Wednesday, July 01, 2009

W.9- A Day Before the Inevitable, more shenanigans

A day before the long-expected all-Williams final might be filed away for Saturday consideration, one would think that Day 9 would provide a stress-free occasion on which to watch a little men's tennis and not have to bother with what it all might mean, right?

Yeah, not with the not-so-silent hand of NBC around. More on the latest bit of network insanity in a few moments.

...the sound you heard this afternoon was some of the air being let out of at least a few of the British tennis fans' balloons on Day 9. For Laura Robson, who took the second week of the tournament by storm a year ago en route to the Girls title, was summarily bounced today in both singles and doubles.

In singles, she lost her 3rd Rounder to another of those upset-minded Dutch Girls, Quirine Lemoine, in a 6-2/4-6/8-6 match. Yesterday, the unseeded Lemoine knocked off #14 Chanel Simmonds. In doubles, Robson and American Sloane Stephens, the #1 doubles seeds, were defeated in their 1st Round match by Brits Samantha Vickers and Lisa Whybourn. So, I guess all those new cheeky late-week comments from L-Rob will have to wait until next year.

Mr. Murray... looks like EVERYTHING is on your shoulders now. other junior news, Richel Hogenkamp couldn't keep up her head of steam and lost to Hungary's Zsofia Susanyi in a three-setter. Meanwhile, my unofficial pre-tournament pick to be the junior champ at this Wimbledon, the aforementioned #7-seeded Sloane Stevens, took out #10 Camila Silva to advance to the quarterfinals.

In Boys action, American Alexander Domijan knocked out #1 seed and RG junior champ Daniel Berta of Sweden.

...Serena and Venus defeated Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Vania King in straight sets, running their career Wimbledon mark to 27-1 as a team and their current sets won streak to twenty-two. Just the top four seeds have advanced to the women's singles semis, the top four seeds in doubles -- Black/Huber, AMG/VRP, Stosur/Stubbs & Serena/Venus -- have done so, as well.

Speaking of doubles, with the Doubles SF and Mixed QF almost fully set as of this posting, there are a handful of women still in the running in both draws: Cara Black, Liezel Huber, Sam Stosur and Virginia Ruano-Pascual. the men's quarters, Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Andy Roddick and Tommy Haas all advanced. Hey, those are the four guys I picked to get there at the start of the tournament. Of course, I'm not sure my Federer/Roddick final pairing pick will hold up over the potential Federer/Murray one, but we'll see on Friday. Well, I guess I should say we'll FIND OUT on Friday since I doubt much of the men's semis will actually be able to be viewed live on ESPN or NBC. Speaking of which.

...and, finally (sigh) NBC. I mean, what more can be said, right? Well, actually quite a bit after the latest Wimbledon coverage, or lack there of, hoisted upon the American viewing public.

The day began with Chris Fowler noting on ESPN that NBC was embargoing the Federer/Karlovic match, and that contracts wouldn't allow the network to give scores or results from the match. One probably wouldn't have been hearing things if they sensed a low boil under Fowler's surface, as either he's been seething about the insanity of such a situation or ESPN has been hearing an earful from people about it... or, likely, both. Highlighting the ridiculous of such a set up, Fowler made a point to quickly note that the score of the match could be found at other locations.

As things moved along, though, it looked as ESPN had lucked out. While Federer was on his way to a straight sets win over the Croat, the match that ESPN was ALLOWED to air between Haas and Novak Djokovic was developing into a far better match. The German grabbed a late break and took the 1st set over the #4 seed at 7-5, then looked like he was going to do it again late in the 2nd. But as soon as he broke the Serb for a 6-5 lead, Haas played an horrific serve game, lost it at love and was forced to go to a tie-break. He fell behind there 6-3 and looked like he was going to squander a lead just as he'd done in Paris when he won the first two sets against Federer. But Djokovic blinked, Haas won five straights points and was up by two sets once again.

As NBC's East Coast start time was coming up, I missed out on a bit of ESPN's coverage. Then when I returned to see what had happened during my absence, I was a little surprised to see that ESPN was no longer airing the Haas/Djokovic match, as it had been ALLOWED to do with the conclusion of yesterday's Safina/Lisicki contest. Ah, NBC must have picked up the live coverage, I figured. But then I turned to NBC... and it was airing the opening games of the Federer/Karlovic match from two hours earlier, a match which had already been completed.

Yep, NBC apparently refused to allow ESPN to continue to air the Haas/Djokovic match it'd been airing for two hours, then didn't pick up the live coverage when it came on air. Meanwhile, Djokovic won the 3rd set. As Federer was putting away Karlovic on tape, in the real world Haas was coming back in the 4th to advance to his first Wimbledon SF.

Many hours after Federer had actually done the deed, NBC finally showed him winning... THEN started to show the final forty-five minutes of the Haas/Djokovic match that could have and should have been shown live on the East Coast when the network came on air at 10am. Meanwhile, during all this, Andy Murray was winning his match and Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt were starting their's under the cover of the NBC-imposed darkness.

