finally I think seeing some young players that got some gumption, that got some real attitude that they can compete with the best in Bouchard and Keys, Svitolina and others. I think Coco Vandeweghe deserves to be in that conversation, as well.” – McEnroe

· “The bottom half of the women’s draw — Bouchard, Keys, Jankovic, Bencic, Wozniacki, Ivanovic, Garcia, Lisicki, Errani, Azarenka, Sharapova. That’s the kind of quality draw that in the last six, seven years we haven’t been fortunate enough to have. The recession of women’s tennis that started with Justine Henin retiring is well and truly over.” – Shriver

Q. Madison Keys, she’s really at this point obviously a big-time player, top 20. I know how familiar all of you are with her. Can you tell me why of all of the young up-and-coming players you think she is the one?

CHRIS EVERT: I mean, for those of us who saw her at a young age, I saw her at age 12. I think that everybody that saw her at that point thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, there’s so much raw power, that if she could just control it and harness it, she’s going to be a great player.’ Very much like a Serena, she has the second best serve out there, which she’s going to win a lot of free points holding her serve. She has so much power, more so than any of the other top players, aside from Serena and Venus, her whole game, not counting Maria Sharapova obviously on the groundstrokes. But she’s got it all. She has natural ease and power in her shots. I feel like I think Lindsay and her husband are a great fit for her right now. At the same time, I think we all felt she would achieve greatness sooner or later when she was ready, when she was emotionally ready. I think the emotional and mental part came along a little bit later than the physical part.

PAM SHRIVER: Well, I think for me, I’m not as familiar as Patrick and Chrissie in the development part, I’m just familiar with Madison as I’ve observed her the last few years for my ESPN position. The first time I really came out of a match with my jaw sort of dropping was a couple years ago at the Australian Open when she beat Paszek, beat her routinely. She beat her with two weapons: the serve and the forehand. In my mind, in women’s tennis especially, when you can come through with those two big weapons, it can set you apart. Over two years ago she was really, really young in her professional career. Now I think we see the pathway a little more clearly with a great team around her, what she did at the Australian Open. No big surprises. I can tell you from my courtside position a couple years ago, I came out feeling fantastic that the U.S. had a true prospect to get to the top spot.

PATRICK McENROE: Not to pat all of us on the back, but I think it’s been a wonderful progression for Madison. I think the first people that deserve a pat on the back are her parents. She’s a great girl, a great person. She’s got a great head on her shoulders. And her first coaches. Then Chrissie and her brother John, through her formative years when she was 12 up until she was I guess 15 or 16.

Then I have to give a pat on the back to my team at the USTA for doing a great job with her and taking her as a very talented teenager and turning her into a top-40 player. As Chrissie said, I think this is a logical progression for her to get the great insight of a great champion like Lindsay, someone who really studies the game and understands the game well. Obviously they got along great when they did their trial period out at the USTA training center in Southern Cal, so well that along with her husband Jon, it turned into a full-time thing. To me, as the head of player development for the last seven years, this has been an ideal progression for a talented player coming through, and the USTA helping along the way, Chrissie and her team doing a great job, arguably the most important years of developing her technique and strokes. Now obviously passing her off to a great player and great champion, someone who I think can take her all the way to the next level. The next level is winning majors.

Whether she can do that this year is up in the air. But I certainly think within the next 24 months, two and a half to three years, absolutely she can win a major.

Q. Today at the tournament is Azarenka versus Sharapova, then Roger playing Seppi, then Serena Williams and Stephens. Can you comment on some those matches.

PAM SHRIVER: First off, I think the quality of both draws is phenomenal. I think we saw great balance at the Australian Open. I feel like we’re in for just a great year of tennis at all the majors and all the Masters Series and Premiere WTAs. The draws are loaded. We’re getting fantastic early-round matchups.

Stephens-Williams has a lot of history based on the quarterfinal upset a couple of Australian Opens ago, but it also tells a different story of two different pathways, where Serena has been a dominant player since that loss, but Sloane Stephens has gone the other way, but is showing signs. If Sloane Stephens can feel a little more relaxed with Madison Keys picking up a lot of attention from her generation, other American women playing really well, maybe this is Sloane’s true comeback year. I would expect Serena to win that match. Chrissie, you want to take Azarenka-Sharapova?

CHRIS EVERT: No. You take it.

PAM SHRIVER: One of the reasons women’s tennis is looking better this year is because of players like Azarenka being healthy again. She looked for a while like the best hard court player in women’s tennis when she was winning two Australian Opens, almost beating Serena in two US Open finals. She was pretty much a non-entity last year.

The way she played at the Australian, the way she’s playing here, playing the quality of tennis she played a couple years ago, are great for women’s tennis.

What isn’t great is for people who like a quiet match (laughter). But we’ll have to deal with it. It will only last a couple hours.

CHRIS EVERT: I just think that Sharapova-Azarenka is going to be really telling to see how far Azarenka has come along as far as taking time off. She seems to have had a resurgence and she seems to have reset her career and her inspiration, seems like 100%. I always think that taking breaks for players is such a good deal, such a good decision. It just refreshes you. You just get so flat and burned out playing year after year after year and not taking a good chunk of really four or five months off. I think she’s been better as a result. These two players could end up 2 and 3 at the end of the year. That’s how tough this third round is.

On the other hand, Sloane, I love the way she has played this tournament. I’m very happy that she’s with Nick Saviano. I have a lot of respect for him as a coach, seeing what he did with Genie Bouchard. If anybody can help her attitude and mental outlook on her tennis, it’s going to be Nick with Sloane. So good signs, showing good attitude out there, good body language. These are just two great showcase matches for women’s tennis.

PATRICK McENROE: Maybe one you forgot about, we haven’t mentioned her yet, is Coco Vandeweghe. She’s done a terrific job. She’s seeded, what, about 30 or 31 out there. She’s sort of quietly playing the best tennis of her career. Similar to Madison, we’ve known about her since she was a teenager from Southern Cal. Being a huge hitter of the ball and a good athlete. It’s taken her a little while, but she’s figured out how to get herself in really good condition. I love the way she’s playing. She’s still a little bit up and down. She played some great tennis in Australia, then didn’t play so well when she lost. Taking on Bouchard, who Chrissie and Pam talked about already, that’s the first match out there on the stadium court today. That’s a good one. Bouchard obviously with a new coach, as well. She’s got a lot to prove this year, a lot of pressure on her after an unbelievable year last year.

The women’s game is as healthy as it’s been in a long time, to have Serena obviously doing what she’s doing. You’re finally I think seeing some young players that got some gumption, that got some real attitude that they can compete with the best in Bouchard and Keys, Svitolina and others. I think Coco Vandeweghe deserves to be in that conversation, as well.

