Screw You, Tennis!

I don’t consider myself a massive tennis fan, but I’m enough of one that I was excited to see tonight’s all-American quarterfinal matchup on USA. On one side, veteran champion and crowd favorite Andre Agassi. His opponent: the OTHER crowd favorite, unranked Cinderella story James Blake.

Like a lot of classics, the match started out like a rout, with the 25-year-old Blake running circles around the 35-year-old Agassi to take the first two sets 6-3, 6-3, and was close to running away with the third. But that just set up the drama: Agassi rallies to win the 3rd and 4th sets, pushing it to a 5th set. Then the announcers start trotting out history: in 20 years at the US Open, Agassi has never rallied from 2 sets down to win a 5-set match; Blake, who’s had all sorts of setbacks in his career, has had his own problems in 5-setters. Something has to give.

Around 9:30 PST, USA announces that, due to contractual obligations, it’ll have to switch away from the match in a few minutes. “Say it isn’t so,” groans John McEnroe. But that’s OK, because that’s when CBS picks up its late-night coverage on the East Coast, where the rest of the match will be broadcast. On the West Coast, we’re told, USA will carry the rest of the match uninterrupted.

At 9:35 PST, USA cuts to… a rerun of Law & Order: SVU. WTF? I turn to CBS. Here on the west coast, they’re showing Rock Star: INXS. Appropriately, the band is playing “Mystify.” I have DirecTV, a billion channels, and this epic 5th set is nowhere to be found.

I turn to ESPNews, which cuts in regularly with updates, and for the next half-hour, the announcers, who are clearly keeping one eye on the monitor while doing other stories, keep gushing. “Unbelievable match going on in Flushing!” “It’s the match of the tourney!” “I wish we could hear this, because the crowd is giving one standing ovation after another.” After watching the first four+ sets of this match, I’m pretty annoyed. It’s the sporting equivalent of blue balls.

Down 4-5, and Blake serving for the match, Agassi breaks to get back on serve, and the crowd reportedly goes nuts. It eventually gets to a tiebreak at 6-6, and finally, Agassi wins it, 8-6. ESPN’s announcers keep rubbing salt in the wounds. “What an incredible match! I don’t care who’s in the final, this was the best match of the US Open so far!” Thanks, guys.

So I’d like to send out a hearty F-U to tennis. Despite going 5 sets, this wasn’t a really long match – the first 2 sets went by in a heartbeat. It just started insanely late, in this retarded era where sporting events routinely run past 1AM on the east coast. I’m sure the fact that I have satellite contributed to this, where I appear to get USA’s east coast feed, but that’s really besides the point. This is the kind of match that CREATES FANS. This is the kind of match tennis NEEDS people to see. But they put themselves in this position where huge matches start and end ridiculously late, and fans on both sides of the country end up getting screwed.

As I’m writing this, it’s 1:40AM on the east coast, and Agassi is, my god, having his post-game press conference. People are asking how excited he is, and he’s joking about how late it is and how all the writers have probably missed their deadlines. He’s also talking about the 20,000 fans still in the stands as the match ended and how “tennis won tonight,” but I disagree. Fans are going to wake up tomorrow, and instead of talking about the great match they saw, they’re going to be hearing about the match they wish they’d seen. Then they’ll go back to talking about Thursday’s NFL opener and the Yankee comeback they actually got to see 2 hours earlier. Way to go.

[size=2](yeah, I know, no one cares about tennis. But I felt like venting.) [/size]

[size=2](edit: typo patrol)[/size]

Damn straight!

This was one of the things I found hard to understand about the US when I lived there. You’ve always had some of the best tennis players in the world, the US Open is regularly in the top ten most watched sporting events worldwide, and yet the local coverage is terrible.

The saving grace is that the web sites for the grand slams are some of the best for any sporting event, and just keep getting better. The little java-based live scores applet is good enough to keep handy even when you’re watching it on TV, and every event something more gets added. The almost immediate recreation of every point in the this-is-the-path-the-ball-followed section is amazing.

