From Tennis Channel: Baltimore, MD (January 27, 2016) – Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: SBGI) (the “Company” or “Sinclair”) announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to purchase the stock of Tennis Channel (“Tennis”) for $350 million. The Company will benefit, however, from over $200 million of Tennis net operating losses which Sinclair will be able to carry forward to reduce future tax payments, the present value which Sinclair estimates to be worth approximately $65 million. Tennis Channel is the only 24-hour, television-based multimedia destination dedicated to both the professional sport and tennis lifestyle. Tennis, which includes established over-the-top subscription services, TC Plus and TV Everywhere, has rights to 90% of all the televised tennis in the U.S. and features comprehensive coverage including the top 100 tournaments in the sport and more. The Company has already negotiated agreements with a number of multi-channel video programming distributors (MVPDs) which, following Sinclair’s acquisition, will increase carriage of Tennis from approximately 30 million homes to approximately 50 million homes. The transaction, which is subject to antitrust regulatory approval and other customary closing conditions, is expected to close during the first quarter of 2016 and will be funded through cash on hand and a draw on the Company’s revolving line of credit.
“The Company expects 2015 pro forma operating cash flow for the contracted subscriber increases (including the additional license fees and advertising revenues resulting from such increased carriage), to be approximately $60 million, the synergies of which will be phased in over 18 months, and resulting in a 2015 pro forma purchase multiple, including the present value of the NOLs, of 4.8x and approximately $0.40 of incremental cash flow per share,” commented Chris Ripley, CFO of Sinclair.
“Tennis Channel is an established property with high-quality content and advertisers, and is vastly under-compensated and under-distributed relative to the value it brings to its viewers. It was the only independently-owned major sports network left, and we knew we could unlock value through a tuck-in acquisition,” commented David Smith, President and Chief Executive Officer of Sinclair. “The additional subscriber base, which has already been contracted, equates to the creation of approximately $200 million of incremental value at closing. Furthermore, we expect this combination to create additional linear and OTT viewership and advertising growth, and we have the added benefit of continued involvement of Ken Solomon, CEO of Tennis Channel, and a seasoned programming executive.”
“We greatly appreciate the commitment from many of our distribution partners to substantially increase their carriage of Tennis Channel, and we expect that a number of upcoming MVPD negotiations to result in further carriage and Tennis subscriber penetration,” stated Barry Faber, Sinclair’s Executive Vice President and General Counsel. “Nothing is more valuable to video distributors than high quality, live sports, and we expect the increased carriage of Tennis will be well-received by their subscribers. We also expect to leverage our broadcast platform to promote Tennis Channel, which we anticipate will result in increased viewership, further adding to the channel’s value in attracting and retaining subscribers.”
“In Sinclair we have found the perfect owner-partner to accelerate scaling the Tennis Channel brand and our sport’s expanding fan-base to the next level. Sinclair’s unique size and position in the media ecosystem will facilitate significant distribution growth towards parity with our competitive set and expand our brand’s assets and unique value as the go-to destination for all things tennis in the U.S. and beyond,” commented Ken Solomon, chairman and CEO of the Tennis Channel. “The larger platform will immediately help develop incremental advertising and sponsorship business and puts us in a great position to enhance our already comprehensive rights portfolio domestically as well as develop the brand internationally. We also intend to utilize Sinclair’s advanced branding capabilities, digital expertise and significant broadcast asset platform to drive increased awareness for both Tennis Channel and our successful subscription-based OTT platform, ‘Tennis Channel Plus.’ Our management team is more excited than ever about the future for Tennis Channel under Sinclair’s ownership and anxious to grow as part of such a visionary and transformative company. This is a great day for both the professional sport and the amateur tennis community and most importantly for the viewers we serve.”
LionTree Advisors acted as financial advisor to Tennis Channel in connection with the transaction. Evolution Media Capital also acted as an advisor to Tennis Channel.
Tennis Channel and USTA Form Digital-Subscription Partnership
USTA to offer Members and Other Tennis Enthusiasts Exclusive Discount Opportunity for Network’s Premium Tennis Channel Plus Streaming Service
NEW YORK and LOS ANGELES, November 30, 2015 -Tennis Channel and the United States Tennis Association (USTA) – the governing body of tennis in the United States – have formed a digital-subscription partnership centered on the channel’s Tennis Channel Plus service.
Beginning today, the USTA is Tennis Channel’s exclusive Tennis Channel Plus partner during the holiday season, now through December 31. In this period, USTA members are able to take 25-percent off Tennis Channel Plus‘ $79.99 annual subscription. Additionally, non-members who want to purchase the OTT service through the USTA are able to save 20-percent on an annual subscription.
