The many unknowns concerning the top players in tennis – who will maintain their great level of 2017 and who will return to top form after injury and absences – will begin to be answered at the first Major of 2018, the Australian Open, on ESPN and ESPN2 and on ESPN3 and streaming on the ESPN app beginning Sunday, Jan. 14. Daily marathon telecasts, totaling more than 100 hours of television plus 1,400 streaming, will culminate with the Women’s and Men’s Championships on January 27 and 28, respectively, both at 3:30 a.m. ET.
- ESPN2 will present daily, marathon, prime-time and overnight telecasts from Melbourne (at 7 p.m. the first night, thereafter generally at 9 p.m.) through the women’s semifinals; later action airs on ESPN.
- More than 40 additional hours will be aired on ESPN2 during the afternoon recapping the action from the overnight telecasts, generally at 2 p.m.
- ESPN3 streaming on the ESPN App will offer 1,400 hours starting each day with the first match of each court at 7 p.m. ET (the first 13 days of play). It will also present live the men’s, women’s and mixed doubles championships and the finals of the boys and girls divisions and of the legends and wheelchair competitions.
- Last year’s dramatic Men’s Championship – Roger Federer edging Rafael Nadal in five sets – will be reaired on ESPN2 leading into the first day of play – Sunday, Jan. 14, from 5-7 p.m.
What tennis fans want to know:
- Without new mom and newly married Serena Williams to defend the title she won a year ago (while pregnant, the world learned later) – not to mention two-time champ Victoria Azarenka who is not travelling to Australia – the women’s field is wide open.
- American tennis fans would love a repeat of the last Major of 2017: an all-USA semifinals (No. 13 and eventual winner Sloane Stephens defeated No. 5 Venus Williams, 18 Madison Keys advanced past No. 10 CoCo Vandeweghe).
- There were two first-time Major champions among the women last year (No. 7 Jelena Ostapenko and Stephens), yet many top players are still seeking their first big trophy and Australia is a great opportunity: the new No. 1, Simona Halep, No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki, No. 4 Elina Svitolina and No. 6 Karolina Pliskova.
- In 2017 we witnessed a remarkable renaissance by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal? Can the 36-year old Swiss and 31-year old Spaniard maintain that level?
- How will the star-studded list of men whose 2017 was hampered or shortened by injury rebound to challenge for titles and the top ranking? These include Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka (neither of whom have since Wimbledon), Milos Raonic, Juan Martin del Potro, Marin Cilic and Tomas Berdych, not to mention Andy Murray and Kei Nishikori who were unable to enter the tournament.
- Young (or at least, “younger”) ATP players seem to be knocking on the door, ready to burst through, break the stranglehold the “Big Five” have had at Majors and win titles. Is this finally the year for the likes of No. 3 Grigor Dimitrov (26), No. 4 Alexander Zverev(20), No. 5 Dominic Thiem (24), No. 7 David Goffin (27) or No. 8 American Jack Sock(25).
- While we can, it’s worth marveling at the longevity of the domination of the ATP’s “Big Four/Five” — of the last 51 Majors (nearly 13 years), five men own every trophy but two: Federer (19 career Major wins), Nadal (16), Djokovic (12), Murray and Wawrinka (3 each). The traditional “Big Four” (all but Wawrinka) comprise 48 of the last 58 Major finalists (with Stan: 52 of 58).
Tennis Channel and ESPN’s ongoing Grand Slam alliance includes the Australian Open and gives viewers near round-the-clock tournament enjoyment from Melbourne. Each network utilizes its own commentators during its respective coverage and cross-promotes the combined ESPN-Tennis Channel television offerings.
The ESPN Tennis Team, the best in television:
- Darren Cahill, who once reached the US Open semifinals and the Australian Open doubles finals and went on to coach fellow Australian Lleyton Hewitt and Andre Agassi, has worked for ESPN since 2007. He coaches current WTA No. 1 Simona Halep.
- Cliff Drysdale, a member of the Tennis Hall of Fame, he reached the US Open finals and is a two-time Wimbledon and French Open semifinalist. He has been with ESPN since its first tennis telecast in 1979. Drysdale was a leader on the court – a top player for many years who was one of the first to use a two-hand backhand – and off the court, as the first president of the ATP.
- Chrissie Evert, a Hall of Famer who joined ESPN in 2011, counts a record six US Opens among her 18 Major titles. She recorded the best career win-loss record in history, reached more Major singles finals than any man or woman (34), and reached the semis or better in 34 consecutive Majors (1971-83). The AP Female Athlete of the Year four times, in 1976 she was the first woman to be the sole recipient of Sports Illustrated’sSportswoman of the Year. Played the Australian Open six times (1974 the first), reaching the finals every time, winning twice.
