The "Fifth Slam" is underway in the California desert and Tennis Channel is about to step into the coverage court.
Tennis Channel will begin serving its more than 73 hours of live coverage of the BNP Paribas Open from Indian Wells, Calif. on March 12, with second-round play. The network's live coverage in the high-definition format will continue through the men's and women's quarterfinals action on March 18 and conclude with the doubles finals the following day.
The tournament is home to 96 players on the men's and women's side, compared to 128 at the majors. All of the top 10 ATP combatants are entered, as well as Juan Martin del Potro fully committed to the comeback trail, and Ivan Ljubicic, who is defending his 2010 title, despite an ankle injury.
On the distaff side of the net, nine of the top 10 women -- sans Venus Williams -- are entered, including defending champion, Jelena Jankovic.
Tennis Channel and ESPN2 regained the rights to Indian Wells, along with the Sony Ericsson Open -- also billed as the Fifth Slam and scheduled later this month in Miami -- when the networks inked renewal pacts with the ATP Tour last November. Over the past three years, those events had been the province of the Fox Sports Net regional sports networks. (Tennis actually simulcast the events alongside FSN in 2010, with 30 Sony Ericcson hours and 90 from the BNP Paribas event; ESPN2 last televised these hardcourt tourneys in 2007.)
Tennis will offer the most live television coverage of each of these Masters 1000 competitions, with the aforementioned 73 hours in Indian Wells and 52 hours from Miami. The network will also present encore coverage of these matches and later-round semifinal and championship play.
Hall-of-Famer Tracy Austin will lend her talents to the network's BNP Paribas Open on-air team with play-by-play work and analysis. She will be joined by multi-Slam champion and Olympic gold medalist Lindsay Davenport and Brett Haber, who is returning to Indian Wells for play by play. Tennis' coverage will also feature up-to-the-minute tennis news provided by Court Report roving reporter Cari Champion.
For its part, ESPN2 will air the women's semifinals from California on March 18. The men's semifinals are on ABC March 19, while the men's and women's finals are slated for the broadcast network on March 20 at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. , respectively.
In Miami, ESPN2 will carry the quarterfinals and semifinals. The finals are on CBS.
Check out Tennis' coverage schedule from Indian Wells below:
Tennis' Live 2011 BNP Paribas Open
(Men's/Women's Singles Unless Otherwise Specified)
Saturday, March 122 p.m.-2 a.m.Second-Round
Sunday, March 132 p.m.-2 a.m.Second-Round, Third-Round
Monday, March 142 p.m.-2 a.m.Third-Round
Tuesday, March 152 p.m.-2 a.m.Third-Round, Round of 16
Wednesday, March 162 p.m.-2 a.m.Round of 16, Women's Quarterfinals
Thursday, March 172 p.m.-8 p.m.; 10 p.m.-midnightMen's and Women's Quarterfinals
Friday, March 182 p.m.-4 p.m.; 6 p.m.-8 p.m.Men's Quarterfinals
Saturday, March 197:30 p.m.-9 p.m.Men's Doubles Finals
The network will also offer encore replays of the men's and women's singles semifinals and finals:
Saturday, March 19 - 2 a.m.-4 a.m.; 8 a.m.-10 a.m. (ET): women's singles semifinals
Sunday, March 20 - 12 a.m.-4 a.m. (ET): men's singles semifinals
Monday, March 21 - 12 a.m.-4 a.m. (ET): men's and women's singles finals
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