The partnership will resume May 1 through June 5, during the lead-up to the French Open in late May. Of Tennis Channel Plus‘ year-round content, a significant lineup of live, multi-court coverage is available during the French Open.
Tennis Channel will support the USTA with an online video promo and creative elements to use in its membership outreach.
“This is a great opportunity for Tennis Channel and the USTA to put Tennis Channel Plus in front of other fans who want even more tennis than we can fit on TV,” said Adam Ware, senior vice president, head of digital, Tennis Chanel. “I can’t think of a better audience for Tennis Channel Plus than USTA members.”
Launched during the 2014 French Open, Tennis Channel Plus is available to everyone in the United States, regardless of whether they currently subscribe to Tennis Channel. The premium digital-subscription service offers exclusive content unavailable on the linear television network, including more than 650 live matches from more than 50 events. Among these are the French Open, Australian Open, Davis Cup, Fed Cup, Hopman cup, and numerous ATP and WTA tournaments. Beyond live coverage, Tennis Channel Plus features archived original network programming, highlights and thousands of hours of on-demand classic matches.
Tennis Channel and the USTA have worked together in various capacities since the channel first appeared on air in 2003. In addition to network coverage at a number of events it governs, the USTA made a financial investment in Tennis Channel in 2006. Tennis Channel currently produces a three-hour daily morning show from Arthur Ashe Stadium during the US Open, the largest tournament in tennis, as well as encore late-night match coverage throughout the event.
(November 27, 2015) Great Britain’s Andy Murray evened the Davis Cup final at 1-1 on Friday in Ghent with a 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 win over Belgian’s Ruben Bemelmans. The world No. 2 rebounded from 2-4 down the third set to close out the match against the world No. 108.
The first match of the day saw top Belgian player David Goffin win his first–ever match coming back from two sets down to defeat No. 100 Kyle Edmund 3-6, 1-6, 6-2, 6-1, 6-0. Edmund was making his Davis Cup debut.
The Davis cup rookie ran up a quick two set lead over Goffin, over powering the Belgian with well-placed shots and aggressive groundstrokes.
The turning point in the match came in third game of the third set when Goffin broke Edmund’s serve for 2-1. The No. 16 player in the world won 16 of the next 18 games to claim the victory. Edmund let errors creep into his game and was not as consistent with his serve as he was in the first two sets.
“He played every forehand really heavy from the beginning,” Goffin said on–court after the match. “It was tough for me to find my timing on the baseline. I knew I needed to take my chance, and I did well to finish the match quickly in the fourth and fifth sets.”
Edmund said that in the fourth set he was having problems physically and that his stamina did not hold up.
Murray who leveled the tie with his win in the second match of the day in the Flanders Expo, is now 7-0 in singles rubbers this year. Only John McEnroe and Mats Wilander have ever been a perfect 8-0 in ties during a David Cup season.
Saturday will see the doubles rubber played between Belgium and Great Britain.
Belgium’s King Philippe and his wife, Queen Mathilde, were part of the 13,000 in attendance at the Flanders Expo in Belgium.
Belgium is seeking its first Davis Cup, while Great Britain wants to claim its 10th.
DAVIS CUP FINAL
BELGIUM level with GREAT BRITAIN 1-1
Venue: Flanders Expo, Ghent (clay – indoors)
David Goffin (BEL) d. Kyle Edmund (GBR) 36 16 62 61 60
Andy Murray (GBR) d. Ruben Bemelmans (BEL) 63 62 75
Kimmer Coppejans/Steve Darcis (BEL) v Andy Murray/Jamie Murray (GBR)
David Goffin (BEL) v Andy Murray (GBR)
Ruben Bemelmans (BEL) v Kyle Edmund (GBR)
(November 26, 2015) In 2013 Andy Murray won Wimbledon to end a 77-year drought for British men at the All England Club. The Scot hopes to help collect the Davis Cup title for Great Britain for the first time since 1936 this weekend against Belgium in Ghent this weekend. In 1936, Fred Perry won the decisive singles rubber to give Great Britain the victory over Australia 3-2.
Belgium was a losing finalist to Great Britain in 1904.
The best-of-five match series final between the two countries begins on Friday in the Flanders Expo on clay, with a pair of singles matches which pits players who have never faced each other in head-to-head competition. Top Belgium player, David Goffin ranked 14th in the world will play Kyle Edmund, ranked No. 100. The 20-year-old Edmund, who was born in South Africa, will be making his Davis Cup debut.
