ESPN, Tennis Channel Expand Australian Open Coverage as Djokovic, Clijsters Eye Repeats

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Questions abound as the tennis world -- with U.S. vistas supplied from myriad ESPN platforms and Tennis Channel -- convenes in Melbourne over the next fortnight at the sport's first major, the Australian Open.

Will Novak Djokovic, who triumphed Down Under last year before adding the Wimbledon and U.S. Open crowns, repeat his mastery on the men's side? Can former Aussie Open winners Rafael Nadal, who at this stage last year was looking to complete the "Rafa Slam" and Roger Federer, who is still looking to add to the men's all-time mark of 16 majors, return to the top of the sport they dominated during the last decade until the "Djoker" supplanted them?

Novak Djokovic 2011 Australian Open champion

Or will others -- like No. 4 seed Andy Murray, the runner-up at this tournament the past two years, No. 5 David Ferrer and No. 6 Jo Wilfired Tsonga -- finally break through and capture their first Grand Slam title? Another player to watch: No. 11, Juan Martin del Potro, the 2009 U.S. Open champion, who seems to have finally moved past a wrist injury that robbed much of the power from his crushing forehand.

On the ladies' side, Caroline Wozniacki's wrist injury puts an even more tenuous grip on her top-ranking, which has yet to net a Grand Slam, while No. 2 seed and Wimbledon queen Petra Kvitova seems poised to ascend to the throne. Meanwhile, big-hitting No. 3 Victoria Azarenka, No. 4 ,Maria Sharapova, the 2008 Aussie champ, No. 5 Li Na, the 2011 French Open winner, Aussie Sam Stosur, the 2011 U.S. Open champ, are all eyeing the Down Under diadem. So, too, are former Australian Open winners, No. 12 seed Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters, both of whom are looking to overcome extended injury-induced layoffs. Clijsters,seeded 11th, is the defending champion having come from  a set down to beat Na, who became the first person from China to reach a Grand Slam final, before winning at Roland Garros.

ESPN and Tennis Channel -- through a multimedia alliance in which they exchange media rights from the Australian and French Opens -- will track these and other developing storylines as they again play doubles with respective presentations that begin on Sunday, Jan. 15 and Monday, Jan. 16 from Melbourne. Live coverage into the wee hours of the American morning is on tap, given the 16-hour and 19-hour time differentials from Melbourne to the east and west coasts.
Under the terms of a new 10-year agreement -- spanning the 2012-21 tourneys -- that was signed in September 2010, the worldwide leader continues its longest-running uninterrupted pro sports coverage association, which dates to 1984.
Under the new pact, ESPN2 again will televise more than 100 live hours, plus afternoon highlights and replays from overnight action. However, the deal, financial terms of which were not disclosed, also provides for expanded coverage on a variety of platforms, including WatchESPN online at WatchESPN.co and on smartphones and tablets via the WatchESPN app. Enhanced digital activity includes 600 hours on broadband service ESPN3, all live, with users able to select between matches on seven courts, all available on-demand after their completion.
Additionally, ESPN Interactive TV will present a six-screen "mix channel" for DirecTV and ESPN3 subscribers. For eight hours during each of the tournament's first eight days, viewers can watch the ESPN2 feed or one of five other courts, all with commentary and customized graphics. Features include interactive data, the tournament draw, up-to-date scores, daily order of play, and social media interaction. This year, SportsCenter anchor Steve Weissman is on board as studio host and will provide updates and news from around the tournament and each of the five additional channels.
Outside the U.S., ESPN International will deliver  over 100 hours of coverage to pan-regional ESPN networks in Latin America. ESPN+ will air over 30 hours of live complementary coverage in primetime throughout the early rounds, while ESPN Dos and ESPN Brazil will encore some of the best matches of the day during the first week of action.
Melbourne match coverage starts Jan. 15 at 6:30 p.m.(ET) with a 12.5-hour telecast on ESPN2 and ESPN3. Given the aforementioned time differential, late-night marathons will continue through the women's and men's finals live at 3 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 28, and Sunday, Jan. 29, respectively (see schedule below). In addition, SportsCenter will provide live look-ins to the action during the 11 p.m. and late-night editions.