Obviously we’re certainly looking forward to seeing Roger take on Seppi. While we would all pencil this in as a routine Roger win based on overall his record against Seppi, losing for the first time at the Australian to him, which was a shocker obviously, I wouldn’t be quite that quick. Seppi is a really good player. He’s had an excellent last year and a half on the tour. I expect him to play well again. Obviously Roger’s antenna will be way up for this. Coming off a win in Dubai over Djokovic got him back on track with his confidence that he can have another great year. Just like the women’s draw, the men’s draw is loaded. It’s a nice early test for Roger to see where he’s at.

CHRIS EVERT: Is Bencic playing Wozniacki?

THE MODERATOR: That’s second on.

CHRIS EVERT: That’s another one to watch, 18-year-old Bencic. Patrick was talking about the young ones. She’s 18 years old, had a slow start, but had a great year last year.

PAM SHRIVER: The bottom half of the women’s draw, Bouchard, Keys, Jankovic, Bencic, Wozniacki, Ivanovic, Garcia, Lisicki, Errani, Azarenka, Sharapova. That’s the kind of quality draw that in the last six, seven years we haven’t been fortunate enough to have. The recession of women’s tennis that started with Justine Henin retiring is well and truly over.

CHRIS EVERT: Good point.

Q. I wanted to talk about the event you’re at. Obviously players want to win at every event. This has the aura of a fifth major. Do you see players and advertisers, media, putting this on a higher shelf than other events on the tour?

PAM SHRIVER: From a Southern California standpoint, to think this is the only professional tournament in one of the great tennis hotbeds in the history of the game is kind of a shame. But it also makes it, for this region, because living here, hearing the buildup the last month, you can feel this is a big-time Southern Cal event.

CHRIS EVERT: You look at next week, Miami, this week Indian Wells. You talked about hotbeds. California and Florida are the two biggest tennis dates, I feel, in the country, and have really come up with some great players, play all year round. There are a lot of tennis enthusiasts. It’s only apropos that these two big tournaments are held in these two states. You could say the fifth. I would like to say the Road to Singapore, the WTA Finals, in the players’ mind is the fifth one. But then you have this one and Miami right there with it. It’s probably the most popular with the players. What’s not to be great to come out here in this weather, in this atmosphere, this facility, this venue. I think it’s definitely one of the players’ favorites.

PATRICK McENROE: There’s no doubt that these Masters events in general have been elevated to another level. You might get the same argument from a Cincinnati or even some of the European clay court events, which are tremendous as well. The nice thing about these two events, obviously Indian Wells, the facilities are phenomenal with Larry Ellison, what he’s been able to do to take it to a whole other level by building a new stadium. The grounds are tremendous. I was out there this past weekend. The buzz around the grounds, it’s electric to be out there.

The weather doesn’t hurt out there, as well. I think the time of year. There’s really no major that it conflicts with. You get towards the end of the major clay court tune-up, people are thinking about the French. In the summer, people don’t want to tire themselves out too much leading into the US Open. These two are just great events. This one, where it’s located, what Larry Ellison has been able to do. Ray Moore and Charlie Pasarell starting out had an amazing vision of what this event could be. I think it’s turned into that and a lot more.

Q. Patrick, what do you think of this picture floating around of your brother sitting between Bill Gates and Larry Ellison?

PATRICK McENROE: I thought I was the one in the McEnroe family with a low net worth (laughter). A little reality check for him there, you know.

CHRIS EVERT: Patrick, he was a little intimidated.

PATRICK McENROE: Who wouldn’t be, I’ll tell you.

Q. I have this theory that they made McEnroe pick up the check that night.

PATRICK McENROE: That would be okay. He could afford it (laughter).

Share

“On The Call” – ESPN Australian Open Conference Call with Darren Cahill and Pam Shriver

Darren Cahill

Darren Cahill

(January 17, 2015) ESPN tennis analysts Darren Cahill and Pam Shriver spoke with media on Friday evening about the Australian Open, which starts Sunday, Jan. 18 (Monday in Melbourne), with 100 live hours on ESPN television and 800 from a record 13 courts on ESPN3.

 

Soundbites:

Where Roger Federer is now, explaining his longevity:

  • This one is not so much the fact that he’s playing at this level at this stage of his career because it’s actually territory that other players have traveled down before….  I think really the remarkable thing for him is his love and enthusiasm for the sport still.  It never wavers.  The moment he steps on the practice court, from the moment he steps onto every single match, you see a dedicated guy that is loving exactly what he’s doing, and he’s a little more forthright in the way he’s playing now.” – Cahill
  • The new racquet played a big role.  He’s finally getting totally committed to a bigger frame.  It gave him a little more, especially on the backhand side… I think Stefan Edberg…can help things, not just little tactical things moving forward, shortening the points, the way Edberg used the serve, attacking weak second serves and the volley, but also the way Edberg managed great rivalries of his time psychologically.” – Shriver

 

From who knows, a mother of twins, what to watch for concerning Federer’s creaky back:

  • His back getting more healthy (was key in 2014).  How long that remains with his set of boy twins starting to become more mobile, and as he starts to get down on the ground again with another set of twins, we’ll see how his back goes in the next year or two.” – Shriver

 

Venus…rising?

  • First off, Venus one of the class athletes in this sports generation.  I thought, when she won in Auckland over Wozniacki, just her style and her sportsmanship, and she just shown through.  Whether she wins or she loses ‑‑ and I love that about Venus…slowly but surely, she’s gotten some belief again that she can contend.  She’s got to get through the early rounds.  She’s got to win three‑set matches, and she’s got to be smart.  The weather’s got to break her way.  But you know what, I love it.  I love her fight.  I love everything about Venus Williams.  We should feel really lucky that we’ve got some great athletes, great champions of the last 15 years in their mid‑30s still contending to win majors, in the case of Venus, still somebody to keep an eye on, and she’s my outsider pick on ESPN.com to win the Australian.” – Shriver

 

Is Nadal ready to contend for the title, coming back from health issues?

  • “He’s very, very underdone coming into the Aussie Open.  The first two or three matches, obviously, all eyes will be on Rafa to see how his game is…His game is rusty.  Obviously, he needs miles in his legs to feel his game.  That’s what he’s been desperately trying to do.  He’s been practicing incredibly hard.  I watched him play a couple of practice sets as well, and he’s struggling a bit with his game.  He’ll be vulnerable in the early rounds.  But you know Nadal, if he can find his legs and find his way into the second week, he becomes more and more difficult to beat as the time goes on.  If he makes the second week, he’s going to be a threat.” – Cahill

 

I would just like to ask both of you about Roger Federer.  He really came close last year to getting his 18th slam, and 33 years old, father of three (stet), he continues to surprise everyone and doesn’t seem like he’s going anywhere, beating Raonic and Dimitrov, both young guys.  What do you see for this Australian Open, and how remarkable is it what he’s doing? 