The second match on Friday will feature world No. 2 and British No. 1 Andy Murray against No. 108 Ruben Bemelmans. Bemelmans received the nod over No. 84 Steve Darcis to play the second rubber. Belgium’s Captain Johan van Herck has the option of changing players over the weekend.
Murray is not only seeking his first Davis Cup title, but he is trying to become only the third player to win all eight singles matches in a Davis Cup year since the World Group began in 1981.
Due to the Paris attacks and threats in Brussels, security in Ghent has been intensified.
The International Tennis Federation put out a security statement earlier in the week:
Update for those attending the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas Final at Flanders Expo
The ITF and Royal Belgian Tennis Federation (RBTF), in consultation with the relevant officials and our risk assessment and security advisers, are closely monitoring the situation in Belgium and specifically in Ghent. As of today there are no changes to the previously published start times for the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas Final between Belgium and Great Britain.
We are taking every necessary step to ensure the safety of the teams, the spectators, the media and all working staff.
As you would expect, a number of specific, additional security measures have been put in place for this weekend’s tie.
In particular please note:
- This is a sold out event. There will not be any tickets on sale at the venue and anyone without a ticket will not be allowed access to the venue area.
- Additional security measures will be in place at all entrances to the venue and will apply to all ticket holders, staff members and visitors.
- Entry into the event will take longer than usual. Please keep this in mind when planning your arrival to the Flanders Expo. The gates will open two hours in advance of each day’s start time.
- Bags and backpacks will not be permitted in the Flanders Expo. Ticket holders will be asked to check any bags into available off-site storage facilities.
- No food or drink will be allowed into the arena. A full selection of refreshments will be available in venue.
- For those travelling into Belgium for the tie we advise that you liaise directly with your flight or train operator for up to date information on any changes to departure times or protocols.
Any additional updates on the tie including any changes to entry procedures for fans with tickets will be made via:
RBTF website: www.tennisvlaanderen.be/davis-cup-security
The ITF president Dave Haggerty said that they want to make sure the Davis Cup players, fans and staff are safe.
For Great Britain, this will be their 18th final as they look to win their 10th Davis Cup title. They lost their last final in 1972 against the United States. Belgium has never won Davis Cup, losing to Great Britain in their only final in 1904 5-0 at Wimbledon.
This is the 12th meeting between Belgium and Great Britain, but only their second since 1963. Britain leads 7-4. Belgium won their last meeting 4-1 in Europe/Africa Zone Group I in Glasgow in 2012, with 3 members of the Belgium team nominated for this year’s Final – Ruben Bemelmans, Steve Darcis and David Goffin – all winning rubbers. Great Britain has not beaten Belgium since 1963, when it won 5-0 on clay in Brussels.
DAVIS CUP FINAL LINE-UP
BELGIUM v GREAT BRITAIN
Venue: Flanders Expo, Ghent (clay – indoors)
David Goffin (BEL) v Kyle Edmund (GBR)
Ruben Bemelmans (BEL) v Andy Murray (GBR)
Kimmer Coppejans/Steve Darcis (BEL) v Andy Murray/Jamie Murray (GBR)
David Goffin (BEL) v Andy Murray (GBR)
Ruben Bemelmans (BEL) v Kyle Edmund (GBR)
(May 20, 2015) Ahead of the French Open, which begins on Sunday, May 24, Tennis Channel held a media conference call with tennis Hall of Famer Martina Navratilova, who serves as the lead women’s analyst for the network.
Here is the transcript of the conference call, courtesy of the Tennis Channel and ASAPsports:
There’s a lot of increased scrutiny of late for even for minor tournaments. Time was that there was almost no attention paid to them and all attention was paid to the majors. And do you think that that scrutiny on these tune‑ups heightens the stakes for when the majors come out, like Roland‑Garros?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I’m not sure I understand the question. You’re saying there’s too much media attention on the Grand Slams and not on anything else?
No, I think when you were playing tennis, there wasn’t a lot of attention, media attention ‑‑ they didn’t broadcast minor tennis events.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: No, it’s the other way around. It’s the other way around, actually. In my opinion we had, it was the Tour that really buttressed the Grand Slams and certainly the players, we didn’t even play some Grand Slams because the Tour was the more important bit of the calendar. And it was only really in the late, maybe, ’80s and the ’90s that the Grand Slams became so powerful and players would schedule their whole year around slams. Nobody would even think of missing a slam now.
