If it’s Paris in the spring, then it’s Rafa’s time, right? Perhaps not in 2014.
Rafael Nadal, the eight-time titlist, including the holder of the 2010-13 crowns, enters this year’s French Open maybe not on feet of clay, but looking somewhat vulnerable on his favorite surface. Nadal has only one won clay court tournament this spring, the Madrid Open, and that came as the ascendant Kei Nikishori was forced to retire in the third set with a back injury.
On the ladies’ side, the key question, as always, remains: Can anyone stop Serena Williams if she’s healthy and in form? The younger Williams – big sis Venus is the 29th seed – is looking to defend her 2013 title in which she dominated the 2012 queen Maria Sharapova.
The denouement of these and other storylines – most notably can Novak Djokovic end Rafa’s reign and earn his own career Grand Slam, after narrowly faltering in 2013, when he touched the net and lost a key point in the ninth game of the decisive fifth set -- will be answered over the next fortnight.
For those not fortunate enough to be at Stade Roland Garros, Tennis Channel, ESPN2 and NBC will have just about all the angles covered, as the tournament gets underway on Sunday, May 25, and concludes on the broadcaster’s air on June 8.
All three networks will be in play on opening day with ESPN2 serving first at 5 a.m. (ET), before giving way to Tennis Channel at 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. NBC joins the Parisian party with a three-hour run from noon to 3 p.m.
Together, the networks are scheduled to serve up a collective 127 hours of live and same-day first run action. And when Tennis Channel adds in its encores and French Open Tonight highlights/analysis show from the Musketeer Plaza, fans of the Grand Slam event, who are so inclined, can check in on some action virtually around the clock over the next two weeks.
In addition to the aforementioned clay tales, there are intriguing gender stories on both sides of the net, heading into Roland Garros.
World No. 2 Li Na, this year’s winner in Melbourne and the 2011 French Open titlist, may have the best chance to unseat Williams. She's followed by such other notables as No. 3 Aga Radwanska; fourth-ranked Simona Halep, who has climbed the rankings over the past year; and the diminutive 10th seed Dominka Cibulkova, who lost to Na in the finals of this year’s Australian Open.
The field, which excludes the injured Victoria Azarenka, does include three other French Open winners aside from Williams and Sharapova: Francesca Schiavone (2010), Svetlana Kuznetsova (2009), and Ana Ivanovic (2008). The latter has rounded back into form over the past year.
Three others to watch: American Sloane Stephens, the No. 16 seed has had a disappointing campaign, but generally puts on a good show at the Slams; the telegenic 20-year-old Canadian Eugenie Bouchard, who reached the semis at the Australian; and Jelena Jankovic, a three-time French semifinalist. The former world No. 1 is on the upswing again.
As for the guys, Switzerland is well-represented with No. 3 Stan Wawrinka looking to add Roland Garros to his major collection: He beat an injured Rafa to claim the 2014 Slam Down Under. Countryman and current world No. 4 Roger Federer, despite going out in his opening match in Rome, has enjoyed a much better 2014, than 2013, campaign. The all-time men’s Slam king is looking to bestow a repeat Parisian present on his wife Mirka: Federer won the 2009 French Open after she had just given birth to twin girls, and the couple recently welcomed twin boys into their family.
Elsewhere, it’s hard to assess where Wimbledon champion Andy Murray stands, as he still is trying to return to consistent former following back surgery late last year. David Ferrer, who made his first Slam final last year, is always a threat to roll deep at Roland Garros and could meet Rafa in the quarters this time around. Nishikori, the first Japanese player to make the ATP top 10, and No. 8 seed Milos Raonic, the 23-year-old Canadian with the booming serve, may also prove interesting on the terra baute. Seeded 11th, John Isner is the highest-ranked American male.
Herewith is what the networks have in store for viewers from the French over the next couple of weeks:
Now in its 32nd consecutive year of coverage, the Peacock has reason to strut with the tourney’s marquee matches: men’s and women’s semifinal action, as well as its “café and croissant” presentations of the business end of the tournament. Ted Robinson, in his 15th French Open, anchors the broadcaster's booth with Mary Carillo and John McEnroe, the Parisian mixed doubles winners from 1977. The trio will make the finals calls on June 7 and June 8, when the winners lift the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen and Coupe des Mousquetaires, respectively.
NBC Sports Live Extra — NBC Sports Group’s live streaming product for desktops, mobile devices, and tablets — will stream the network's French Open coverage. The vast majority of the content will be streamed live via “TV Everywhere,” the media industry’s effort to make quality content available to authenticated customers both in and out of the home and on multiple platforms.
FRENCH OPEN ON NBC
ESPN2 will deliver more and 50 hours of coverage, while broadband service ESPN3 will showcase some 330 hours of action from up to seven courts on the days when the TV network is on the air. ESPN2 and ESPN3 will begin at 5 a.m. most days on weekdays through Thursday, June 5, culminating with the women’s semifinals.