Kim Clijsters topped Li Na at 2011 Australian Open
Australian Open in Melbourne

Cliff Drysdale -- who has been with ESPN since its first tennis telecast in 1979 -- heads the ESPN2 team. Chris Evert, who joined ESPN last year for Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, will make her Australian Open debut, while Darren Cahill, Mary Joe Fernandez, Brad Gilbert, Patrick McEnroe and Pam Shriver return as analysts. Chris Fowler will again host and call select matches, with Chris McKendry also hosting. Tom Rinaldi will contribute features, news and interviews during event coverage and on SportsCenter.

For its part, Tennis Channel is bringing two-time U.S. Open champion and the host of the network's Tennis Channel Academy series, to Melbourne on its dime for the first time. Austin, who has appeared as an analyst during telecasts of the U.S. Open and women's year-end championships, will join an on-air team comprising lead play-by-play caller Bill Macatee, tennis legend Martina Navratilova as chief analyst, analyst Justin Gimelstob, play-by-play man Brett Haber and Sports Illustrated writer and author Jon Wertheim as reporter.

Australian Open

All told, Tennis, in its fifth year of Down Under coverage, plans to present some 175 hours of programming, with 30 hours of live play, 85 hours of Australian Open Today and more than 60 hours of encore-match coverage.

New at Tennis' Australian net in 2012: 10 consecutive nights of primetime matches, beginning at 7 p.m., within its overall, 13-day coverage window (schedule below). Starting Jan. 16 at the aforementioned hour, the network's schedule encompasses the first Monday through the tournament's second Wednesday, without any intermittent days off, as had been the case with previous fortnights.
Australian Open Today will run from 7 a.m.-11 a.m. most mornings, with the highlights, features, news updates and unseen matches that keeps American audiences up to speed with what happened Down Under, while most were sleeping. For the first time and on most days, Australian Open Today will encore every afternoon at 3 p.m., serving as a lead-in to Tennis' live coverage at 7 p.m.
Continuing the tradition it began in 2008 as the first U.S. network to air all five Australian Open finals, Tennis has again lined up live coverage of the men's, women's and mixed doubles competitions, and encores of the men's and women's singles championship matches.


Australian Open 2012 on ESPN2 HD (All times Eastern; each day "begins" at 6 a.m. (ET))

Date Time (ET) Event
Sun, Jan 15 6:30 p.m. - 3 a.m. Early round play LIVE
3 - 7 a.m. " LIVE
Mon, Jan 16 9 p.m. - 3 a.m. " LIVE
3 - 7 a.m. " LIVE
Tue, Jan 17 Noon - 3 p.m. " Same-day
9 p.m. - 3 a.m. " LIVE
3 - 7 a.m. " LIVE
Wed, Jan 18 Noon - 3 p.m. " Same-day
11 p.m. - 3 a.m. " LIVE
3 - 7 a.m. " LIVE
Thur, Jan 19 Noon - 3 p.m. " Same-day
11 p.m. - 3 a.m. " LIVE
3 - 7 a.m. " LIVE
Fri, Jan 20 Noon - 3 p.m. " Same-day
9 p.m. - 3 a.m. " LIVE
3 - 7 a.m. " LIVE
Sat, Jan 21 10 a.m. - 1 p.m. " Same-day
9 p.m. - 2 a.m. Round of 16 LIVE
3 - 7 a.m. " LIVE
Sun, Jan 22 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. " Same-day
9 p.m. - 2 a.m. " LIVE
3:30 - 6 a.m. " LIVE
Mon, Jan 23 Noon - 3 p.m. " Same-day
9 p.m. - 2 a.m. Quarterfinals LIVE
3:30 - 6 a.m. " LIVE
Tue, Jan 24 Noon - 3 p.m. " Same-day
9 p.m. - 2 a.m. " LIVE
3:30 - 6 a.m. " LIVE
Wed, Jan 25 Noon - 3 p.m. " Same-day
9:30 p.m. - 2 a.m. Women's Semifinals LIVE
3:30 - 6 a.m. Men's Semifinal #1 LIVE
Thurs, Jan 26 Noon - 3 p.m. Men's Semifinal #1 reair
3:30 - 6 a.m. Men's Semifinal #2 LIVE
Fri, Jan 27 Noon - 3 p.m. Men's Semifinal #2 reair
3 - 5:30 a.m. Women's Final LIVE
Sat, Jan. 28 9 - 11 a.m. Women's Final reair
10 p.m. - MID Women's Final reair
3 - 6:30 a.m. Men's Final LIVE
Sun, Jan 29 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. Men's Final reair
9 p.m.-MID Men's Final reair