And those are the four big focal points of the year, whereas in my time it was Wimbledon and U.S. Open and the Tour as a whole and then the year‑ending championships was the third biggest tournament of the year. So I think the media did pay attention to the other tournaments and certainly the players were thinking that the other tournaments were more important, perhaps, than they are now.
And why was that?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Why? Because there was more prize money in the regular tournaments than Grand Slams. Once the Grand Slams got bigger and got more money, more people paid attention to where the money is, basically. And also more worldwide television rights and media attention and all that.
So one kind of followed the other. I’m not sure what came first, the chicken and the egg thing, but we would get more money for, I think the prize money at the year‑end championships was like twice as much and that was for one week than what you would get in a Grand Slam for two weeks. You can do some research on the prize money, but it was a lot more on the regular tour.
I made more money winning a tournament in Dallas, Virginia Slims of Dallas, than I would at a Grand Slam ‑‑ than I would Wimbledon. When I won Wimbledon in ’78 I got, I think, $20,000 for winning it.
I suppose, Martina, that the focal point coming into the French Open is the prospects of Rafa Nadal. What have you seen this year in Rafa, what is he lacking that he hasn’t in the past and has age finally taken its toll on him?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I don’t know how much of it is ‑‑ I think it’s a little bit of everything. He seems to me a little bit less physically looking imposing. And I don’t know if it’s just my imagination. Just doesn’t seem to be as muscular as he was five or six years ago.
But he’s still in the prime of his physical life, maybe he trains differently maybe because of his injuries he can’t train as hard as he used to, but not sure.
Most of all I think it’s the other players are playing better and hitting a lot more top spin on the ball, hitting the ball harder, which does not give him the time to run around his backhand and dictate with the forearm, he has to kind of be more in the middle of the court.
He can’t park himself on the right side of the court. And also by his own admission, he gets more nervous now. And when he does get more nervous, his forehand goes shorter. Even when he does get to hit the forehand, he doesn’t hit it as deep, with as much, with as much depth and maybe power.
I’m not sure. You would have to kind of figure out the revolutions per minute. But I would bet dollars to donuts that the other players are using more spin than they did two years ago, 10 years ago, certainly. So that could be a combination of everything.
Was his effectiveness on clay a factor of how much top spin he could put on the ball and the fact that the ball dug in so great?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: His movement and the top spin, yeah. Because of the top spin, players had a hard time attacking it and getting on top of the ball. And once they get on the defense, it was really hard to get off it. And his unbelievable speed around the court.
But do you still think he’s anywhere near the prime of his career at this point?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, it could be that he’s just having a bad year or bad six months, whatever. We don’t know if he’s 100 percent healthy because only he knows that and his team.
So people tend to write people off too soon I think in my opinion. I mean, Roger Federer said himself, until Rafa loses at the French he still has to be a favorite. You can’t just throw out the last 10 years based on the last few months.
But certainly he’s, I’m sure, feeling most vulnerable. And he’s looking most vulnerable. And that gives the other guys confidence when they play him. Before it was, like, I don’t want to get embarrassed playing Rafa and now they think they have a chance. That’s a huge edge to them. Now he’s forced to play even better to beat the same guy.
So it’s kind of a nasty spiral that happens. But I still wouldn’t write him off. I mean, you can’t. You just cannot. Three out of five is a different animal as well. It’s harder to keep up that kind of intensity and physical play that it takes to beat Rafa over three out of five sets as opposed to two out of three ‑‑ and gives him some room for his own game as well.
I know we don’t have a draw yet, but who do you favor as winning on the men’s side and the women’s side in singles?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I think so much will depend on the draw in both of these. But particularly on the men’s side, with Rafa, I believe he’s ranked 7. So he could be playing these top three players in the quarters as opposed to the semis or finals.
That makes it difficult for whosever quarter he lands in and everything else how it plays out as well. Andy Murray now is looking like one of the favorites as well. Novak obviously is a huge favorite to win the event. But I’m sure that he’s not thinking that way, not yet. Not as long as Rafael Nadal is in the tournament.
So it’s really going to depend on who gets hot and how the draw plays out. The same time you only have to play seven guys. You don’t have to play everybody. But still the draw may dictate a lot in how the conditions are, the balls are pretty light. But conditions can get heavy.
So all of that will play out and that’s the beauty of it. We really don’t know. But all in all, if you just look at how this year has played out, Djokovic, it would be hard to, again, bet against Djokovic. And the same thing on the women’s side, Serena Williams, even though she’s had a odd run up to the French. In years past, the run up the Grand Slam really had nothing to do with how she did at that Grand Slam.
So you still have to go with the world’s number one ‑‑ Novak and Serena.