After the opening day, ESPN2’s schedule will continue with an all-live telecast starting at 5 a.m. each day through Friday, May 30, and then again on Monday, June 2. The network will air live and same-day quarterfinal action Tuesday, June 4, at 1 p.m. and Wednesday, June 5, at 8 a.m. ESPN2 will air both women’s semifinals live Thursday, June 6, beginning at 9 a.m.
ESPN is bringing most of its veteran tennis on-air team to Paris: Darren Cahill, Chris Evert, Brad Gilbert, Patrick McEnroe, Mary Joe Fernandez, Chris Fowler and Pam Shriver.
TV Everywhere service WatchESPN will live-stream ESPN2’s live coverage of the French Open online at WatchESPN.com, as well as on smartphones and tablets via the WatchESPN app. It also accessible to Xbox LIVE to Gold members, and on Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire TV. All told, WatchESPN reaches more than 92 million households nationwide via affiliated video or Internet providers.
2014 French Open on ESPN2 & ESPN2 HD
2014 French Open on ESPN3
As the primary rights-holder, the dedicated racquet sports network, which is increasing its reach from 35 million to 50 million homes via freeviews from Dish Network and DirecTV, serves up by far the most French Open coverage.
Now in its seventh year of an alliance in which it exchanges rights to Roland Garros and the Australian Open with ESPN, Tennis is providing the production from the cable side in Paris and benefits from cross-channel promotion with the worldwide leader.
Starting with the opening Sunday through the men's semifinal round Friday, June 6, Tennis will proffer 12 days of live coverage, followed by same-day encore matches during championship weekend. All told, Tennis Channel will air more than 250 round-the-clock hours from this year's Roland Garros –70 of live or first-run matches, almost 60 dedicated to replays and 120 to three-hour nightly show French Open Tonight (37.5 first-run), hosted by Bill Macatee.
For the most part, Tennis’ daily schedule consists of nine-hour match blocks that start at 10 a.m. and run to 3:30 p.m. on most days. The live coverage is followed by three-and-a-half hours of encore replays, which serve as a bridge to French Open Tonight. The program, premiering from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., before encoring two more times until 4 a.m., offers a nightly digest of that day's play via interviews, highlights, features and full game or set replays when appropriate. Guests include players, coaches, Hall of Famers, tennis officials, occasional celebrities, reporters, Tennis Channel analysts and others associated with Roland Garros.
In addition to Macatee, Tennis’ French Open on-air squad encompasses Hall of Famer Martina Navratilova, Lindsay Davenport, Ian Eagle, Justin Gimelstob, Brett Haber, Katrina Adams, Rennae Stubbs, Leif Shiras and John Wertheim, as well as Carillo and Robinson.
Paul Annacone, the noted coach (currently with Stephens, he previously worked with Federer and Pete Sampras) and former player, is making his first French appearance for the network, as is two-time titlist Jim Courier, the current U.S. Davis Cup captain, who is continuing to expand his workload with Tennis.
The network’s app, Tennis Channel Everywhere, is free to all Apple or Android users whether or not they currently subscribe to the linead service, and they can check out daily updates, online video highlights, “Court Report” news updates and player “Bag Check” clips.
Authenticated Dish, DirecTV, Verizon FiOS, National Cable Television Cooperative and now Cox subscribers can live stream Tennis’ French Open match coverage.
Tennis Channel's Live 2014 French Open Match Schedule (Men's/Women's Singles Unless Otherwise Specified)
Date Time (ET) Event
Sunday, May 25 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. First-Round Action
Monday, May 26 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. First-Round Action
Tuesday, May 27 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. First-Round Action
Wednesday, May 28 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Second-Round Action
Thursday, May 29 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Second-Round Action
Friday, May 30 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Third-Round Action
Saturday, May 31 5 a.m.-Noon Third-Round Action
Sunday, June 1 5 a.m.-1 p.m. Round-of-16 Action
Monday, June 2 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Round-of-16 Action
Tuesday, June 3 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Quarterfinals
Thursday, June 5 6 a.m.-9 a.m. Mixed-Doubles Final
Friday, June 6 7 a.m.-11 a.m. Men's Semifinal
Tennis Channel Encore Match Coverage
Wednesday, June 4 - 1 p.m.-7 p.m.: men's and women's singles quarterfinals
Thursday, June 5 - 2 p.m.-7 p.m.: women's semifinals
Friday, June 6 - 5 p.m.-midnight: men's semifinals
Saturday, June 7 - 12 a.m.-7 a.m.: men's semifinals; 9 p.m.-11 p.m. women's final
Sunday, June 8 - 7 a.m.-9 a.m. and 7 p.m.-9 p.m.: women's final; 9 p.m.-midnight: men's final
(Additional encores will air after the tournament during the week of June 8)
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