Wednesday, June 17, 2009

More Wimbledon - The ESPN News Conference

by Savannah

NOTE: This content was reported on TalkAboutTennis

ESPN hosted a conference call/press conference to publicize it's coverage of the Championships that begins on Monday, June 22 at 7a on the East Coast of the United States. With Wimbledon Live not available in the States ESPN via it's broadband online site as well as it's television coverage in ESPN2 has stepped up and will provide extensive coverage for it's viewers. ESPN360 is free if your ISP provides access to it. All coverage will be broadcast in HD.

The featured speakers were broadcasters Patrick McEnroe and Mary Carillo. ESPN also made Len deLuca and Jamie Reynolds available to provide insight from the business end of tennis coverage.

The majority of the questions during the conference related to the ATP. There was focus put on who, outside of Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray had a chance at winning the title. Patrick McEnroe felt that Andy Roddick has a good chance if the draw breaks his way. He felt that if both Andy Murray and Roger Federer were on the other side of the draw Andy Roddick has a fairly good chance to make a deep run.

PMac also expressed skepticism about Rafa's knee problems and felt that he just needed a mental break. He feels Nadal will be ready to play at Wimbledon. He also felt that Federer withdrew from Halle because he felt the need to celebrate and take a break.
What was a little surprising was that PMac agreed with Mary Carillo who said that Murray is still going to have problems playing best of five matches especially with his penchant for going on walkabout during a match.
The broadcasters agreed that Novak Djokovic is struggling coming into Wimbledon.
As for dark horses mention was made of Robin Soderling, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and Marin Cilic. As for Americans other than Andy Roddick it was said that James Blake has been up and down and that while Mardy Fish and Sam Querrey have the potential to make it into the second week it's doubtful that they would win the tournament.

As for the WTA most of the questions revolved around who, other than Venus Williams and Serena Williams could come into the event with the swagger of knowing they have a good chance to win.
Mary Carillo emphasized that Dinara Safina has expressed her dislike of playing on grass and that if she has that big a mental block against the surface she's setting herself up for a hard time.
Mary also made the case for Venus Williams being seeded number one as opposed to Dinara who has yet to win a major or play well on grass. PMac felt that it was better that the AELTC stick with the rankings. No one asked about Maria Sharapova's seeding at #24.

As for who has a chance at winning other than Venus or Serena Mary said that Sharapova is still on the comeback trail and that her play of late has not been the best. Samantha Stosur has a serve and a game that translates well to grass. Women who can also do well are Li Na, Victoria Azarenka who has a hip problem but moves well on grass, Zheng Jie and Svetlana Kuznetsova especially since, as the saying goes "Jocks win Wimbledon"(thanks for that PMac). Marion Bartoli was mentioned as a dark horse.

The Serbian players, Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic are not being given much of a chance at being factors in the tournament. Mary also said that the women's game looks better on grass and that some of the best women's matches have been played on that surface citing the 2005 Venus Williams vs Lindsay Davenport match which is still considered one of the best ever. The surface forces the women to play more aggressively than they may want to she said.

Questions were also raised about the funding of major tournaments, so far so good despite the global recession was the response, and television rankings when it comes to tennis. The highest ranked early round match was a doubles match featuring Venus Williams and Serena Williams during the French Open. The highest ranked were matches featuring Serena Williams and Roger Federer during the later rounds.

The question of grunting, especially in the women's game, was raised. Concern was expressed over how that would be implemented during actual match play. Would a point be taken from a player when after a long rally Player X lets out a blood curdling scream? Who is going to determine what is noise pollution and what isn't? Both broadcasters agreed that the time to stop it is when the players are young not when they've gotten to the point that they're playing on the main tour.

A reporter asked about the effect of hard court play on the body and that many of the European players are not happy with the emphasis on hard court play, something they see as favoring Americans. PMac disagreed that the US hard courts dominate the season and made the interesting observation that indoor courts are harder on the body than hardcourts. He went on to say that the US has lost a couple of tournaments and that with Europeans dominating the top 100 it's only natural that they want to play more on their home continent.

There were quite a few internet journalists on the call and while left until the end they represented.

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