Can you tell me what you miss from the era that you played tennis, what you miss on the tennis scene now?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: It’s just a different time. You get the pluses and minuses. I do miss more of the clash of styles.
There was more variety in styles with the typical baseliner and the all‑court players and then the more of the serve and volleyers, attacking players. It’s now a more homogenous look, but at the same time on the women’s side particularly I see more variety than they’ve had five years ago, 10 years ago. The guys have been there for a while.
But the women, I think, were more homogenous in that, for example, I keep going back to the final between Kuznetsova and Dementieva in the 2004 U.S. Open final. And I think there was one volley, one drop shot and three slices the whole match.
And now, you know, you get that in one rally. So you have a lot more variety with the actual play, which makes it more fun. I think the spectators are in for better treats nowadays with more variety.
People still play similarly but there’s more variety within that.
Still play similarly to when you were playing ‑‑
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: No, no, they play similar to each other. They play similar style. More of a ‑‑ I mean, there are two basic styles. Ones that really try to play big babe tennis, as Mary Carillo calls it, and then there are the counter puncher’s. But within the big babe tennis you see a lot more people using slices and coming into the net, putting the volley away. And same with the counter punchers, now they just don’t play defense, if they can get on offense they will do so.
And again a lot more slices, a lot more drop shots. You see Maria Sharapova, she’s hitting drop hands from the backhand and the forehand. She never hit a drop shot 10 years ago, now she uses it very well.
She hits them from the baseline.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Drop shots are usually hit from the baseline. But she’s usually in an offensive position so she plays them at the right time. And she’s hitting between volley. You won’t see chip and charge, but you will see her, as soon as she hits a deep, good ball, she’ll move in to see if she can knock off the next ball in the air, but she’ll hit swinging volleys rather than punch volleys that we used to hit. But still hitting volleys.
Were you asked about Maria Sharapova in general and what you think her chances are coming in?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, obviously great. And they’re always improved when she ‑‑ well, with Maria, obviously it’s a case whether she has to play Serena Williams or not because she hasn’t beat her in 10 years. But she’s been the best clay court player the last three years, except she hadn’t been able to beat Serena, but she’s beaten everybody else and has the most consistent record on clay than everybody. So she has to be one of the favorites. But it always comes with a caveat ‑‑ what happens if she plays Serena? Serena particularly now is kind of an unknown because of the run‑up that she’s had, not really finishing tournaments or didn’t finish two and one she lost in the semis. So it’s hard to tell.
But Serena always comes out playing her best tennis in the slams. So, yeah, absolutely Maria has to be one of the favorites. She must be pretty well after Rome, kept playing better and better tennis. Although, also the matches were pretty close, particularly the semifinal in Rome. Could have gone either way.
What is it with her and Serena, do you think ‑‑ how much of it is mental and how much of it is just her game, and what do you think she would have to do to finally overcome Serena if they were to meet at the end there?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: She would have to serve extremely well, because that’s what Serena always has on, all things being equal, which they’re not; but Serena serves, wins so many more points off her serve, whereas with Maria the serve has been more of a ‑‑ it’s either neutral or it can even be a negative for her starting the points against Serena.
So she needs to serve really well. But she has been serving better in Rome, particularly she was hitting her second serve in the high 90s, her second serve was coming in.
So she was getting on the offense with her second serve, never mind the first serve. But Serena does everything a little bit better than Maria or some things a lot better, the serving is a lot better.
And the ground stroke she can now sustain a rally, 10 shots, 20 shots, and then go for the ‑‑ when she goes for the jugular she hits it just a little bit harder than Maria.
And Maria’s foot speed hurts her against Serena. She’s gotten so much better. She’s quick enough against most players. But she can’t defend as well. Serena defends better than Maria if she has to. And her foot speed is better around the court. And that hurts Maria. She needs to be on offense. But with Serena she has a hard time getting on offense because Serena tees off so early in the rally, whether the serve or return of serve.
And also Serena, clearly, plays her best Sundays against Maria Sharapova. She totally rises to the occasion where she might be a bit listless against other opponents or maybe give them a set, maybe not the match, but give them a set. With Maria, she doesn’t give away points, never mind sets. She’s always fired up. You can see how badly both of them want it.
In following up on that, that rivalry seems to really be one, we always talk about how the game, whether it’s men or women, that rivalries is such a big deal in tennis. And this Serena/Maria one is one that still carries after so many years. Would you agree it’s one of the best rivalries in women’s tennis?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: It’s amazing that it carries because it’s so one‑sided. But it’s the personality of the two players involved that makes it so compelling, no matter what the result.