AUSTRALIAN OPEN 2012 on ESPN3

Date Time (ET) Event
Sun, Jan 15 6:30 p.m. - 3 a.m. Early round play LIVE
Mon, Jan 16- Mon, Jan 23 3 - 7 a.m. and
7 p.m. - 2 a.m. Early round play LIVE
Mon, Jan 23 9 p.m. - 2 a.m. Quarterfinals LIVE
Tue, Jan 24- Wed, Jan 25 3:30 - 6 a.m. Quarterfinals LIVE
7 - 2 a.m. Quarterfinals LIVE
Wed, Jan 25 9:30 p.m. - 1:30 a.m. Women's Semifinals LIVE
Thurs, Jan 26 11 p.m. - 3:30 a.m. Mixed Doubles SF/Women's Doubles Finals LIVE
3:30 a.m. - 6 p.m. Men's Semifinal #1 LIVE
Fri, Jan 27 3:30 a.m. - 6 p.m. Men's Semifinal #2 LIVE
9 p.m. - 1 a.m. Girls and Boys Singles Finals LIVE
Sat, Jan. 28 5:30 - 7:30 a.m. Men's Doubles Final LIVE
3 - 5:30 a.m. Women's Final LIVE
Sat, Jan. 29 12:30 - 2:30 a.m. Mixed Doubles Final LIVE
3 - 6:30 a.m. Men's Final LIVE

Tennis Channel's Live Australian Open Match Schedule (all times ET)

Date Time Event
Monday, Jan. 16 7 p.m.-9 p.m. First-Round
Tuesday, Jan. 17 7 p.m.-9 p.m. Second-Round
Wednesday, Jan. 18 7 p.m.-11 p.m. Second-Round
Thursday, Jan. 19 7 p.m.-11 p.m. Third-Round
Friday, Jan. 20 7 p.m.-9 p.m. Third-Round
Saturday, Jan. 21 7 p.m.-9 p.m. Round of 16
Sunday, Jan. 22 7 p.m.-9 p.m. Round of 16
Monday, Jan. 23 7 p.m.-9 p.m. Men's and Women's Quarterfinals
Tuesday, Jan. 24 7 p.m.-9 p.m. Men's and Women's Quarterfinals
Wednesday, Jan. 25 7 p.m.-9:30 p.m. TBA
Thursday, Jan. 26 11 p.m.-3 a.m. Women's Doubles Final
and Mixed Doubles Semifinal
Saturday, Jan. 28 5:30 a.m.-7:30 a.m. Men's Doubles Final
Sunday, Jan. 29 12:30 a.m.-2:30 a.m. Mixed Doubles Final

Tennis Channel's Australian Open Today Schedule

Australian Open Today airs Monday, Jan. 16-Wednesday, Jan. 25. The program generally runs from 7 a.m.-11 a.m., with same-day encore presentations each afternoon.
Monday, Jan. 16 - 7 a.m.-1 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 21 - 7 a.m.-10 a.m.
Monday, Jan. 23, through Wednesday, Jan. 25 - 6 a.m.-10 a.m.

Afternoon encore editions of Australian Open Today take place from 3 p.m.-7 p.m. every day other than Monday, Jan. 16 (1 p.m.-7 p.m.) and Saturday, Jan. 21 (1 p.m.-4 p.m. / 4 p.m.-7 p.m.)

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