The IX: Mardi de Tennis avec Lindsay Gibbs May 28, 2019
Naomi and Simona and Serena survive -- all the French Open news you can use -- Tennis Channel insights
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A good first-round scare
Bonjour! The first round of the French Open is in the books, and truly, there were no shocking results. Yes, Angelique Kerber and Caroline Wozniacki were both upset, but they were both battling injuries headed into Roland Garros, so those results weren’t exactly earth-shattering.
Rather, the first-round results that most stand out to me are the ones in which the stars were in danger, but found a way to survive. Three-time French Open champion Serena Williams overcame an extremely sluggish start and defeated Vitalia Diatchenko 2-6, 6-1, 6-0; defending champion Simona Halep survived a mid-match surge by Ajla Tomljanovic to advance 6-2, 3-6, 6-1; and world No. 1 Naomi Osaka rebounded from a disastrous debut and defeated Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 0-6, 7-6 (4), 6-1.
I was particularly impressed with Osaka, because being bageled in 20 minutes in an opening set as a world No. 1 on your worst surface when you’ve won the last two majors and you’re only 21 years old honestly sounds like the type of thing that should break a person. And it’s not like Osaka didn’t feel the pressure of the moment — she felt every inch of it!
“I think this is the most nervous I have ever been my entire life during a match,” Osaka said during press. “Today was weird because usually the nerves go away, but they kind of stayed the entire match. Then I just felt like it was a fight of willpower.”
It would be understandable if Osaka took the pressure off of herself a little bit, since she’s won the last two majors, and she isn’t known for her clay-court prowess. But when she was rattling off the reason for her nerves, she actually said that winning the last two majors made her want this title even more.
“First time playing a Grand Slam as No. 1. I have won the last two, so I kind of want to win this one really bad. Also I have never played on the Chatrier court before. This was my first time. And, yeah, I kind of feel like I’m having the thought of wanting to prove myself again,” she said.
I’m just obsessed with the fact that Osaka isn’t satisfied or patient. She truly believes she can win the French Open this fortnight. And honestly, we’d be fools to doubt her.
This Week in Tennis
First off, before we get any further, I’d like to give a shout-out to the winners of last week’s tournaments:
In Strasbourg, Dayana Yastremska defeated Caroline Garcia in the final, 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(3).
In Nurnberg, Yulia Putintseva defeated Tamara Zidansek in the final, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.
Both are already out of the French Open, but hopefully they’re still celebrating their victories.
Elina Svitolina is writing a column for the BBC during the French Open, and it’s wonderful. In this edition, she talks the mental toll of playing Venus Williams, recovering from injury, playing her childhood friend at a major, and, of course, Gael Monfils.
Petra Kvitova was forced to withdraw from the French Open, which is awful.
I’m so excited for Victoria Azarenka vs. Naomi Osaka in the second round. (But seriously, Azarenka must have slaughtered draw gods in a past life, she gets no mercy.)
I’m going to need you to give me this shirt, Madison Keys.
British tennis player Katie Swan, who is only 20 years old, opened up about her mental health struggles in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month.
I know the tournament is underway, but Courtney Nguyen’s draw breakdown is still helpful.
A must-read from Stanley Kay at SI: How WTA Trailblazer Peaches Bartkowicz Beat Cancer With Help From Her Tennis Friends
Stephanie Myles on how Canada took over tennis.
Serena’s outfit got a lot of attention this week, and I get it. It’s fabulous. I also understand why people are upset by all the headlines about her fashion. My take: Her tennis should get the attention first and foremost; but the fashion matters, too.
Tumaini Carayol goes in-depth with the endlessly fascinating Sloane Stephens.
British journalists seem to have taken Katie Boulter’s withdraw incredibly personally.
Here’s Ben Rothenberg on Kiki Bertens, the contender.
Tweet of the Week
Five at The IX: Bob Whyley, senior vice president of production and executive producer, Tennis Channel
The Tennis Channel has the rights to 80 percent of the French Open, with NBC holding the rest. In all, the network shows close to 350 hours of televised coverage and 700 hours of streamed matches during the tournament. The IX reached out to the network ahead of Roland Garros to get better insight into what goes into producing such a mammoth event. Bob Whyley, senior vice president of production and executive producer of the Tennis Channel, answered the questions by email.
1. How many cameras and employees are involved in Tennis Channel’s French Open production?
20 CCUs + 26 ISOs (isolated cameras) from Host Broadcaster
2. During the first few rounds, when so many matches are happening at once, how do you decide which matches to feature on the main channel?
The good news, if we don’t pick what the viewer wants, they can watch ANY court on our subscription service Tennis Channel Plus. Tennis is played 11 months a year, and Tennis Channel covers all of it. We have a daily show called Center Court which bounces from tournament to tournament and court to court. We feature the best matches while making sense of both tours. How do we know what to show? We rely on all our experience to pick the best match. Our commentators have strong opinions as well. Of course, we feature the top players, and we’re agnostic when it comes to men and women. The most entertaining match, is the most entertaining match.
3. Does Tennis Channel take gender balance into account when making programming decisions during the French Open, or is it based more on the independent athletes and match-ups?
We choose the best, most entertaining match, and it seems to pan out 50/50. We love women’s tennis, and some of our best ratings come from women’s tennis. We are truly THE ONLY sport that can seamlessly bounce from women to men, and not think twice. Our viewers love great tennis, they love great personalities, and that is gender neutral. By the way, our female analysts call men’s matches and vice versa. We’re truly agnostic when it comes to the sport we love.
4. A lot of more casual sports fans will be looking to find Tennis Channel on their televisions and online during the French Open. How can they find and/or subscribe to the network? Is there any way to watch Tennis Channel matches if one doesn’t have a cable package?
There are a lot of people who have Tennis Channel and just don’t know it. They can reach out to their cable, satellite or telecom provider to find out what channel. If they don’t have it, ask for it. Also, if someone is cord-cutter or a cord-never, they can subscribe to Tennis Channel Plus and have the ability to watch different courts via streaming — during the French Open and other events throughout the year.
5. Obviously live television is full of surprises. What is the most unexpected thing that has ever happened during a TC French Open broadcast, and how did you handle it?
Other than the Olympics, what other sport is live for 12 hours a day? Can’t think of many. We try to keep a loose atmosphere in our production control room. However, three years ago, Paris had a flash flood that knocked the power in the TV compound. When the rain settled, the French-produced world-feed control room came back on-line, but not Tennis Channel’s facility. We rerouted the world feed down our international fiber lines so our audience could watch tennis when it resumed. Once our control gained power, we retook control.