So it’s great for tennis. I mean, tennis is such a one‑on‑one battle that the rivalries are an essential part of that.
You want to identify with the people. You want to identify with the personalities. You want to identify with their game, and the only way to do that is if there’s a rivalry going on.
I mean, people love Rafa Nadal and they love Roger Federer, but they always fall into one camp more than the other, and will cheer for their player against the other, no matter what.
So it’s funny. And obviously you have that with Williams and Sharapova for different reasons. It’s just been a one‑sided result for the most part.
What is the lifetime, is it like 17‑2 or something?
I’d have to look it up, but that sounds close. It’s not close at all, yeah.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I mean, it’s been 10 years, but it hasn’t been that much matches. I think 15 matches in a row. I think ‑‑ I don’t have the numbers in front of me. But it’s over a long period of time.
I beat Chris Evert at one point 13 times in a row, but it was like in a two‑, two‑and‑a‑half‑year period. It didn’t seem that insurmountable. It just came in a closer chunk of time. It think it’s more difficult for Maria to deal with it because it’s been over such a long length of time.
She’s probably thinking: Sheesh, I was so young the last time I beat her.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Yeah.
Could you just maybe pick a couple of dark horses on the men’s and the women’s side and kind of like skim off the top, the Djokovic, Nadal, Murray, on the other side, Sharapova and Williams, could you just pick out a few players who you think have a chance to ‑‑
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: To win the whole thing? That’s a tall order. There’s a lot of players that can beat anybody on a given day. But to go all the way? I guess on the men’s side, Murray. Maybe not that dark, because he’s, what, 3 or 4 in the world.
And maybe Berdych also. He’s been playing some good ball but seems to falter still against the top guys. But he certainly looks fit and very focused and on a given day can compete against anybody.
And for just upsets, Kyrgios. Kyrgios, with that serve, can give anybody fits. I’m pretty sure the top players don’t really want to see him too close to them in the draw because he’s a flashy and can be an extremely dominating player the way he plays.
But this is clay, so hopefully it shouldn’t happen. But never know with him.
And on the women’s side, again dark horse, Halep can’t be a dark horse, she was in the finals last year. But she hasn’t broken through yet. So dark horse would be anybody to me that hasn’t won a Grand Slam.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: To me, a dark horse would be anybody that hasn’t won a Grand Slam, because then you haven’t done it yet, so we’re not really sure whether it’s going to happen or not.
So Halep would be in that category, certainly, but she’s 3 in the world. So, again, it’s hard to imagine somebody outside of top 10 going all the way on either women or men. They would just have to beat too many quality players.
I mean, there could be an opening in the draw where people kind of somehow scrape their way to the semis. But that’s hard to predict. It’s easier to predict a little bit once the draw comes out.
But it’s been such an up‑and‑down lead‑up to the tournament on the women’s side with Serena not finishing a tournament the last three she played, lost in the semis and defaulted the other two, correct?
And then you have Petra Kvitova winning in Madrid, playing amazing tennis, and then losing to Suárez Navarro easily. Suárez Navarro given that she can beat anybody, but I don’t think she has the firepower to go all the way, but you could see her in the finals as well.
And then there’s a player like Caroline Garcia on a given day can beat anybody. What’s the ‑‑ Pliskova, another Czech, who has got a big game. Perhaps not so suited for clay but grew up on the stuff.
She can hang with anybody. So it’s hard to tell but you still have to go with the favorites. Serena and Novak, obviously.
You were running off some names on the women’s side as possibilities. But one of them isn’t Sloane Stephens. Do you think she’s taken a step or two back from where she was about a year and a half ago?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I think she’s moving back the right direction now. It seems to me since she’s been working with Nick ‑‑ God, I have a blank now ‑‑ the lefty. Nick Saviano. Complete blank. I see his face.
Since she’s been working back with Nick she’s been playing better tennis. I think she’s feeling more the urgency of not taking her time developing but, rather, making it happen quicker rather than slower.
So, yeah, she doesn’t have the cache and the promise maybe she held two or three years ago, but I think it’s still there if she just believes in it. On clay, her game does not transfer well on clay with her big forehand and a good serve.
It’s better suited for hard courts or grass. And also I’m not sure how well she moves on the clay. She’s such an amazing mover that on the clay she gets a little hampered because she can’t really push off that fast. I think, again, she’s better on grass or a hard court. But certainly looks like to me that she’s going in the right direction again, which is good to see.