Luke

I heard someone else with DirectTV complaining about this too. Something about getting an East Coast feed of USA network. The reason they switch over is because CBS owns the rights to the broadcast after such-and-such a time. This other guy was so angry they called DirectTV to complain/seek help, and ended up getting voicemail or something.

Watching at my friend’s place, I was able to watch the complete match on USA, so I assume we were getting a different feed or whatever. on regular cable

A few people on rec.sport.tennis are enraged, and rightly so. It was a hell of a match and a pity that some viewers should be subjected to such a clusterfuck.

>yeah, I know, no one cares about tennis.

[luke voice] I care! [/luke voice]

edit: As far as the match running late, well, maybe it’s too ambitious to try a double header (the Davenport/Dementieva match preceding it ended up running quite long). But night matches are a huge part of the US Open aura and there’s nothing else quite like them. Maybe they should try to arrange the scheduling so no match starts later than 9 PM or something. Of course tennis is always tough to schedule since there’s such a wide variation of how long a match can run, particularly in the best-of-5-sets format.

Elena Dementieva, will you marry me?!

Luckily, my local CBS affiliate cut right in. I think I missed one serve all-told. The final tie-break had me up out of bed with my arms in the air. That was a fantastic match.

Oh, and Dementieva looks purty and all, until she opens her mouth. That’s some serious horse-teeth.

Maria Kirilenko, will you marry me?

Lindsey Davenport, can we have lunch?

This is the Tennis equivelent of the infamous Heidi-truncated NFL game.

Connors, by the way, has NO business doing anything other than playing tennis in front of a tv camera… he’s simply awful on USA.

When was Connors on USA? He didn’t commentate the Blake/Agassi match for USA, at any rate; that was McEnroe and Ted Robinson. McEnroe in my opinion is the best tennis commentator I have ever heard.

According to rec.sport.tennis, USA is now replaying the 5th set of Blake/Agassi. (Message posted 8:40 AM pacific time.) For what it’s worth. I can’t confirm it though.

I like McEnroe as an announcer. I don’t always agree with him, but he provides great insight to the game-within-the-game and he’s not afraid to say anything that pops into his head.

Also enjoy his commentary. He has tremendous insight into the game and is able to articulate it well. That’s not a combination that seems to occur that often in sports with ex-players going into the broadcast booth.

He doesn’t do the in-match commentary, he’s at the desk in between matches.

… unless I have the wrong name… goofy white dude with red hair, was a decent player a while back… Connors, right?

RED hair? Er, no.

ok, I feel like a retard.

Jim Courier.

Same initials though!

Interestingly, it was Jim Courier who ended Jimmy Connors’ “storybook run” to the seminfinals of the US Open in 1991, when Connors was 39. Courier went on to lose to Stefan Edberg in the final.

Ok, maybe not that interesting…

Another good match today. Agassi went bananas in the fifth and that was a blast to watch.

I hope Hewitt gives Federer a run…

The Agassi match today was pretty good. I also managed to catch a replay of the 5th set from the other night – amazing stuff, still annoyed I didn’t get to see it live.

Federer is scary right now. He kind of meandered through the second set, and then flicked a swtich and won the tiebreak without giving up a point. It would take a Herculean effort on Hewitt’s part to stage a comeback – it looks like Agassi will have his hands full with Federer tomorrow.

Federer is a robot god of tennis. Even Agassi agrees:

“He plays the game in a very special way,” Agassi said. “I don’t think I’ve seen it before. He’s the best I’ve ever played against.”

Which means that Agassi places Federer above Pete Sampras, who holds the record of 14 Grand Slam singles titles.

“Pete was great,” Agassi said. “But there was a place to go with Pete. You knew what you had to do. If you could do it, it could be on your terms. There’s no such place like that with Roger.”

What about it, Roger? The best ever?

“No,” he said. “No. Just look at the records some guys have. I’m a little cookie.”

Some cookie. He’s 71-3 this year, and had match points in 2 of those losses. GODDAMN.