PAM SHRIVER:  I’ll step up.  I want to reflect quickly on a year ago, where we were with Federer because (there were) a lot of question marks a year ago.  He entered the Australian Open, having really not done that well in the majors a year before.  I think that win over Tsonga right at the end of week 1 really kind of started to set the table for a really good year for Roger.  Then he followed it up with a really good win over Murray even though Murray didn’t have a great year in the majors, and got to the semis of the Australian.  Even though he didn’t get the finals or win it, I thought last year’s Australian Open was really important for Roger’s year.  I think the Wimbledon final was the match of the year in tennis.  It was historic either way, Novak finally ending the string of disappointing losses.  For Roger, obviously, it would have been an extraordinary win.  Personally, to think that this great athlete at the top still of the men’s game has two sets of twins and is juggling it all with his usual incredible class just means that we’re lucky to have him, and we’re lucky to still have him as a great force.  He’s entering the year as a 2 seed, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he was able to win another Australian Open.  He’s not my pick, but it’s certainly possible.

DARREN CAHILL:  I agree with everything Pam has got to say there.  Everything has been remarkable about Roger’s career.  This one is not so much the fact that he’s playing at this level at this stage of his career because it’s actually territory that other players have traveled down before.  We’ve seen guys like Connors, Agassi at 33, 34 years of age, even 35, do remarkable things on the tennis courts.  I think it also gives Roger a lot of confidence that age doesn’t really play a part at this stage of his career.  I think really the remarkable thing for him is his love and enthusiasm for the sport still.  It never wavers.  The moment he steps on the practice court, from the moment he steps onto every single match, you see a dedicated guy that is loving exactly what he’s doing, and he’s a little more forthright in the way he’s playing now.  I think a couple of things add to that.  You have a few less options the older you get.  The edge starts to come off of you physically, slightly, ever so slightly when we talk about Roger.  So he’s a little more forthright in what needs to be done on the court, game plans and tactics to get it done.  And we’re seeing someone who’s totally committed to that.  He’s got a great team around him.  He’s got Stefan, who’s been there before and certainly played some great tennis around these years as well.  He’s going out there, and he’s executing a strong, attacking game plan, which is also helping him physically to cut a few corners and make a few matches shorter than they normally would be, and I still think he’s capable, for the next couple of years, of winning any Major.  He just needs to continue to put himself in a position.  Obviously, for anybody to win a Major these days, you need a little bit of luck and need a few things going your way, and he’s certainly still capable of doing that.

 

Last year, the improvement from Roger, what part coaching and tactics and what part health, his back? 

PAM SHRIVER:  I think we all thought the three adjustments.  The new racquet played a big role.  He’s finally getting totally committed to a bigger frame.  It gave him a little more, especially on the backhand side.  His back getting more healthy.  How long that remains with his set of boy twins starting to become more mobile, and as he starts to get down on the ground again with another set of twins, we’ll see how his back goes in the next year or two.  But the back being healthy, and I think Stefan Edberg, those little subtle things that a great champion ‑‑ Edberg can help things, not just little tactical things moving forward, shortening the points, the way Edberg used the serve, attacking weak second serves and the volley, but also the way Edberg managed great rivalries of his time psychologically.  Of the four, the big four is just getting a little edge on how to manage these incredible matchups.  So I think all of those things have helped Roger a lot.  Actually, helped Roger a little, but all you need is a little bit of a help, and it makes a huge difference.

DARREN CAHILL:  I think that was well said, Pammy.  I think that Roger’s got such a great sense of the history of the game as well.  He spoke last week about when he first came up with the likes of Safin and Hewitt and those types of guys, that they were pushing the Agassi and Sampras’s out of the game, but that rivalry to take on the best in the sport at that time was enthusiastic for all the young kids, and they pushed each other.  He got to see Hewitt winning major championships and doing well from an early age, and that spurred him on to be better and work harder and be more professional.  Now he’s at the other end of the spectrum where he’s one of the older guys, and we have the younger guys coming through and trying to push him out of the game.  It’s remarkable how he can sort of look through the years and see those rivalries and have great respect for them and know that he’s part of something pretty special now.  I think that’s also what keeps his enthusiasm so high for the game and the love of the game is that he doesn’t want these young guys to come along and push him out of the game.  He wants to continue to try to get better and hold his place for as long as possible and for as long as he enjoys getting onto the tennis court.

DAVE NAGLE:  We’ll move on, but let me just add Patrick McEnroe’s voice from a press release I did about 10 days ago, looking ahead to this year.  He said, “I’ll say it again.  This is Roger Federer’s last year to win a Major.”  I think that expresses Patrick’s ‑‑ how he was impressed with Roger’s 2014.

 

Hi, Darren.  I was wondering about Milos Raonic and John Isner.  Two players with a big serve and a big forehand.  I was wondering what it is about Raonic that has allowed him make the next step that Isner hasn’t quite been able to take quite yet. 

DARREN CAHILL:  We can only speak to what happened last year, and I feel like he made major steps forward in feeling like he belonged in the big stage, in the big situation.  We saw him move to his first ever major semifinal at Wimbledon.  Obviously, he got blown away by a pretty tough matchup against Roger.  Even since that particular tournament, he’s made several adjustments to his game to counter that, and he’s played better against Roger the last couple of times.  So you’re seeing constant improvement in Milos’ game.  And some of that comes from those around him as well.  They know what it takes to get to the top and to get the most out of him.  I think from a logic sense, for the first couple of years on tour, he was not one‑dimensional, but he was able ‑‑ his weaknesses were attackable for the better players in the game.  Once you got his serve back and once you got a pretty decent read on his serve, you felt like you were in the point with an extremely good chance of winning it, and you could cause a bit of panic into his game, but you don’t see that now.  Even in that final that Federer played against Milos in Brisbane, and Milos was right up against it.  And he was up against a guy who played pretty incredible tennis at the start of the match, and Milos was able to claw his way back into that match and put himself into a pretty good position late in that first set.

 

So I feel like you can’t rush these things.  We’re up against a generation and an era of player that has been so dominant in these top four guys that it’s nearly impossible to say that anybody can come through and just join the top four.  It’s been a slow process for most of these players.  And Milos has had a couple of injury concerns over the last few years, which he’s been able to shake off.  He’s maybe one of the most professional players both on and off the court.  He works just as hard as anyone, if not harder than anyone on and off the court.  And this guy has more of a desire than anyone I’ve seen to win a major than most of that generation of player coming through.  I think you just have to be patient.  With the taller athletes, it takes a little longer for that strength to kick in and for them to really become great athletes, but he’s well on the way.  I think for John also, it’s a little bit of the same thing.  John’s also been given a greater appreciation for what needs to be done the last three or four years.  You’ve seen much more consistent results for John.  Being 6’10” is not an easy thing for anybody to find their way around the tennis court.  He’s taken on a new coach this year.  He’s going to be more forthright with the way he approaches these tennis matches.  For him to have a chance in the majors, he has to find a way to try to shorten some of the long matches he gets into, and to be point blank, he really just has to improve his return game and find a way to break serve.  If you do that, it’s going to make life much easier for him.