Can you talk about the French Open and kind of what you love about that tournament in comparison to the other majors and other tournaments and what you think makes that event special in your eyes?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: The intimacy of it all. You can really get close to the players there, and it’s a smaller venue. So there’s a lot more going on within any area and you just feel, I think, the fans more there because when the Philippe‑Chatrier Court opens up and match finishes, everybody spills out and it gets pretty crowded.
And, of course, the red clay. It’s the only big tournament, well, the only slam that’s on red clay. And just the color makes you smile, you know.
So it’s one of a kind. And you’re in Paris. I mean, how tough can it be?
One off‑beat question. Does that red clay come out in the laundry, like from your socks and ‑‑ or are all the outfits ‑‑
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Anytime the players fall on the ground, we say, oops, there went that skirt; there went that shirt. Socks, you throw out, because when you sweat and you get the clay on it, it’s goodbye.
So when that tournament’s over, everything just goes in the garbage?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Yep.
And the shoes, too?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, the shoes, you go on the grass. So, yes, they get pretty ‑‑ I mean, you may save them for other clay court tournaments. But most of the time the players, the shoes last a couple of days. That’s it.
I used to go through two pairs of shoes a week. I think the guys change them every match. And now maybe the women do, too. Depends on the kind of shoe. But they’re gone after a week, for sure. So definitely don’t save those.
Wondered if there was some great laundry detergent that got that clay out?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: If it’s there, I don’t know it.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
LOS ANGELES, March 12, 2015 – Beginning today, Tennis Channel is available to millions of Roku® customers just in time for two of the biggest tournaments of the year: March’s “Fifth Slam” events in Southern California now underway and Miami. Roku customers have two options available to view live and on-demand action from Tennis Channel. Those who already subscribe to Tennis Channel through their satellite, telco or cable provider will have access to Tennis Channel Everywhere on their Roku players and Roku TV™ models. Roku customers also have the option of subscribing to Tennis Channel Plus, the network’s digital subscription service.
Tennis Channel Everywhere gives customers access to incredible live tennis action throughout the year, including more than 180 hours of overall network coverage during Southern California and Miami competitions. Customers with Tennis Channel Plus are able to watch more than 600 additional live matches from more than 40 tournaments around the world – including the Australian Open and French Open – as well as thousands of hours of classic matches and on-demand programming. This includes archived semifinals and finals at major events like Wimbledon, as well as Grand Slam classics.
Roku customers can access Tennis Channel Everywhere and/or Tennis Channel Plus content with a single, easy-to-use streaming channel on the Roku platform, named Tennis Channel. Tennis Channel is the first, and most extensive, live and archived tennis streaming channel currently available on Roku players and Roku TV models.
“Launching a channel on the Roku platform marks a consistent effort by Tennis Channel to keep our digital offerings at the forefront of today’s media and entertainment innovations,” said Patrick Wilson, senior vice president of distribution, Tennis Channel. “With close to 90 percent of the live tennis on TV, we are constantly striving to give our audiences the convenience and freedom to access Tennis Channel when, where and how they want it on their smartphone, tablet and now on the Roku platform, which reaches millions of consumers. When combined with Tennis Channel Plus, we’re delivering unparalleled options for the in-home tennis viewing experience.”
“Tennis Channel offers our customers an unparalleled amount of live and on-demand tennis content and adds to Roku’s industry-leading lineup of sports channels,” said Ziba Kaboli-Gerbrands, Director of Content Acquisition for Roku. “We focus on providing our customers with choice in how and when they watch entertainment. With the option to stream Tennis Channel Everywhere and/or subscribe to Tennis Channel Plus, Roku customers can get the tennis action that’s best for them.”
A subscription to the Tennis Channel Plus 24/7 service is $69.99 for an annual pass and is available for purchase on Roku players and Roku TV models. Tennis Channel Plus gives fans access to exclusive content that is not available anywhere else – not even on Tennis Channel. The service is accessible to everyone who subscribes, regardless of whether they have a subscription to Tennis Channel through their satellite, telco or cable providers. Subscribers can watch live, exclusive match play from Davis Cup and Fed Cup competitions as well as ATP and WTA Tour events throughout the year, including the Southern California and Miami tournaments. In addition to robust highlights from these events, they can explore thousands of hours of on-demand programming, including current series episodes and viewer favorites Bag Check and Court Report.
Launching on the Roku platform marks a continuation in Tennis Channel’s extensive digital growth in the past year. When the network launched Tennis Channel Plus in May, it was the first to pair a TV Everywhere function with a digital subscription service, all in one app. With digital content ever increasing in its customer popularity, offerings like Tennis Channel Plus and Tennis Channel Everywhere have become invaluable – enabling audiences to choose when, where and how they want to participate, with an enriched viewing experience. This is especially worthwhile in tennis, a sport that often has multiple events in different time zones across different continents in the course of the same day.
