Rafael Nadal is chasing history and Anna Ivanovic is looking to defend her title as Tennis Channel and ESPN bring cable viewers most of the action from Roland Garros.
For the third consecutive year, Tennis and ESPN will play doubles partners and chart Nadal's bid to win his fifth straight French Open title and surpass Bjorn Borg's run from 1978-81, while keeping Roger Federer from equaling Pete Sampras' total of 14 Grand Slams titles in the process.
Ivanovic tries to defend her crown against Australian Open champ Serena Williams, former No.1 Maria Sharapova, who is returning to Grand Slam action after eights months recovering from a shoulder injury, and current top-ranked player Dinara Safina.
Together the cable networks will provide around 160 hours of live match coverage over the next two weeks from the City of Lights, and many more via digital platforms. NBC is the third member of the U.S. television triumvirate as the Peacock has the championship café and croissant coverage from Paris.
With both cable networks on the scene at Flushing Meadow late this summer with the U.S. Open, they will cover all four Grand Slams for the first time. But while Tennis will be on court in Queens through a sub-license deal from ESPN and ESPN2 takes the lead Down Under with the Australian Open in Melbourne, Tennis is the lead cable player on the red clay. After securing the U.S. rights to the tournament, Tennis formed an alliance with ESPN, whereby ESPN2 received coverage rights to the French in exchange for the sports giant passing Australian rights to Tennis.
As such, Tennis, now in its sixth year, produces all coverage for both networks from Roland Garros, with each making use of its own on-air team.
Once again the Santa Monica, Calif.-headquartered network, which now counts some 25 million subscribers, will vastly expand its distribution game for the French Open. Tennis has lined up free preview for the fortnight that will place the tournament before some 50 million households.
Among its playing partners in the preview are DirecTV and Dish Network nationwide, and Charter Communications, across all its systems. Comcast will be offering Tennis' coverage in the wider form in Atlanta, Miami and Naples, Fla. San Francisco, Portland, Ore., and Knoxville, Tenn.. For its part, Time Warner Cable is serving it up in Dallas, San Antonio and Austin, Texas; Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham and Greensboro, N.C.; Los Angeles and Orange County, Calif.; Binghampton, Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse and New York City; as well as other DMAs.
Among the other distributors on board in select areas: Cox, Insight, Knology, Bright House and Metro Cast.
Those tuning in Tennis will get to see an average of seven live match hours over the fortnight and more than 100 hours of match coverage in total, including same-day repeats for all men's and women's singles semifinals.
Tennis' broadcast team comprises on-air analysts Martina Navratilova and John McEnroe; Ted Robinson and Ian Eagle in lead commentary roles; Tennis regulars Katrina Adams, Barry MacKay and Leif Shiras; and analysts Justin Gimelstob, Corina Morariu and Rennae Stubbs.
The service will serve up French Open coverage from Sunday, May 24, to Saturday, June 6, typically beginning at 5 a.m. (ET). Match telecasts generally conclude at noon when ESPN2's afternoon coverage begins.
Following ESPN2's match coverage, Tennis picks things up again with the primetime French Open Tonight. Veteran sportscaster Bill Macatee returns to the show's tournament-grounds set above the Musketeer Plaza, and with an assist from Murphy Jensen and injured singles player Tatiana Golovin, will host over three-and-a-half hours each evening an array of players, coaches, agents, Hall of Famers, past champions and other tennis-community notables. French Open Tonight again will feature three and a half hours each evening of that day's best tennis, original features, previously unseen matches and coverage from in and around the city. New to the show's lineup: 'Court Report,'segments from Jill Arrington that will air every hour.
All told, between live matches, encore replays and French Open Tonight telecasts, Tennis Channel will devote more than 230 hours of programming, all in high definition.
Online, there's even more action with users gaining free access to up to five courts and between 10 and 15 matches daily, live and/or on-demand.
The network's Web site, www.tennischannel.com, will also include French Open Tonight interview archives, daily highlights, live scores, exclusive tournament photos, tennis columns, blogs, sweepstakes information and other original content. The channel is partnering with Yahoo! Sports to bring live streaming to that Web site's main tennis page.
As for ESPN2, it will present more than 56 hours of match coverage, highlighted by the women's semifinals live on Thursday June 4. After the May 24 opening day, ESPN2's schedule will continue with extensive coverage Tuesday, May 26 through Friday, May 29, resuming the next week, Monday, June 1 - 4. Except for the latter day as the women's semifinals start at 8 a.m., the network's coverage will commence daily at noon -- directly following Tennis Channel's morning programming -- and will generally continue until 6:30 p.m.
Dick Enberg is scheduled to call his 23rd French Open, along with network veteran Cliff Drysdale. Analysts Patrick McEnroe, Brad Gilbert, Darren Cahill, Mary Carillo and Pam Shriver will share their acumen, while Bud Collins, the doyenne of tennis writers, will conduct interviews and contribute his insights. Chris Fowler keeps all the trains moving as on-site host.
Broadband service ESPN360.com will also play a prominent Parisian role, delivering 277 hours live from the three primary courts at Roland Garros on the days ESPN2 is telecasting. Live action will include matches not televised on ESPN2, either live or later that day.