PAM SHRIVER:  From what Darren said, not a lot left unsaid about Raonic.  From what Darren said, 100 percent professional in his attitude.  Darren pretty much covered it.  I think we all feel that way.  When Raonic sort of burst onto the big time Major scene, it was at the Australian Open four or five years ago.  When he visited us on the ESPN set, he just came with an aura of total professionalism.  Even though he was very young, he was extremely serious.  You could just tell every day he was ready to work in order to get better.  That kind of hunger and preparation, day in, day out, year in, year out, and when you have the kind of size and weapons he has, one of the great serves of this current era in men’s tennis, it’s going to make you a force.  So it’s physical weapons.  It’s his mental approach.  It’s his desire to get better and the team around him.  It’s a pretty awesome package.  Isner, to me, a generation older and five inches taller.  That’s a big five inches in tennis.  It’s an awkward size to stay injury free and to have the kind of movement that’s necessary on tennis court with a quick change of directions.  I think Isner’s done incredibly well, and he’s actually my outsider, my dark horse.  I tend to put my ESPN hat aside, and I tend to want to cheer for him.  I want to see him have more break‑throughs at majors because he is such a compelling figure.  We’ll see what the influence of a new coach, and I think Justin has some good ideas about Isner shortening up, not trying to be a baseline player at 6’10”, but using the big serve, the big forehand, and moving forward and having that target at net where it can really be intimidating.

DAVE NAGLE:  Sounds like the insights about Isner come from personal experience, learning the game.

PAM SHRIVER:  Also, at 6’1″ was my height in the women’s game, I don’t know what that equals to in women’s terms, but Venus Williams is an example of a phenomenal mover at a height for women that tends to be awkward, but for Isner, it’s just tough to move quickly and nimbly.

 

Hello, guys.  I’m nothing if not predictable.  I’m going to talk about Andy Murray again.  Darren, I guess, in the first instance, changes to his kind of back room setup again with Dani leaving.  Amelie is still there.  He seems from afar to be in pretty good place and pretty content and happy with life.  What do you make of his chances going into the Aussie Open? 

DARREN CAHILL:  I got to see him play all of his matches at the Hopman Cup.  I spoke to him at length, and he’s very happy with the way he feels leading into the 2015 season.  He’s changed a little of his preseason program.  He’s added some sprint work and power work into his program.  He’s feeling great on the court.  He was playing very good tennis.  A lot of stuff in his game that can normally get him in trouble against some of the players, it looks like he’s becoming more forthright in the way he’s approaching his baseline rallies.  Certainly his serve is a constant thing he continues to work on.  Hopefully, we’ll see some improvement, especially in the second serve, in 2015.  He looks great.  He looks happy.  This is a new year for him.  He’s got new challenges ahead of him.  As you said, he’s got a couple of members, a bit of a new looking team, and that can only create new challenges for him to find a way to get it done this year.  I think the form that we saw him at the end of the year was very encouraging, to see him fight so hard to get back in the top eight and become part of that London Masters was great for him.  I think you can take every loss and learn a lot from it, and that loss that he had to Federer, I think he took that in the right way, the right fashion, and it was remarkable that a couple of days later sitting on the couch, he got the phone call from the tournament to come and play an exhibition match and fill in, and he went down there.  That shows you the quality of the guy.  I’m expecting a big year for him.  He’s going to put himself back into the mix.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins another Major this year.  He’s got a bit to prove.  He likes being the underdog.  He likes proving to people.  When you tell him, listen, you can’t get it done, he likes to go out there and show people he can get it done.  I suspect Andy will have a great start to the year.  To be honest, he may be playing the best tennis of all of the players just at the moment.  We’ve probably seen him more than anyone else, he’s played quite a bit of tennis coming into the Australian Open, but he’s been pretty faultless so far.

PAM SHRIVER:  Just quickly, I don’t have a whole lot to add to that, but I think it’s interesting when you think about what Andy Murray did as far as starting this new trend of hiring ‑‑ and I guess Roddick did a little bit with Connors a few years ago, but really this move towards a top player hiring a former great.  And what he got out of the Lendl relationship.  Obviously, he’s moved on to Mauresmo.  Could that start another trend?  I don’t know.  Very seldom do top players have so many changes.  He got engaged.  He’s got a new clothing line.  He’s got new people on his team.  But I think someone like Andy, who’s grinded so long and tried to chase down Federer and Nadal, probably having some changes on court and off court is probably going to be a good thing, and I agree with Darren.  He’s going to have a good year.

 

I want to ask about Venus.  Talk about someone that we have made ‑‑ I don’t want to speak for others, but had sort of written off, and now she’s back in the top 20, number 18, won a tournament, beat Wozniacki.  Can you just talk about her sort of resurgence here. 

PAM SHRIVER:  First off, Venus one of the class athletes in this sports generation.  I thought, when she won in Auckland over Wozniacki, just her style and her sportsmanship, and she just shown through.  Whether she wins or she loses ‑‑ and I love that about Venus.  She’s had a lot of adversity in her life.  She’s also had a lot of incredible ups, winning seven majors, but it’s been a long time.  She’s had to deal with quite a bit.

 

I think about last year, the very first match we had on the Australian Open was on the Margaret Court Arena, and it was Venus playing Makarova.  And Venus was up a set and a break, and it was a really tight match.  She ended up losing in three sets.  She lost early at the French, and I thought she played one of the women’s matches of the year when she only lost serve once, lost to Kvitova in a tough draw in the first round.  Kvitova goes on to easily win Wimbledon after that.  That match was a match that I’ll always remember in women’s tennis because it was only one break for each player.  That just seldom happens.  So I actually thought Venus, if she could have snuck out of that Kvitova match, I thought she had a chance to win Wimbledon, and I think Venus believes that, slowly but surely, she’s gotten some belief again that she can contend.  She’s got to get through the early rounds.  She’s got to win three‑set matches, and she’s got to be smart.  The weather’s got to break her way.  But you know what, I love it.  I love her fight.  I love everything about Venus Williams.  We should feel really lucky that we’ve got some great athletes, great champions of the last 15 years in their mid‑30s still contending to win majors, in the case of Venus, still somebody to keep an eye on, and she’s my outsider pick on ESPN.com to win the Australian.

DARREN CAHILL:  Pammy, you picked Venus?  I like that.  I did as well.  A couple years ago, I didn’t think there would be a chance that I would be doing that.  I was one of those people who felt that tennis was beyond her and a couple of years ago, thought she wasn’t going to be able to put herself back into a position.  But I fully agree with everything Pam said there.  I felt Wimbledon was going to be very interesting.  A couple of matches she played at Wimbledon were some of the best matches we’ve seen from her in five or six years.  She’s had a great start to the season.  I saw her final against Ana Ivanovic in New Zealand, and she did great to come back and win that match.  No doubt she’s coming into the Aussie Open confident, and she’ll be very tough to beat.  She’s got a little bit of what Federer has in the sense that, every time she steps onto the court, be it practice or be it a match, she’s just loving being there at the moment, and that says a lot about these athletes.

