Tennis Channel is adding another Hall of Famer to its Australian Open booth this year, bringing two-time U.S. Open winner Tracy Austin to Melbourne for its coverage of the season's first major, Grand Slam competition. Austin, who hosts the network's Tennis Channel Academy series and has appeared as an analyst during telecasts of the U.S. Open and women's year-end championships, will offer commentary during the channel's fifth airing of the annual two-week tournament, underway Monday, Jan. 16, at 7:00 p.m. ET.
Austin will join Tennis Channel lead commentator Martina Navratilova, a fellow Hall of Famer, and veteran sportscaster Bill Macatee, both of whom have appeared during every major ever covered by the network. In all, Tennis Channel will devote approximately 175 hours of programming to the Australian Open this year, with 30 hours of live play, 85 hours of Australian Open Today and more than 60 hours of encore-match coverage.
"I'm excited to join Martina, Bill and the rest of the Tennis Channel team in Melbourne this year," said Austin. "As we go into the 2012 season, I look forward to seeing if a dominant number one can emerge on the women's side again. It's been fun watching new faces and first-time winners break through at the majors the past few years, but I'd like to see if anyone can step up, win Slams and play sustained, excellent tennis throughout the year. On the men's side, I think it's great that Andy Murray's brought in Ivan Lendl as his coach, someone with a champion's mentality who may be able to finally push him over the top at the majors."
New for the network's Australian Open coverage in 2012 are 10 consecutive nights of prime-time matches, beginning at 7:00 p.m. ET, within its overall, 13-day coverage window (complete schedule follows). This will take place from the first Monday through the second Wednesday, without any intermittent days off, as had occurred in previous years.
In addition to a live schedule that runs from the first day of play through the singles quarterfinals, men's and women's doubles finals, and mixed-doubles championship, Tennis Channel will again televise same-day encores of the men's and women's singles semifinals and championships.
Coverage of all five Australian Open finals - mixed doubles and men's and women's singles and doubles, has been a Tennis Channel mainstay since its first year Down Under in 2008, when it became the first U.S. television network to air all of these championship matches.
Daily morning show Australian Open Today will run from 7:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m. ET most mornings (complete schedule follows), with the highlights, features, news updates and unseen matches that keeps American audiences up to speed with what happened Down Under while they were sleeping. With minor exceptions, each edition will re-air every afternoon at 3:00 p.m. ET, leading into Tennis Channel's live coverage at 7:00 p.m. ET. As with Austin's analysis and the 10 consecutive nights of live, prime-time play, the Australian Open Today afternoon encores are new for the network in 2012.
The tournament is part of Tennis Channel's ongoing Grand Slam alliance with ESPN, which offers audiences a near round-the-clock tournament experience at tennis' major events. ESPN is producing all Australian Open coverage for both networks, which will cross-promote each other, with each channel utilizing its own commentators.
Australian Open On-Air Talent
Austin is perhaps best known for storming onto the tennis scene and dethroning four-time U.S. Open champion Chris Evert in 1979, winning the tournament as a 16-year-old prodigy, the youngest U.S. Open champion in history. She held the No. 1 singles ranking in 1980 before a variety of injuries cut short her career, but nonetheless managed to win 30 career titles, including two U.S. Open singles championships and a Wimbledon mixed-doubles title. The International Tennis Hall of Fame inducted Austin into its wings in 1992.
She will add to a team that features Macatee as lead play-by-play announcer and Navratilova as lead commentator, roles both have held since 2008. Navratilova, winner of more singles titles than anyone in professional tennis, and Macatee, the only current broadcaster to cover both Wimbledon and professional golf's The Masters, have become synonymous with Tennis Channel's Grand Slam coverage. Both appear during network telecasts at all four majors: Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open.
Analyst Justin Gimelstob is another familiar face to Tennis Channel viewers, during Grand Slam coverage and throughout the year. In addition to Macatee, Navratilova and Austin, this year in Melbourne he will lend his insight to play-by-play announcer Brett Haber, who joins the team after working with the network during the U.S. Open and other competitions throughout the year. Reporter and author Jon Wertheim will also be onboard, handling reporting duties during the event. Wertheim's articles and columns for Sports Illustrated are among the industry's most popular.
Tennis Channel's talent during the Australian Open is not confined to the television screen. Veteran tennis reporters Steve Flink, Joel Drucker (@joeldrucker) and Matt Cronin (@TennisReporters) will join humorist James LaRosa (@JamesLaRosa) in columns and blogs on the network's Web site, www.tennischannel.com, throughout the two-week tournament. The site will also feature its usual real-time scoring, video highlights, interviews, Australian Open Today clips and interactive Australian Open draw. Visitors have the chance to win multiple prizes this year as well, including a trip to the 2013 Australian Open and $500 prize packages from Wilson Sports as part of Tennis Channel's exclusive Racquet Bracket tournament prediction game.
New in 2012, Tennis Channel is introducing "Ask the Expert," in which viewers can upload short videos of themselves asking questions for members of the network telecast team to answer on air during the Australian Open. Clips that are selected will be televised prior to talent members' answers. Videos can be submitted at www.tennischannel.com.
During the Australian Open members of the media, television viewers and tennis fans also will be able to stay engaged with Tennis Channel via Facebook www.facebook.com/tennischannel, Twitter (www.twitter.com/tennischannel) and YouTube (www.youtube.com/tennischannel).
Tennis Channel's Live Australian Open Match Schedule (all times ET)
►Monday, Jan. 16 7:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m. First-Round
►Tuesday, Jan. 17 7:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m. Second-Round
►Wednesday, Jan. 18 7:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m. Second-Round
►Thursday, Jan. 19 7:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m. Third-Round
►Friday, Jan. 20 7:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m. Third-Round
►Saturday, Jan. 21 7:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m. Round of 16
►Sunday, Jan. 22 7:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m. Round of 16
►Monday, Jan. 23 7:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m. Men's and Women's Quarterfinals
►Tuesday, Jan. 24 7:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m. Men's and Women's Quarterfinals
►Wednesday, Jan. 25 7:00 p.m.-9:30 p.m. TBA
►Thursday, Jan. 26 11:00 p.m.-3:00 a.m. Women's Doubles Final and Mixed Doubles Semifinal
►Saturday, Jan. 28 5:30 a.m.-7:30 a.m. Men's Doubles Final
►Sunday, Jan. 29 12:30 a.m.-2:30 a.m. Mixed Doubles Final
Tennis Channel's Australian Open Today Schedule (all times ET)
Australian Open Today airs Monday, Jan. 16-Wednesday, Jan. 25. The program generally runs from 7:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m., with same-day encore presentations each afternoon.
Exceptions are (all times ET):
►Monday, Jan. 16 - 7:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.
►Saturday, Jan. 21 - 7:00 a.m.-10:00 a.m.
►Monday, Jan. 23, through Wednesday, Jan. 25 - 6:00 a.m.-10:00 a.m.