(March 8, 2015) GLASGOW, SCOTLAND – If at all possible the applause the loudest it has been for the three days, as the live fourth rubber set up a thrilling conclusion to the Great Britain-US Davis Cup tie.
With a vocal John Isner thundering down six aces in just his second service game, before he closed it out, you had a feeling we could be going to very long tie-breaks. After all if Isner hits six aces he would expect to be up by a couple of games at least, and not requiring that effort just to nab his second.
In fact it was the flat-footed-sounding Isner that flirted with the first break-point opportunities dulling the enthusiasm of the Glasgow crowd for just a little. There would be more drama to come in the eighth game as Murray put the crowd’s loyalty through its paces delivering them two double-faults and fending off three break points before finally grinding out a hold.
Isner might be one big unit but he showed early on how he could keep pace in the kinds of rallies that Murray likes to use. And it’s not as if the Brit was struggling with his movement, even throwing in one of those drop shots at a crunch moment for an audacious winner.
But there was no denying that Isner was beginning to get his eye in. He was less vocal and less slap-footed around the court now as he sensed he could turn the screw. Pushing Andy Murray every step of the way as the Brit was serving at 4-5, Isner forced 3 set points as the weak second Murray serve presented very hittable opportunities. Yet he could not take advantage as Murray dredged up serves to get him out of trouble.
We got to a first set tie-break, but not quite in the manner we thought, and soe terrible shot-making from Isner put GB in front by just enough to keep the advantage, and a collective sigh of relief from 7,700 people.
The second set saw Murray hold his serve much more comfortably, and even if Isner was getting a look at his second serve, much of the American’s pace on his whipping forehand was tempered as Murray earned his first break point on the Isner serve after one hour and 25 minutes. Even then, Murray showed him no less than three looks at a second serve as he worked to consolidate the break, to no avail for the American.
Two sets up, the question was would this go the distance, or even creep over four sets? Again there were moments when it looked as though Isner would steal the upper hand as Murray squandered his challenges and sent a few pleading looks the way of the umpire as Isner’s serves thundered past him.
Pushing up to a tie-break again, there was a huge crescendo of noise which, if anything, was louder than Murray’s entry into the arena. If the first mini-break was enough to get hopes up, as Murray surged ahead to finish it with an ace to book the British team into the quarter-finals. Final score 7-6(4), 6-3, 7-6(4).
Interviewed on court after jumping around with members of the team, Murray did the honours in thanking the crowd as well as hinting that perhaps it might be time for Tennis Scotland to use grass for something other than football.
“The whole week has been so much fun. This is one of the most special atmospheres I’ve ever played in so I would like to say a big thank you to all these guys,“ Murray said.
“With a home tie against France in the summer I’d imagine we would try to put that on a grass court. I don’t know how many they have in Glasgow but if they could lay one that would be great as the atmosphere has been incredible.”
“To be in the quarterfinals for a second year when it hasn’t happened for so long is incredible.”
Last year the British team also knocked out the USA in the first round of Davis Cup on a clay court in San Diego.
“This is a deserved win,” Murray said. “The attitude of everyone was excellent. Everyone fought extremely hard, especially when we were behind in the matches, no one gave up. Every person played extremely hard.
“It was huge momentum for us in winning James’ (Ward) match. We were also so close yesterday to winning 3-0, so I felt some pressure today to close it out. The way John approached the match made it difficult.”
Asked about Great Britain’s chances to win Davis Cup, US Captain Jim Courier said:
“When you have a great champion like Andy, against most teams, they should feel like they are up 2-0 going in. The way their doubles team played was impressive. Bob and Mike played unbelievably well yesterday and they were pushed to the wire. It only takes three to win.”
So where does the US Davis Cup team go from here?
“Our team changes, ‘ Courier said. “You always try to make some adjustments and go forward. We play again in September, so I have time to assess everything. It takes time to process defeats like this and try to figure out what you can learn from it and improve going forward.”
With the next tie straight after Wimbledon, debates are already taking place as to where possible venues could be, as the prospect of holding an outside tournament in an English summer against the French could be intriguing.
The Davis Cup quarter-finals will take place between July 17 – 19.
As for the United States, they will play for a chance to stay in the World Group the week after the US Open concludes in September in the World Group Play-offs.
Ros Satar is a British sports journalist and a writer at Livetennis.com.