 

So given the way that Federer and Nadal have both been playing lately.  Nadal won in Doha.  Federer was pretty hot last year.  We don’t want to look too far ahead in these tournaments, but if they were to meet in a potential semifinal, how would you guys project that going? 

DARREN CAHILL:  So I think the thing with Nadal is he’s very, very underdone coming into the Aussie Open.  The first two or three matches, obviously, all eyes will be on Rafa to see how his game is.  We had a chance to see him play one tournament and then a couple of practice matches he played on Wednesday night in a big charity match here in the tennis launch.  His game is rusty.  Obviously, he needs miles in his legs to feel his game.  That’s what he’s been desperately trying to do.  He’s been practicing incredibly hard.  I watched him play a couple of practice sets as well, and he’s struggling a bit with his game.  He’ll be vulnerable in the early round.  But you know Nadal, if he can find his legs and find his way into the second week, he becomes more and more difficult to beat as the time goes on.  If he makes the second week, he’s going to be a threat.  I’ve taken him as my ESPN.com tips as the hardest road on the men’s side.  He’s got a couple of tough guys in Youzhny and a couple of floaters in his section that have been very difficult.  But if he gets to the semifinal and plays Federer, there’s a head‑to‑head matchup issue there that Roger struggles with, and that’s a different ball game all together.  We’ve got to wait to see what happens with that.  If you have to look through the draw, I think the most interesting section of the draw is that Dimitrov ‑‑ sort of the Murray section, to be honest.  He’s got Dimitrov possibly in the fourth round, to play Federer, to play Nadal, to play Djokovic.  That’s how difficult it is these days.  Even if you’re ranked sixth in the world or seeded sixth, the draw to win one of these majors can be incredibly difficult.

PAM SHRIVER:  The only thing I’d like to stress really about Rafa, November 3rd he had an appendectomy.  Even though they are so good at doing arthroscopic stuff, that’s still your abdominal part, that’s your core part of an elite athlete.  November 3rd, sure, he’s had some time to heal, but you know what, it only takes a fraction to be off.  I think, as Darren stated, he likes to have the matches.  He likes to kind of work his way into form.  He doesn’t have that confidence.  Can he get it in the first week of a Major, the way we’ve seen Serena so many times through the years?  Sure, he can.  But he hasn’t shown through the years that he’s as comfortable being underdone and playing at the usual great level that he can play.  He’s had a rough six months.  So I think Darren’s pick, even though he’s not my early upset pick, that’s probably a good one, but you can never underestimate one of the greats of all time.

DARREN CAHILL:  Remember also, Pam, we were speaking at the same time last year when he was out for that period of time, about the fact that missing the Australian Open was probably a blessing in disguise for him because it is difficult to come back after a long layoff ‑‑

PAM SHRIVER:  You mean two years ago.

DARREN CAHILL:  Two years ago, exactly.  And to play best of five.  We saw the year that he had two years ago when he did come back and played those smaller clay court tournaments and found his legs and then launched himself into the bigger tournaments.  So it’s a little bit of a different challenge for him this year.  Any challenge that he has, he’s more than capable of stepping up to the plate and making it happen, but the first week definitely going to be interesting, and I think a lot of eyes are going to be on Rafa’s form.

PAM SHRIVER:  And also you think through the years he’s had quite a few little niggling injuries that crop up second week of the Aussie.  So there’s no indication that he’s not going to physically feel at his best.

 

Just a quick followup, I guess.  You said Andy may be playing as well as anyone, and I guess another guy we haven’t really spoken about is Novak Djokovic.  Is he still the man to beat?  If I can throw in an extra one, what did you think about the Aussie challengers with Kyrgios and Kokkinakis and Saville and those guys? 

PAM SHRIVER:  Let me put in a little tiny bit.  Then, Darren, I’m going to hang up and go get my kids, and you can finish up on Novak and what you saw down there with the fundraiser.  I just think Novak, this is the tournament that Novak fell in love with first when he won down here in ’08.  He’s won it more than any of his other Majors.  I know it was disappointing, his loss to Wawrinka last year, but I expect he’s going to be right in there.  Most people have him as the favorite.  I would have gone with him, but I felt like making an unusual pick, Nishikori, at least unusual with Nishikori outside the big four we usually always go to the last five years.  So Novak, one of the great athletes we’ll ever see on a tennis court.  Dave Nagle, thanks so much for hosting.  Darren, continue.  I’ll see you in a day.

DARREN CAHILL:  Three wins in the last four years down here for Novak.  It’s been a remarkable love affair that he’s had with the Australian Open, and his game suits the conditions down here incredibly well.  He’s been able to overcome obstacles with the Heat in the last six or seven years to become one of the greatest athletes the game has ever seen.  He doesn’t have any weaknesses in his game.  He’s so difficult to beat.  We haven’t seen a great deal of him.  Obviously, he didn’t play the final in the exhibition event against Andy.  I didn’t get to see that particular head‑to‑head matchup.  I don’t think it matters.  Coming into this, he finished the year incredibly well again, winning the London World Finals.  He is the man to beat until it’s a little bit like ‑‑ not quite as strong, but a little bit like the French Open when we talk about Rafa.  Until somebody can prove they can beat him here, he is the man to beat in my eyes.  Even though he did lose in the last quarterfinal match to Wawrinka, but it was an incredible match.  He’s my pick to win.  I feel he’s got a pretty decent section of the draw to play into the tournament, and it’s going to take a pretty outstanding performance by anyone to beat Novak Djokovic.

 

And on the Aussies coming through, any hope at all?  What, ’76 was the last home winner, you think? 

DARREN CAHILL:  That’s right with Mark Edmundsen.  I think that Nick Kyrgios is a little bit injured at the moment with the back issue.  He didn’t play the Hopman Cup.  I watched him play last week, and it looked like his knee and cramps set in into his match.  Coming into the Australian Open, I feel like physically he’s improved a ton over the last 12 months physically, but he still has that issue that, if he gets deep into a match, a fourth or fifth set, then the physical aspect plays a big part.  Whilst he can cause a lot of players a lot of trouble, it’s a little too early for him to say he can go all the way at the Australian Open.  There’s a lot to look for to in his future.  Thanasis Kokkinakis, winning a match or two at the Australian Open, getting more experience playing the big tournaments, that’s important for him.  He’s a year younger than Nick.  Going to take Nick a little longer.  Sam Groth is coming through.  He’s had a good couple of years.  Lleyton Hewitt, obviously, Lleyton is nearing the end of his career.  Not sure if this is going to be his last Aussie.  He might play one more next year.  He’s had a great preseason.  His form in the leadup to the Aussie Open has not been great, but he’s in good spirits and looking to do well.  He’s actually in a pretty good section of the draw, so he’ll be looking to get his teeth into it from that point of view.  I think from an Australian point of view, the one who stands out that has struggled the last three years, he’s kind of gotten out of his career what he’s put into it, and that was very little, and that’s Bernard Tomic.  At the moment ‑‑ be that because of these younger guys coming through and taking a little of the spotlight, be it because he’s maturing a little more, be it because some of the funding’s been pulled from him now and he’s not making the same money that he was previously, he’s got a different attitude at the moment.  And we saw the last six months of the year that Bernie is starting to put in off the court and putting in much more effort in every single match he plays, not just here in Australia.  He always plays well in Australia.  I expect him to play well in the Australian Open, but the biggest test for Bernie will be how he performs the rest of the nine or ten months.  That’s the big issue whether he can break through to the top 20 or top 10.  I actually picked him as my dark horse in the men’s draw.  I think his section is really good.  He’s playing extremely well.  We always know he steps up and plays great tennis in Australia.  The big test of him becoming a top player is can he take that form and reproduce it overseas?  We have to sit back and see if that happens.

