ATP “Super Bowl” Gets No TV Time in U.S.
by Richard Vach | November 18th, 2006, 12:02 am

I was out having a few cocktails with a tennis “industry type” the other night, and we were contemplating a potential nightmare that could possibly come true — and now has. What if world No. 1 Roger Federer and No. 2 Rafael Nadal met Saturday in the semifinals of the ATP’s biggest event — the Masters Cup — and it wasn’t shown live in one of the biggest markets, the United States?

Aside from comments like “Don’t print this in your ****ing blog on that ****ing website,” we spoke of the significance of tennis in today’s sporting arena, national and worldwide. Sure Michigan vs. Ohio State on Saturday (which you international readers couldn’t give a flip about) is JUDGEMENT DAY according to ESPN, but Saturday is TENNIS JUDGEMENT DAY, Federer and Nadal in their final 2006 meeting. (As a 15-year resident of Michigan — Go Blue!)

Roger and Rafa will meet on Saturday in Shanghai, and after their meeting in the Wimbledon final (or French Open final) it is arguable THE BIGGEST MATCH of the year. Rafa has beaten Rog, the indisputable No. 1, in four of their five meetings in 2006. It is grudge-match time.

The match will (or would have) come on in the early morning in the U.S., which even on Saturday you’d think ESPN could fit something in with a scheduled line-up of taped fishing, hunting and hotrod shows (ESPN2), SportsCenter reruns (ESPN), infomercials and “classic” football and fight reruns (ESPN Classic), or news reruns (ESPN News). Heaven forbid a SportsCenter rerun or a rerun of a hunting show gets pre-empted for the tennis match of the year.

If you’re going to show the match on tape at 10 p.m. that night, after everyone has already checked the result on the internet (or paid to watch it on the internet), why not dish it off to The Tennis Channel or another network that can show it live? Hell, the WTA could have probably got the Versus network, which showed the WTA Tour Championships in the U.S., to show it live for you, ATP.

Show me another “major” sport that lets its biggest event of the year get shown on tape. I don’t care whether the problem is the Chinese time zone or competing with college football or the head of ATP television marketing was sick during that scheduling week. In this era of 900 cable and satellite channels, not being able to watch the Masters Cup semifinals of Federer vs. Nadal in the U.S. is just — plain — sad. Someone dropped the ball.


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25 Comments for ATP “Super Bowl” Gets No TV Time in U.S.

Sher Says:

WORD. Damnit.

Fan of Tennis Says:

One of the few times I have actually agreed with everything you said!

Nice blog! And you are absolutely correct. Some of us will be getting up very early to watch the live match via the internet at the Masters series site. Yet ESPN can’t broadcast a live match between the #1 and #2 players in the world. Instead, ESPN is actually broadcasting:

ESPN: SportsCenter (repeat from the previous hours broadcast)

ESPN2: Realtree Outdoors.. I can just see the people fighting to set their alarm clock to get up to watch this serie!

ESPN Classic: Infomercials! – Just what everyone is dying to watch, I’m sure…

ESPNews: ESPNews (the 5th repeated broadcast of that early morning)

So yes – I see ESPN had so many different things they just had to broadcast instead of a live year-end final between #1 and #2. I wonder if it were Agassi vs Sampress would we get to see this almost 12 hours as a tape delayed match?

joeseph o brien Says:

i feel bad for all you americans. :(
In ireland we have sky sports and eurosport, and every ATP and WTA event is covered with almost every single match live. And in the case of grand slams you have the option of a multiscreen, where you can choose one of eight live (or repeated) matches to watch. Maybe you should come to Ireland and we can watch all the tennis we want!

Lloyd Blake Says:

The guy from Ireland is right. Im from the UK and we can watch it live on Sky sports. Multiscreen of past matches and detailed analysis of each match. They have billed it over here as a must see match.

Carol Freeda Says:

With all the hype that the tennis honchos surround any Nadal/Federer match, it is curious that they decided to show the Masters
semifinals on tape. After years of changes ( on-court coaching, music, round robin … ) to supposably create more fan interest in the game,
how are they catering to fan interest by not showing the biggest match of the year live? Could it be that fan interest is only secondary to the ATP? Their own self-interest (Money)takes center stage again and, once again, the fans lose. Tennis is definitely In the Trunk and I think the solution may be to take it off TV altogether so we can watch it on the Web and not be so disappointed next time.

svelterogue Says:

and my heart has been broken, by a beautifully sublime winner from roger!

he nipped rafa in the second set… *weeping*

Marsha Foat Says:

Mr. Vach: Keep drinking the *water* because you are beginning to make a lot of sense. ESPN’s claim to be the great Promoter’s of Tennis fall short of their mark. Shame on them because ATTITUDE is everything and their’s is slowly draining the sport of Tennis.

We all know that for Tennis to be successful it needs TV,not some of the time, but ALL of the time. No consistency there. Can’t remember the last time they televised a Clay Court match(it’s been that long).

Yes they do have all those stations available that we pay for thru our Cable Providers (it’s part of the package deal), YET are we allowed to be selective as to what channels we want? Until that day does arrives where their revenues will fall .. Tennis fans have to suffer the consequences. How fair is that ESPN?

