The match will not be televised: the tennis classic that Americans won’t see

6 Jun

Rafa servingNovaj returning

On Friday, world number one Novak Djokovic and seven-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal will lock horns in the semi-finals at Roland Garros, in what is by far the most widely anticipated match in tennis so far this year.

So, where will I watch it, and how will it go?

I won’t, and I’ll have no idea, until afterwards.

Why not? Am I so depressed about my all-time favorite player Roger Federer losing in the quarter-finals that I have decided to boycott this year’s French Open going forward?

No way!

In reality, the Djokovic-Nadal showdown won’t be broadcast on U.S. television, or at least on a channel to which most people have access.

The match will be shown at 7am Eastern on the Tennis Channel – a special station not featured in most cable, DirecTV or DISH packages. So, those mere mortals who only have basic cable or whom, like your correspondent, depend on bars or restaurants to carry their favourite sporting events, will be out of luck.

“Wait,” you say, “why won’t NBC broadcast the match? Doesn’t it have the lead in the United States on late-round coverage for the French?”

You’re right. It does. But, with a French player, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, having advanced to the semi-finals, tournament organizers at Roland Garros decided to put him in the later of the two final four matches, at 11am Eastern or 5pm Paris time, so that patriotic Frenchmen can scurry home from work in-time to watch him play.

This is great, and I completely understand why the organizers did it. No French male has won a major tennis tournament in precisely three decades, since Yannick Noah – now better known for his lyrical brilliance than his on-court triumphs – brought home the crown at Roland Garros in 1983. Muddling through seemingly ceaseless economic malaise, this increasingly pessimistic country is thirsty for a title, and the organizers want Tsonga to know he has the eyes of the nation watching him as he tries to deliver one.

I get this. I accept it. But I erred in foolishly assuming that the tournament’s American broadcaster, NBC, would look out for me, and make sure that it aired the match about which the vast majority of U.S.-based tennis fans care far more – Djokovic-Nadal – despite the earliness of the hour. Instead, I now find myself revved-up to watch the best match of the season without any way to get it on the tube.

I can hear the questions running thru the minds of our seven readers right now. “Why don’t you just rent the Tennis Channel for a day to watch the match?” Or, “how about streaming it on ESPN3?” On the former, fair point: but why should I have to order a major tennis match on pay-per-view, when every other prime-time sporting event, save boxing matches and wrestling, are broadcast on commonly available channels? On the latter: I checked, and it won’t be streaming.

Look, this isn’t that big of a deal. In the grander scheme of things, I’m immensely fortunate that this first-world problem should strike me as such a tragedy. After all, billions of people deal with issues of monumentally greater import than my ability or inability to watch two dudes hit a ball back-and-forth.

Still, why is there so much incompetence in the broadcast of tennis in America? Why don’t we have greater appreciation for any sport that doesn’t start with “foot”, “base”, or “basket”. I love those sports as much as, and, indeed, probably more than, most people. But, I love tennis more than all of them, and I’m frustrated that the greatest manifestation of my cherished game is getting such short shrift.


3 Responses to “The match will not be televised: the tennis classic that Americans won’t see”

  1. Tim June 7, 2013 at 10:58 am #

    that’s garbage…. it’s not often these tournaments come around, they should be airing the big matches at least.

  2. Roberto Rodriguez June 7, 2013 at 4:00 pm #

    Maybe the greatest set of tennis I’ve ever witnessed and NBC decides that this is the warm-up match robbing fans of arguably the greatest match ever on clay?! I’m beside myself.


  1. Fed and Rafa Play for History Down Under | The Meeting Place - January 23, 2014

    […] – In case you were concerned about a repeat of NBC’s decision last spring not to air Rafa and Djokovic’s French Open semi-final (i.e., the most important and hotly-contested match of the year), don’t worry: This time, […]

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