For many American sports fans March means brackets, shocking upsets and a buffet of competition as a champion emerges from a crowd of contenders. Tennis fans are no exception. This March Tennis Channel will offer 15 days and close to 170 hours of live coverage at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif., and the Sony Open in Miami, the sport's two largest tournament fields (and extensive brackets) outside the four majors. With daylong telecasts, encore replays and a new half-hour daily intro show from a set on the grounds of the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, the network will devote more than 340 total hours to both events this month, each of which has been referred to as "The Fifth Slam" of tennis.
Coverage begins in Indian Wells this Friday, March 8, at 1:30 p.m. ET, a day earlier than Tennis Channel's previous BNP Paribas Open on-air schedule. It is the first of six consecutive days of 12-hour live tennis windows. The network is also introducing a half-hour lead-in show hosted by Brett Haber and Hall of Famer Tracy Austin. Similar to Tennis Channel's US Open intro show, Live at the BNP Paribas Open will offer news, interviews, analysis and conversation, and feature regular appearances by other network on-air talent. Based on the tournament grounds and surrounded by thousands of fans, the set will act as the hub of the channel's daily activity.
In all, Tennis Channel will show almost 100 live hours from Indian Wells and more than 200 overall, given encore replays that run through both the men's and women's singles championships. Coverage in Miami takes a similar approach. Beginning on Friday, March 22, and anchored by four consecutive days of 12½-hour live match windows, the network will carry close to 70 live hours at the Sony Open this year. Encore replays expand the overall hours to 140, and run through the men's and women's singles semifinals.
In addition to Haber and Austin, Tennis Channel's BNP Paribas Open on-air team includes analysts Lindsay Davenport, who won two singles crowns and six doubles titles at Indian Wells in her playing days, and Mark Knowles, who picked up four doubles championships at the event in his career. They will be joined by Justin Gimelstob and Leif Shiras, former players whose play-by-play work and commentary form the backbone of Tennis Channel's year-round tournament schedule. After the desert, Davenport, Knowles, Gimelstob and Haber will head to Florida for Tennis Channel's coverage of the Sony Open in Miami. Rounding out the team will be Rennae Stubbs, who won a doubles championship in South Beach (as did Knowles), and announcer Andrew Catalon.
Tennis Channel's Web site, www.tennischannel.com, will feature interviews, live scores, daily highlights, photos, news and blogs during both the BNP Paribas Open and Sony Open. Fans can connect with the network via Facebook (www.facebook.com/tennischannel), Twitter (www.twitter.com/tennischannel) and YouTube (www.youtube.com/tennischannel). Also during this year's BNP Paribas Open, Tennis Channel viewers will have the opportunity to follow Austria's top-ranked player, Tamira Paszek, as she maintains a periodic video blog while she competes in Indian Wells. Meanwhile, KentuckySportsRadio.com's Matt Jones and Drew Franklin will contribute a daily written, video and photo blog from the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, injecting Tennis Channel's Web site with their wit and unique point of view.