Ryan Smith Says:

It’s high time for ESPN to pass the buck on tennis coverage for the US. Tennis is arguably the second most popular sport in Europe, so I get why it’s well covered. But here…football, basketball, you name it will always push tennis aside. We need Susan Powter to get up there and start screaming “STOP THE INSANITY!!!”

SportsFan92 Says:

For those at the mercy of ESPN coverage – send your input here

Fan of Tennis Says:

SportsFan92 – thanks for that link. I just sent in my ‘opinion’ to them! Not that it will do anything, but I did anyway!

jb Says:

Great post. I don’t understand why they can’t bumpt the fish… (i mean really – WHO intheir right mind is up at 6 am watching fish! actually fishing I can see, but WATCHING fishing???)

So why not bump the fish, show the matches live before football; all the tennis nuts will watch, and everyone else, INCLUDING the tennis nuts who ALREADY watched it will watch again at nite!

I was up at 6 watching online. Talking to a heck of a lot of people up watching at the same time. and bemoaning the lack of TV coverage.

WAKE UP ESPN!! If I did – so can you!

Genie Says:

Well said, man. ESPN are a disgrace; give it up and let another decent channel have it.

I too am from the UK, so I feel so sorry for you guys in the US. You’re in my thoughts!

Mike Says:

I will try to send ESPN as many as emails as possible, and f*** them as much as possible for their lousy services!!!!!!!

Omar Burke Says:

This is simple:

Go to Tennis is the second tab over next to Football.

Go to Hrmm, no Tennis is not even on the top 9 sports categories. At least it is near the top of “More +”. As in, for all you other people who actually like watching tennis, you have to hunt it down on our website, watch the matches on tape, and listen to Pat McEnroe’s biased commentary! Ha.

VE Says:


You’re absolutely right. If this match were going to air during OSU/Michigan or another College Football game (even though I disagree) I could understand the tape delay. But at the time of day Federer/Nadal was played, it is incomprehensible that it didn’t air live. I woke up this morning looking for it on my DVR only to realize the match wouldn’t be airing until 10PM on a SATURDAY NIGHT. Needless to say, I know the result, and maybe eventually, will actually see the event.

Narina Says:

This is so frustrating. Of course I was also up and watching it online. They don’t show the true international game, but the football champions call themselves “world champions.” Last time I checked there were no teams from other countries playing with the American football teams.

Tennis is too civilized sport for ESPN. I am referring to their recent commentary (after Agassi’s good-bye match) that “tennis needs to be manned up.” How stupid is that…

GopiB Says:

Mr. Vach,

You are spot on with this. The Federer-Nadal match on Saturday was the biggest match since Wimbledon Final. It is indeed, the superbowl of ATP tour.

I wonder if Agassi or Roddick were playing, ESPN would have ignored it. Or of Johnny Mac and Jimmy Connors were playing!

How do we change this attitude on the part of US Media?

pat Says:

Thanks so much for that link to ESPN2, I just gave them a really big load of c****p. I suggested since they’ve already given up on Roland Garros, why not just get out of the tennis coverage altogether since you guys do it so badly!

Does anyone know if some of those sports networks like Eurospot and Sky in Europe can be picked up in the USA?

I must say, the women’s coverage in Madrid was excellent on OLN, pardon me, Versus network. Maybe they should pick up a few more tennis events? I believe they will get some of the action this coming year at the French, no?

Hrishikesh Says:

ESPN sucks like f*****g hell. There’s no coverage of tennis whatsoever and I mean, absolutely nothing. For once, Mr. Vach, you have atleast done something that makes sense.!!

Omer Says:

We need a solid a competetior to ESPN.

Roy Says:

Well I live in Canada and we were very fortunate to see Rodger and Raf play on TSN which was good cause it was the best match of series,although Blakes matches were great too, but the final wast’t on till 1:30am AT. and in shortened format Shame on you, when No.1 is playing everybody should see you have no prop showing T. Woods but then again its tennis doesn’t draw the money that Fishing does…….disgusted

Glen Janney Says:

The realization that tennis is given such short shrift in the US media makes Federer’s failing to be selected Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year in 2004 or 2005 and even 2006 a little easier to bear. Perhaps if Federer applied for US citizenship and if his father croaked, God forbid.

saul Says:

late due to US thanksgiving
Tennis is too mentally intensive for the mass market US fan. Nobody here really bets on tennis but big money is on the line every saturday and sunday for NCAA and NFL games. People wach what they bet on.
BTW, the match was painfully excellent.

Boris Says:

which is great saul, except that online gambling is supposed to be illegal in the US according to Dubya, so therefore it shouldn’t enter into consideration. If a match between the top two in the world can’t generate more interest than fishing, then the ATP & WTA should give up. They give the networks so much extra value stuff to pander to them, then can’t demand something in return??

BJ Wolff Says:

Well said! This was ridiculous and I totally agree that it would be far better to just hand over righte to the Tennis Channel rather than treat tennis fans so poorly by only showing a tape-delay at 10pm (after all true tennis fans already knew the result!). I would love to have an address to complain to ESPN about this! If enough people complain, maybe things will change!

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