Share

ESPN’s 30 for 30 to Air Jimmy Connors Documentary “This is What They Want “ Premiering October 29

JimmyConnors

(October 23, 2013) ESPN Films’  30 for 30 film series continues next week with This is What They Want premiering Tuesday, Oct. 29, at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN. The film focuses on former tennis icon Jimmy Connors’ surprising and exciting run during the 1991 US Open in the twilight of his career.

 

When Jimmy Connors arrived in New York for the 1991 US Open, the one-time tennis superstar was 8 years removed from his last Grand Slam singles title, ranked 174th in the world and approaching his 39th birthday.  Not exactly a recipe for success.  But on the verge of a quick first-round exit, Connors suddenly and unexpectedly re-captured the magic, embarking on a stirring and extraordinary run than included an epic contest with Aaron Krickstein on his way to the semifinals.  This is What They Want not only illuminates this highly improbably march past a series of talented and youthful adversaries, it also explores how Connors became a polarizing and provocative personality who helped make tennis a high-octane spectator sport.

 

This is What They Want is directed by Brian Koppelman and David Levien, who have been writing, directing and producing movies since 1997. Among their films are Rounders, Solitary Man, Oceans Thirteen, The Illusionist, and Runner, Runner. This is What They Want features interviews from former tennis players John and Patrick McEnroe, Mary Carillo, Jim Courier and Aaron Krickstein.

 

Share

Rafael Nadal Stars in New “This is SportsCenter” Commercial

(September 10, 2013) To celebrate Rafael Nadal’s US Open victory, ESPN debuted its latest addition to the award-winning “This is SportsCenter”  franchise with a spot that features the Spanish champion.  Filmed in both English and Spanish, it is now running on both ESPN and ESPN Deportes. following Nadal’s 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 win over Novak Djokovic to claim his 13th major title.

During the 30-second ad, named “Candy Dish,” SportsCenter anchors John Anderson and Bram Weinstein speculate about what makes the Spanish player so popular in the office.  Turns out Nadal’s exotic accent, great tan and dashing looks are not necessarily what is driving all the foot traffic to his cube. It might instead have something to do with what he keeps in the US Open Trophy on his desk.  ESPN Deportes’ SportsCenter anchors Alvaro Morales, Jorge Eduardo Sánchez and Carolina Padrón appear in the Spanish-language version.

 

This is the second spot in the campaign, following Robinson Cano’s “Handshakes,” to be released in English and in Spanish.

 

Wieden + Kennedy New York is the creative agency for the This is SportsCenter campaign. The overall initiative, a cornerstone of ESPN’s brand since 1995, gives fans an inside peek at the Bristol, Conn., campus, where athletes, mascots and anchors interact in the center of the sports universe.

Share

Jamie Reynolds of ESPN on Approach Shots

Jamie Reynolds (Photo by Rich Arden/ESPN)

Tennis Panorama News had the unique opportunity to visit the ESPN broadcast compound  and spend time in the control room in Melbourne during coverage of the Australian Open back in January. Senior Vice President of Event Production for ESPN Jamie Reynolds took time out from his extremely hectic schedule to speak to us about the logistics, technologies, philosophy and personalities of ESPN’s Australian Open coverage.

Karen Pestaina for Tennis Panorama News: How are the logistics of planning different for the Australian Open versus the other slams?

Jamie Reynolds: The way that we approach the Australian Open is similar in the way we do all four majors. And ESPN is unique in the aspect that we literally take apart our entire operation, our entire family, our entire circus and we take it three continents and an island.

We go to Australia and then go on to Paris, we then go up to the UK for Wimbledon and them back down to New York at the end of the summer. The nine month rip is pretty aggressive. So we probably pick up 115 people, and literally land on these hotspots for these events, move them in for three weeks. And I think we are probably the largest broadcaster who does all four majors at that level of commitment or the magnitude of the production assets that we bring. So it’s pretty challenging.

The biggest thing, the hardest thing for us, relative to the Australian Open, candidly is that we are upside down on the time zone to our audience and the fact that we don’t start until 9pm and we run the overnight hours, that’s great, but when we are trying to grow the sport, it’s a little challenging. How do you get people to stay up all night long or want to get invested, either TIVO, record, DVR the matches, because they are that much of a tennis fanatic to take advantage of what we are doing versus what they getting immediately either texting, news reports, Morning wheel of the news, they can get all that social currency to get up to steam.

So our challenge really, for this particular event is probably more editorial that logistic.

 

TPN: What is the biggest technological challenge in covering the Australian Open?

JR: This event is technically, is one of the easier events for us to handle technically. We’ve got a partnership going with Channel 7 Australia, who is also the host broadcaster. So ESPN comes in and effectively we are a world feed embellisher. We put our own character, our own personality, our own voices, graphics, music. Pick the asset that can actually tailor the world feed presentation to look and feel like a standard ESPN product.

So perhaps our biggest challenge is what if we don’t necessarily agree with you on covering a match? Or perhaps the isolation plan for Tomic or for Federer or for Roddick or for Rafa perhaps. That assignment of cameras may not be perhaps the level or the rate or philosophy that we might bring to a match. So how do we cover that chasm?

Technology wise we continue to push the envelope by bringing assets like the Spidercam, the aerial system that you see out on Rod Laver, that’s a device that we on ESPN brought to the tennis world and introduced at the majors at the US Open three years ago, convinced Tennis Australia, Channel 7 that it might enhance their coverage, convinced all the parties to come together and bring it down and fly through Rod Laver.

This year we’ve been very aggressive in trying to help Channel 7 understand how that could be an asset to enhance the coverage package. I think that everyday we chip away at it and get a little bit bolder with its flight pattern and we kind of rely on it a little bit more. I think that it enhances the value of its coverage.

 

TPN: Now that we are down to one American left in the singles draw, what are your angles going to be?

JR: Without the Americans doing well for the first time in the open era and not get to the round of 16, that’s challenging for us. Because we’ve got a lot of personalities and lot of what we do look at from the access to a lot of these players, what the interest is back home. Our particular productions have migrated to a new way of thinking. Specifically this is truly an international event with so many great personalities form around the globe, and because we do reach a lot of countries with ESPN, we think a little bit broader in how we are actually in going after a Hewitt story, a Roger or a Rafa or a Raonic or Tomic and any of the ladies as well.