- Chris Fowler – who joined ESPN in 1986, joined the ESPN tennis team in 2003 and is the lead ESPN/ABC college football play caller – is the lead voice to call matches. He hosted College GameDay on football Saturdays 1990-2014, and has hosted World Cup soccer, college basketball including the Final Four, the X Games and Triple Crown horse racing events. Originally, he was the first host of Scholastic Sports America and later was a SportsCenter
- Brad Gilbert, whose flair and unique nicknames for players has enlivened ESPN’s tennis telecasts since 2004, parlayed his playing career – once ranked No. 4 in the world and reaching the quarterfinals of the US Open and at Wimbledon – into coaching Andre Agassi (six Major titles with Brad), Andy Roddick (US Open victory) and Andy Murray.
- Jason Goodall will serve as a studio and match analyst. A one-time standout among Juniors in Britain whose career was ended by injury at 21, he later coached Jennifer Capriati as well as ESPN’s Mary Joe Fernandez and Pam Shriver.
- Bethanie Mattek-Sands, the premier doubles player in rehab since a horrific knee injury at last year’s Wimbledon, will join ESPN as she did at the US Open. The 32-year old from Minnesota has captured five Major doubles titles, including the first two of 2017, plus two Major mixed doubles crowns.
- John McEnroe, won seven Grand Slam singles titles during his storied career, which included 10 more major championships in doubles or mixed doubles. He also led the U.S. to four Davis Cup titles and won the NCAA’s while attending Stanford. He has worked for ESPN since 2009.
- Patrick McEnroe, who has worked for ESPN since 1995, was the U.S. Davis Cup captain 2001-2010 and in 2007 the team won its first championship since 1995. A three-time singles All-American at Stanford – where the team won NCAA titles in 1986 and 1988 – he served as General Manager, USTA Elite Player Development from 2008 – 2015. He won the 1992 French Open doubles title and reached the 1991 Australian Open semifinals in singles.
- Chris McKendry returns as host, a role she has filled at all the Majors for ESPN. She joined ESPN in 1996 as a SportsCenter anchor, and later hosted the Little League World Series and X Games. As of Spring 2016, she focuses on tennis. She attended Drexel University on a tennis scholarship.
- Patrick Mouratoglou, Serena Williams’ coach since 2012, will serve as an analyst as he has for ESPN at previous Majors. He helped her to unprecedented success deep into her mid-30s – 10 Major titles, an Olympic Gold Medal and a stranglehold on the WTA No. 1 ranking. A longtime coach, including great results over seven years with Marcos Baghdatis.
- Pam Shriver, who started working for ESPN in 1990, long before her Hall of Fame career ended, played in the 1978 US Open finals at age 16 (losing to Evert) and won 21 Grand Slam titles in women’s doubles (another in Mixed) including five at the US Open plus a Gold Medal in doubles at the 1988 Olympics.
- Rennae Stubbs, who enjoyed a long career in doubles – winning six Majors: four in women’s and two in mixed, representing Australia at four Olympic Games and for 17 years in Fed Cup, will be an analyst. She’s worked for ESPN for many years, and for NBC at the Olympics and for Tennis Channel.
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 and daily global reports and analysis from contributors Jerry Bembry and Matt Wilansky. Peter Bodo will add to the depth of coverage from stateside.
In addition, The Undefeated will have a story on the influence of the Williams sisters 20 years after they played their first head-to-head match, which came at the Australian Open.
ESPN Interactive TV will present a six-screen mosaic on DIRECTV featuring the ESPN/Tennis Channel linear feed and five TV courts, during the first seven days of the tournament. Sam Gore will host, joined on the set by Mardy Fish, Luke Jensen and appearances from the ESPN TV commentator roster.
ESPN Deportes will present extensive, live coverage of the tournament across multiple platforms. Wall-to-wall Spanish-language coverage will also be available via streaming on ESPN3 and the ESPN App, featuring coverage 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 results, recaps and chats.
ESPN Classic has been airing memorable Australian Open matches throughout January, concluding with three great matches leading into live coverage of the 2018 tournament:
- 2017 Women’s Final, Serena Williams vs. Venus Williams, Sun., Jan. 13, noon – 2 p.m.
- 2017 Men’s Final, Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal, Sun., Jan. 13, 2 – 5 p.m.
- 2012 Men’s Semifinal, Rafael Nadal vs. Roger Federer, Sun., Jan. 13, 10 a.m. – noon
ESPN International will provide more than 140 hours of live HD action to tennis fans via its networks in Latin America (including Brazil) 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 televise over 80 hours of live complementary coverage throughout the early rounds, while ESPN Tres North and ESPN2 South will air over 20 hours of additional Spanish coverage. In addition, ESPN will also televise 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 SONY ESPN platform will carry live coverage.
ESPNtenis.com will feature the following content during the tournament: 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 1,400 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.