Tennis fans can settle in for two week of grunts, groans and dirty socks as ESPN2, Tennis Channel and NBC serve up coverage of Roland Garros.
Better known as the French Open, the sport’s second Grand Slam tournament, begins May 25 from Paris.
ESPN2 and Tennis will provide some 51 and 100 live hours of coverage from the red clay event, while NBC will bring matters to their championship conclusions with its café and croissant coverage of the women’s and men’s finals, live at 9 a.m. (ET) on June 7 and 8, respectively.
Rafael Nadal, the three-time defending champion and the sport’s dominant presence on clay, returns to Paris, where he will try to stave off the fast-rising Novak Djokovic and again deny Roger Federer’s career Grand Slam dream.
However, the women’s side opened up considerably with the recent retirement of world No. 1 and defending French Open champion Justine Henin. Maria Sharapova, draped in her Tiffany designer Elsa Peretti's Wave earrings in 18K gold and pearl buttons from the jeweler that accessorize her "Paris dress" from Nike, is now the top seed.
The 2008 tournament marks the second time Tennis Channel and ESPN are teaming in the City of Lights. After securing the rights to Roland Garros, Tennis formed an alliance with ESPN, whereby ESPN2 received coverage rights from the French Open, in exchange for passing Australian Open rights to the smaller network, which celebrated its fifth birthday on May 15. Tennis produces the French, while ESPN2 handles those responsibilities Down Under.
The networks reached another accord earlier this month, whereby they will join CBS as the exclusive carriers of the U.S. Open tennis championships, starting in 2009. As such, both will be able to justifiably wield the moniker of Grand Slam Network: both also hold Wimbledon rights.
ESPN2 begins its Roland Garros coverage at noon (ET) on May 25. Skipping Memorial Day and the weekend of May 31-June 1, the network’s coverage will generally start at midday -- directly following Tennis Channel’s morning programming -- and continue unitl 6:30 p.m. ESPN2 crowns its coverage with live presentations of the women’s semifinals from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on June 5.
Spanish-language network ESPN Deportes mirrors ESPN2’s coverag, while broadband service ESPN360 is expected to provide 250 live hours of coverage from three primary courts.
Dick Enberg will call his 22nd French Open, along with Cliff Drysdale and analysts Darren Cahill, Mary Carillo, Mary Joe Fernandez, Luke Jensen, Patrick McEnroe and Pam Shriver. Chris Fowler is the on-site host and legendary tennis columnist Bud Collins is scheduled to make his French Open debut for ESPN2.
As for Tennis, the dedicated racquet sports service initiated its live coverage at 5 a.m. on May 25. The network’s daily match telecasts typically finish at noon, at which point ESPN2’s afternoon coverage begins. All told, Tennis will present close to 100 hours of live match coverage over the fortnight, including same-day repeats for all men’s and women’s singles semifinals.
Additionally from May 25-June 7, Tennis will showcase its nightly primetime show French Open Tonight, anchored by Bill Macatee. The three-and-half-hour program presents the day’s best tennis, previously unseen matches, original features and coverage from in and around the city.
The network’s French Open on-air team once again includes tennis legends John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova, fresh off her charitable work in New Orleans in conjunction with the 2008 Cable Show.
Lead on-air commentators Ted Robinson and Ian Eagle return, along with Tennis veterans Leif Shiras, Barry MacKay and Katrina Adams. Former and current players Justin Gimelstob, Rennae Stubbs and Corina Morariu will also assist as on-air analysts.
These personalities will appear on French Open Tonight, where Macatee will be joined by former MSNBC news personality Dana Kennedy, who will work on lifestyle segments.
Online, tennis fans can check out up to four live matches daily at TennisChannel.com., where the action will be supplemented with additional on-demand video clips, including daily highlights, archived matches, live scores and original content. The network is also working with Yahoo! Sports again to make highlights available to visitors of the site’s main tennis page.