That our goal now is to make that as personable, as desirable, in terms of wanting to understand the back story, getting our audience invested inn them, just trying to figure out the best way to convey that to our audience so they don’t mind that there are no Americans. We don’t have to put the red, white and blue all the time but there’s really great tennis out there that is fun.

 

TPN: Any new technology being implemented at this year’s Australian Open.

JR: The Australian mindset is very unique. They are gregarious fun loving good folks down here. They tend to be incredibly open-minded in terms of progressive introductions of new ideas to help convey the event and one of the initiatives they’ve helped us achieve is what we call our behind-the-scenes franchise. And that behind-the-scenes franchise as effectively as I describe to our teams is this: “Take behind the velvet ropes. Give me discovery and access. Take me places I couldn’t get to if I had a ticket or if I had the ability to watch every hour of what ESPN puts out, I need to feel like I actually in the event and going somewhere where no one else can go.”

And with that kind of mindset and philosophy with Tennis Australia, “where can you give us access to?” Well we can go to the workout room, we can go to the locker room, we can go to the hallways, the waiting rooms for the players, the player lounges. We can go to the car park area, where a lot of them just go and out their headsets on and just get into a zone and just kind of shut the world out to deconstruct their match. They’re very open-minded, progressive in terms of allowing that access. With that comes the ability to kind of shape the way we convey this event as opposed to just a rectangle on a screen, two players back and forth, three-hit rally or a 17-hit rally. It’s a little sexier, a little bit more valuable, more attractive presentation. I actually feel like I’m part of it, a part of the community, behind the velvet ropes and going somewhere where I couldn’t even go if I were on site.

 

TPN: What would surprise tennis fans about being behind the scenes?

JR: There’s an incredible amount of camaraderie and I think that what doesn’t convey that whether it’s the ATP or the WTA, these athletes and personalities do travel the circuit week after week and what you actually see behind-the-scenes is the feeling of family amongst the players themselves. As combative or as aggressive as they can be with each other out on a court there is sincere appreciation, chemistry, commitment to one another, whether they are having a good year or a poor year. There’s respect but there is a dynamic that these athletes share with each other. It’s not as adversarial as it might convey over an 11-hour show window where we are just showing guys beating back and forth with each other.

 

TPN: What is a typical day for you and the talent?

JR: This is probably the most challenging because of the sheer number of hours that we televise. When we say first ball to final ball, it is a very solid commitment to coverage of the most important matches from front end to back end. That really requires commitment of literally hours per day. So when you look at the first ball starting at 11am and often times ending like New York ending after Midnight, if not later, keeping people motivated through that 14-day stand is challenging. And with a roster of  personalities, our talent roster, keep them enthusiastic, keeping them invested and focused on being “on” for that 10 hours a day waiting for a match, getting ready for one that is coming up tonight,  and you really gotta go through your head for 2 hours and come back with the same enthusiasm, that’s challenging. You are asking a lot of people.

So what happens behind the scenes to help that? It’s the sense of community, family and respect for each other we all try to create. This isn’t just a group of specialists, assassins coming into do a single job. We’ve got to keep everybody working with the chemistry and taking advantage of that. So we’ll rotate teams. You might see Chris Evert working with Pam Shriver today or you will see Patrick McEnroe and Darren (Cahill) or Patrick and Chris Fowler so we can actually keep them involved with each other because they don’t have to always rule out “ Oh God I’m just sitting with my partner for this match and I’m doing every single match him for the next 14 days.” It changes up the dinner table a little bit.

 

TPN: Who are the practical jokers behind the scenes?

JR: I think that those in the tennis community and those of us who are running the sport know what kind of personality a Brad Gilbert brings. And we know, we look loving and fondly at Cliff Drysdale. He’s the godfather of our team, the elder statesman. As a perspective, he is the longest running talent on ESPN, bar none. He’s been with us since 1979, so we look at that history, having done Davis Cup that year, he is the man who is the franchise longer than anyone.

And then you look at Darren Cahill. Cahill with the Aussie wit, terrific personality. Patrick McEnroe, that’s pretty good – an acerbic wit. And McEnroe has a pretty good timbre to work with. Look at the gals – Mary Joe (Fernandez) and Pammy (Shriver) are well respected. Pammy can be polarizing, she’s got a great personality, she will go off on a flyer and make us all laugh and look at things a way many of us would never think about. She connects the dots on a lot of different stories and a lot of personalities. So that’s kind of like a really valuable spark. It’s a good roster.

Follow ESPN’s tennis coverage on ESPN2, ESPN3.com, on twitter @ESPNTennis and @ESPN10S and online on their tennis home page.

Share

Juan Ignacio Ceballos of ESPN Deportes on Approach Shots

Juan Ignacio Ceballos of ESPN Deportes at US Open

Meet Juan Ignacio Ceballos, the Coordinating Producer for all editions of SportsCenter for ESPN Deportes, ESPN Dos and ESPN Latin America North.

TPN: How did you become a producer, what was the path that led you to ESPN Deportes? Did you always want to work in sports?

JC: I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1973. Lucky me: I was part of the tennis boom in Argentina in late 70s, brought to us by Guillermo Vilas. So I started to play tennis at 6, and fell in love with it since then. Actually, I was a natural born sports fan, and that led to my journalism career.

From 1992 thru 2000 I worked for newspapers Clarin and Página 12 in Argentina. I also wrote for El Gráfico, the most renowned sports magazine in Latin America. I covered Grand Slam tournaments and Davis Cup. And then in late 2000 I jumped to TV, when ESPN launched its first SportsCenter version in Latin America. I kept traveling to Grand Slams as a news producer.

In 2004 I moved to México City, to help launch SportsCenter for ESPN Deportes, the new Spanish speaking ESPN network for the US and never went back to my country. Now I’m Coordinating Producer of all editions of SportsCenter for three networks: ESPN Deportes (US), Latin America North (México, Central America and the Caribbean) and ESPN Dos (same territory). I oversee our daily radio show ESPN Radio Fórmula. I’m also involved in the Spanish speaking version of E:60 (which debuted on July 19th ).  I supervise content for our ESPN The Magazine Mexico monthly publication.

Tennis? I saw Franco Squillari, Mariano Zabaleta, Mariano Puerta, Guillermo Cañas, Gaston Gaudio, Juan Ignacio Chela, David Nalbandian, Guillermo Coria grow up. I wrote their stories back then, and witnessed their success.

Now I write an Insider column in The Mag México and ESPN Deportes La Revista in the US, and I have a blog on ESPNDeportes.com.

Sadly, I can’t travel that much.  But I have a blast each season when I leave my Coordinating Producer duties and become a field producer during the ATP/WTA tournament in Acapulco. Best week of the year, by far.

