There could be a changing of the guard during the fortnight at Roland Garros and Tennis Channel, ESPN2 and NBC will be in Paris to chronicle the red clay action.
While either Roger Federer or Rafa Nadal have held the ATP No. 1 world ranking since 2004, Novak Djokovic, who is unbeaten in 37 matches thus far in 2011, will assume the top spot if he reaches the French Open final.
Should the Serb make it to the semifinals, he would tie the 42 wins by John McEnroe in 1984, the most ever to start a season on the men's tour. Counting two wins to finish his 2010 campaign, the "Djoker," if he were to back up his win Australian Open in January and claim the French, would also match the ATP tour mark of 46 consecutive victories held by Guillermo Vilas in 1977.
Nadal, the current No. 1, who has lost in four consecutive finals to Djokovic this year, is looking for more history of his own at the Grand Slam event: By defending his Parisian crown, he would tie Bjorn Borg's mark of six Roland Garros titles in the open era. France's Max Decugis won eight French championships during the amateur era, early in the 20th century.
Andy Murray, David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych, Frenchmen Richard Gasquet and Gael Monfils, as well as Juan Martin del Potro and Robin Soderling, the man who stopped Nadal's Roland Garros title run at four in 2009 and ended Federer's streak of reaching 23 consecutive Grand Slam semifinals last year, are other key challengers.
On the distaff side of the net, the top questions are whether world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki can win her first major title, or if Francesca Schiavone can defend her 2010 championship? Kim Clijsters, who is coming off an ankle injury, has secured the last two Grand Slams, while Maria Sharapova recently won in Rome. Others those to watch include Vera
Zvonareva, 2010 finalist Sam Stosur, Victoria Azarenka, Petra Kvitova and Li Na. Julia Georges, who has overpowered Wonzniacki a couple of times this spring, and Jelena Jankovic also could pose threats.
As for the U.S. TV partners, Tennis Channel during its fifth year of French Open coverage, will air more than 75 hours of live or first-run matches, with another dozen of men's and women's semifinal same-day encores, all in the high-definition format. McEnroe, Martina Navritilova and the newest member of the network's on-air roster, Mary Carillo, will be calling a good portion of the action. Beginning May 22, the network will carry at least seven live hours daily for the first nine days of the competition, starting at 5 a.m. (ET).
French Open Tonight, hosted by Bill Macatee, will return to Roland Garros each evening for three-and-half hours of highlights, interviews, analysis and special reports from the tournament grounds and Paris at large. Typically running from 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., the show's set will again be perched above the French Open's Musketeer Plaza. After its conclusion, French Open Tonight encores twice in its entirety throughout the night into early morning and start of the next day's coverage of live matches. All told, Tennis will produce 42 hours of French Open Tonight this year, with 139 overall hours dedicated to the show during the two-week competition.
The network, which will be available to some 57 million homes through free previews on a number of cable, satellite and telco affiliates, will provide 20 hours of 3D coverage during the tournament's middle weekend, May 28-30. Comcast, DirecTV and AT&T U-verse will be offering the 3D feed to their subscribers.
For its part, ESPN2 will present more than 56 hours, all in HD, culminating with the women's semifinals live Thursday, June 2. Cliff Drysdale, the doyen of ESPN's tennis team, will be joined by Darren Cahill, Mary Joe Fernandez, Brad Gilbert, Patrick McEnroe and Pam Shriver. Chris Fowler will host and call matches. Chris McKendry will also return as an on-site host.
After its opening day coverage from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on May 22, ESPN2's schedule will continue on May 24 - May 27, and resume on Memorial Day, May 30 through June 2. ESPN2 will generally begin each day at noon -- following Tennis' morning programming -- and run until 6:30 p.m., except for June 2 with the women's semifinals starting at 8 a.m. (ET). All the action on ESPN2 is also available online through ESPNnetworks.com, which is accessible to fans who receive their video service from an affiliated providers.
Spanish-language network ESPN Deportes will televise 18 hours from Paris starting Tuesday, May 24, and finish with the women's semifinals live June 2. Luis Alfredo Alvarez, Toni Pena, Eduardo Varela and Jose Luis Clerc will call the matches.
ESPN Mobile TV for wireless on AT&T U-Verse Live TV, Sprint TV, T-Mobile TV, and MobiTV platforms, will serve up 53 hours of live coverage, simulcasting most of ESPN2's live programming. The WatchESPN App, for fans with Apple or Android devices and who receive ESPN's linear networks as part of their video subscription via Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks or Verizon FiOS TV, will present ESPN2's live coverage, in addition to ESPN3.com's multi-screen offering.
To that end, the broadband service, beginning on May 22, will ace nearly 350 hours of exclusive a multi-court offering, including simulcasts of ESPN2's telecasts.
Tennis also will present live streaming and on-demand matches for free on www.tennischannel.com. More than 125 matches and 200 hours on online tennis will be available over 10 days, via an upgraded video player that provides faster speeds and high-definition quality. Other new features include picture-in-picture tools, digital video recorder capabilities and the option of watching multiple courts simultaneously. All told, the Web site's new video player will allow a site visitor to have up to 20 screens of different matches playing at the same time.
In addition to being able to watch 20 hours of 3D action coverage from main court Philippe Chatrier on May 28-30, DirecTV subscribers can also check out the top DBS provider's "French Open Experience," which showcases six court channels, an immersive interactive application and, this year, an additional two days of late-round coverage.
Now in its fourth year of picking up the Tennis and ESPN2 feeds, DirecTV's French Open Experience includes coverage from the main court, while the French Open Mix channel (701) displays action on five additional outer courts in HD that can be viewed simultaneously or selected for full-screen viewing. At the touch of the remote button on each channel, viewers can access such interactive menu features as:
*"Match Guide": listing scores of matches in progress and upcoming matches;
*Recent Results": showing match results in real time, along with the day and time of upcoming matches;
"Women's and Men's Draw": a complete round-by-round chart of the tournament showing scores and who's in and who's out.
For the last three days of French Open Experience coverage (May 29-31), the Mix channel will drop from six to four views, with each enlarged on the screen to enhance the watching experience.
Back on the linear side, NBC brings first weekend action, plus the men's semifinals. The Peacock concludes the tournament with its "café and croissant coverage" with the women's and men's finals scheduled at 9 a.m. (ET) on June 4 and 5, respectively.
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