Friday, May 29, 2009

Roland Garros, Monte Carlo, and Madrid Clay Tournaments

I've been watching the French Open at Roland Garros and the TV coverage has been sparse - repetitive yes but short on games shown.  Today, May 29th, there were 18 mens and womens singles matches, not including the doubles matches.  The matches begin at 5:00AM on the East Coast of the US on the Tennis Channel and lasted until 12 noon.  Then the coverage moved over to ESPN2 for the afternoon.  Later the coverage switched back to the Tennis Channel at 6:30PM for the French Open Tonight.
What's disappointing?  With the exception of player interviews - which are nice but they are there to play and we're here to watch great tennis - on ESPN2, of the 18 singles matches played from 5AM until 12 noon only 4 were shown and then simply re-run in whole or in part for hours.  If we are lucky, we get snippets of other matches.  I mean very lucky.
Today, we watched Rafa Nadal and Lleyton Hewitt, the upset of Venus Williams in her loss to Agnes Szayay (good match, Agnes; Venus just didn't have her tennis hat on), and Dinara Safina playing Anastasia Paytyuchenkova.  That's three matches - that's right THREE matches - over and over again.  I missed the first match of the morning so maybe they showed 4.
What we did not see today on the Tennis Channel (which most of us have to pay to have access to through our cable providers) or on ESPN2 were:  Fernando Gonzalez vs Josselin Quanna who knocked Marat Safin out of the tournament;  Djokovic vs Stakhoysky;  Hanescu vs Gilles Simon;  Andy Murray vs Tipsarevic;  Fernando Verdasco vs Almagro (just snippets - as I recall although I did go to sleep for about 30 minutes);  Soderling vs David Ferrer;  Stepanek vs Cillic;  and Davydenko vs Wawrinka.  We were treated to very few 'highlights.'  Pathetic.
We could have seen these if we paid for the live streaming at Tennis or if we had Direct TV.  What is so disappointing is that the Tennis Channel that we - the little people - have already paid for access to just shows re-runs and views of a few nice bridges.  Maybe the players have something in their contracts that keeps their matches from being shown.  I don't know.
The Gonzalez/Quanna match might have been fun at 7-5, 6-3, and 7-5.  The Soderling/Ferrer match was 6-7, 7-5, 6-2, 7-6.  The Verdasco/Almagro match was 6-2,7-6, 7-6.  Could have been some good tennis in those three matches.  In some cases, those were tight scores.
Just mentioning some of the men to play tomorrow - May 30th - Tsonga, Federer, Andy Roddick, Monfils, Tommy Haas, Djokovic, Del Potro, and Robredo with their respective opponents.  How many of those matches are we likely to see over and over again?  One if we're lucky.
For the women players that I know of, playing tomorrow are:  Kuznetsova, Serena Williams, and Jankovic.  All excellent players so let's see which match is aired. 
The producers of the tournament are using TV time all day and all night long in re-runs.  One would think they could run more than three or four matches over and over and over again.  That decision keeps viewers from enjoying great tennis from a variety of good sportsmen and sportswomen working their way to the quarter and semi finals.  And it seems disrespectful to the players.
In terms of TV coverage, Monte Carlo coverage was very good.  And then there was Madrid.  Hats off to the Spaniards for GREAT coverage so that we - the little people - could enjoy the tournament and appreciate the hard work of the players as they battled where some finally reached the destination of quarter finals, the semi-finals, and ultimately the finals and the awards for their hard work.  
What was so good about Monte Carlo and Madrid was that we - the spectators - had the chance to watch many players go through the challenges and win or drop to the side.  But we were able to watch the players slam their way through the gauntlet that draws on their skill and those hours of practice and training.  Plus, we had the chance to see the "up and comers" who may well be challenging the top players of today. 
The red clay at Roland Garros is extraordinary;  the TV coverage of Roland Garros is disappointing - to me, it does not demonstrate very much respect for the many players.  And it wastes hours of TV coverage time in endless re-runs.  So catch a few matches in the morning or record it but otherwise, pass.  I'm interested to see if the TV coverage is any better on the weekend, covering more matches or if they stay with - what is to me - their tiresome pattern.
I don't know who the folks are who are making the decisions to show so few matches but they should be replaced with folks who can really get these matches out to the public.  Someone is paying for TV time anyway, let's see some tennis.  Let's see if they show more matches tomorrow during the weekend.
I have been able to see a few good matches with Monfils, Monaco, one of Verdasco's matches, three of Nadal's, one of Federer's, Quanna - an up and comer - take on Safin and keep his cool, Roddick, and several of the women's matches.
If you want to be able to watch players advance through a tournament, then Monte Carlo and especially the Madrid Open do the job. 
Good playing to the stars at Roland Garros!  To me, if you qualified and got to walk onto the court at Roland Garros, you are a champion and a star.  Thank you for your 'heart.'


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