 

TPN: How different is it being a producer for tennis versus other sports?

JC: From my perspective, tennis is a very good sport to work as a journalist/producer. You can have nice access to players for one-on-one interviews or special features. Very different to, let’s say, soccer. This year in Acapulco, for example, we got the chance to shoot a piece of Milos Raonic doing jet-ski with his girlfriend. We did exclusive photo sessions with WTA players for our magazine. And so on. But the challenge is the same for any coverage in every sport: to find good content. Original, entertaining, compelling.

TPN: Does ESPN Deportes have a “philosophy” when it comes to covering tennis? Does it differ from ESPN’s philosophy?

JC: Our main focus is on Latin American players along with the stars of the game. Tennis is huge in South America, especially in Argentina. ESPN Latam telecasts down there rate better than all other sports except soccer. We have on-site coverage in all four Grand Slams and some other tournaments during the year. But in United States tennis is not that popular into the US Hispanic population. It is behind soccer, boxing, baseball, football, basketball. So we focus our content on the best ones: (Roger) Federer, (Rafael) Nadal, (Novak) Djokovic, Williams sisters. And we look for good stories to tell.

TPN: You are on Twitter. How important do you think Twitter is to Spanish speaking tennis fans and to tennis fans in general?

JC: Twitter exploded a bit later in Latin America than in the US. But now it is huge. For tennis fans, it is a new way to be in touch with the game: latest scores, news, and lot of opinion and analysis. I think it’s the same for Spanish speaking fans as for the rest of the world. Twitter also allows you the get access to the players. Read what they say. Watch what they do. It is fun. It is great. Let’s see: (Juan Martin) Del Potro has 343 thousand followers. More than (Novak) Djokovic. (David) Nalbandian and (Juan) Monaco are near two hundred thousand each. More than Caro(line) Wozniacki. And Delpo (Juan Martin Del Potro), Nalbi (Nalbandian) and Pico (Juan Monaco) tweet in Spanish! That is big. Who follows them? Spanish speaking tennis fans, for sure. So Twitter is especially engaging for our stars and our fans. It also shows you how massive this sport is in our region.

TPN: What do you see for the future in terms of tennis coverage?

JC: New technologies brought the concept of new media in journalism. Instant access to news and information. Easier ways to shoot and deliver. New platforms other than TV and newspapers. Our readers/viewers/users are hungrier than ever to get more and more, as fast as you can. Even the athlete now delivers without any filter. It’s great for tennis: you can choose online which court do you want to watch in Grand Slams; you can have journos, players, coaches analyzing matches on Twitter; you can know what players are thinking or doing, if they decide to share. But the foundation remains the same: only if you put a great performance, people will watch. And if you tell it like it is, write it like it is… if you explain, report, analyze, in an entertaining and engaging way, your work will be valuable. But now you have more than a mic or a piece of paper to express yourself. Tennis fans know it, and demand you to be good not only in front of a camera or typing with your keyboard, but also telling them what’s going on in 140 characters.

Read Ceballos’ columns on ESPN Deportes: http://espndeportes.espn.go.com/blogs/index?name=juan_ignacio_ceballos&cc=3888 and follow him on twitter at @juaniceballos http://twitter.com/juaniceballos

Share

Renee Richards Documentary Debuts at Tribeca Film Festival

(L-R) Eric Drath, Renee Richards and Virginia Wade

NEW YORK CITY – April 21, 2011 –The Tribeca Film Festival debuted the documentary film Renée about former professional tennis player Dr. Renée Richards as part of the Tribeca/ESPN Sports film Festival.

 

This New Yorker was born Richard Raskin. Raskin was a charming Ivy-League grad, an athlete, an officer in the Navy and an ophthalmologist. He was a man who never lacked female attention. He married a model and they had a son. To those around him he had a great life. Not quite.

 

Raskin had been living with a secret yearning since an early age “ living with an alter ego inside of him called Renee. To everyone™s surprise he left his family and decided to get gender reassignment surgery. Dr. Richard Raskin became Dr. Renee Richards.

 

Richards played on the women’s professional tennis tour from 1977-1981 and reached as high as No. 20 in the singles world rankings. She was banned from playing the US Open by the United States Tennis Association (USTA) in 1976 because  she refused to take a chromosome test. The USTA had a policy that only women born as women could participate in the US Open. Richards fought the ban and a 1977 Supreme Court decision ruled in her favor “ a first for transsexual rights.

 

Thursday evening on the red carpet was about celebrating her life. Richards broke with traditional “Hollywood-style” tradition that usually dictates that the star of the show walk the red carpet last. She took to the carpet first “ a little overwhelmed to the point of almost blushing. She seemed amazed by the many photographers asking her over and over to pose and smile for their cameras. She seemed to be taken aback by it all.

 

As she strolled down the red carpet to engage interviews you could see her shy smile radiating as brightly as her red almost floor-length gown. Instead of taking on a group of media reporters all at once she spoke with each of them one-on-one. She took her own time with her answers despite time constraints and she gently answered questions as though she were carrying on a conversation with close friends.

Eric Drath – Producer and Director of Renee

Following Dr. Richards on the red carpet included the films director and producer Eric Drath who first approached Richards about doing a documentary on her in the first place and former player Virgina Wade who competed against Richards on the tour.

 

Tennis Panorama News spoke with Dr. Richards about the film and about tennis in general. Richards never really wanted to do the film, since she leads a very private life now, “Eric Drath‘s was after me for months, I didn’t want to do it.” Drath‘s sister had been a patient of Richards since she was in infant which is where Drath had found about Richards‘ life. Drath thought that there are generations who  didn’t  know anything about Richards and that her story needed to be told about struggles of coming out as a transsexual and playing professional sports.

 

As for what she hopes people get out of her story, Richards said, “I’d be happy if people became enlightened a little bit more about the problems of identity.”

 

Richards keeps up on the current pro tour, “(Roger) Federer, (Rafael) Nadal and now (Novak) Djokovic are such great players, you have to be in awe watching them play. As for her assessment of the women’s tour, “it’s not exactly the same because with Serena (Williams) and Venus (Williams) either being injured or having some medical problem that’s taken a lot away from the women’s tour.  It’s going to have to be some young players on the women’s tour that are going to have to give it the luster that it has lost or temporarily lost with Serena and Venus being out. Maybe Caroline Wozniacki will assume that stardom because she’s young and she’s quite capable and maybe a couple of the other young players will come along too and become stars.”

 

“You always have a star every decade – Martina (Navratilova) and Chrissie (Evert) came along and that was great. Steffi ( Graf) and Monica Seles. But there isn’t always a star out there, we’re just hoping that one of the young players step up.“

The movie Renee will be playing during the Tribeca Film Festival which runs until May 1. For more information on the film and the film festival.

The movie is presented by Live Star Entertainment in association with ESPN Films and will air on ESPN in the fall.

 

TPN red carpet interview with Renee Richards –listen here.

By Karen Pestaina

Share