Finally, the tennis television world was set back upright at 1pm. ESPN picked up coverage again... and took about five seconds to begin live coverage of what turned out to be the thrilling five-set Roddick/Hewitt match.

Obviously, this sort of set up is beyond ridiculous. NBC and NBC alone fails to recognize it. Meanwhile, with two more days left before the finals, it will surely continue to treat this tournament as if the network is a bored cat and Wimbledon is a captured mouse. The whiskered NBC bats it around a bit, yawns, bats the helpless thing around some more, finally becomes disinterested and then simply walks away.

Everyone else pulls out their hair. NBC doesn't care a whit.

ESPN, for all its faults, at least has something that resembles integrity when it comes to covering this and other sports. NBC, just as in its daily primetime schedule and dealings with its nighttime talent, has virtually none. With precious few exceptions, if you want schlock you turn to NBC. It's tennis coverage, which was once a breakthrough product with its Breakfast at Wimbledon beginning, is now an afterthought that is simply used to fill air time. It's pretty bad that with four grand slams on the calendear each year, one broken down network that USED to represent the gold standard in American television not that long ago can now make it so that two of those events can't even be expected to be enjoyed just when the matches start to become important.

Who knows what the combined ESPN/Tennis Channel (which at least work in conjunction with one another) and CBS coverage will provide come August, but at least NBC will be out of that mix. And that can't be a bad thing.

#1 Dinara Safina/RUS vs. #3 Venus Williams/USA
#4 Elena Dementieva/RUS vs. #2 Serena Williams/USA

#6 Andy Roddick/USA vs. #3 Andy Murray/GBR
#24 Tommy Haas/GER vs. #2 Roger Federer

#1 Black/Huber (ZIM/USA) vs. #4 Williams/Williams (USA/USA
#3 Stosur/Stubbs (AUS/AUS) vs. #2 Medina-Garrigues/Ruano-Pascual (ESP/ESP)

#1 Bryan/Bryan (USA/USA) vs. #9 Moodie/Norman (RSA/BEL)
Blake/Fish (USA/USA) vs. #2 Nestor/Zimonjic (CAN/SRB)

#1 Black/Paes (ZIM/IND) vs. #11 Sugiyama/Sa (JPN/BRA)
#4 Hsieh/Ullyett (TPE/ZIM) vs. #12 Ruano-Pascual/Huss (ESP/AUS)
Huber/J.Murray (USA/GBR) vs. #15 Benesova/Dlouhy (CZE/CZE)
#5 Vesnina/Nestor (RUS/CAN) or #9 Groenefeld/Knowles (GER/BAH) vs. #2 B.Bryan/Stosur (USA/AUS)

#1 Kristina Mladenovic/FRA vs. #7 Sloane Stephens/USA
Zsofia Susanyi/HUN vs. Miyabi Inoue/JPN
#11 Silvia Njiric/CRO vs. #4 Noppawan Lertcheewakarn/THA
#6 Timea Babos/HUN vs. Quirine Lemoine/NED

Alexander Domijan/USA vs. Devin Britton/USA
#4 Agustin Velotti/ARG vs. Jordan Cox/USA
#9 Dominik Schulz/GER vs. #3 Bernard Tomic/AUS
Andrey Kuznetsov/RUS vs. Dino Marcin/CRO

2004 Kateryna Bondarenko/UKR def. Ana Ivanovic/SRB
2005 Agnieszka Radwanska/POL def. Tamira Paszek/AUT
2006 Caroline Wozniacki/DEN def. Magdalena Rybarikova/SVK
2007 Urszula Radwanska/POL def. Madison Brengle/USA
2008 Laura Robson/GBR def. Noppawan Lertcheewarkern/THA

=2008 WIMB=
Tamaryn Hendler/BEL
Noppawan Lertcheewakarn/THA (RU)
Laura Robson/GBR (W)
Romana Tabakova/SVK
=2008 US=
Kristina Mladenovic/FRA
Melanie Oudin/USA
Gabriela Paz/VEN (RU)
Coco Vandeweghe/USA (W)
=2009 AO=
Ana Bogdan/ROU
Noppawan Lertcheewakarn/THA
Ksenia Pervak/RUS (W)
Laura Robson (RU)
=2009 RG=
Daria Gavrilova/RUS (RU)
Kristina Mladenovic/FRA (W)
Ksenia Pervak/RUS
Sloane Stephens/USA

TOP QUALIFIER: #1q Victoriya Kutuzova/UKR
TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): #3 Venus Williams/USA
TOP MIDDLE-ROUND (3r-QF): #2 Serena Williams/USA
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q1: Vesna Manasieva/RUS d. Noppawan Lertcheewakarn/THA 6-7/6-4/6-1
TOP EARLY RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 1st Rd. - Ana Ivanovic/SRB d. Lucie Hradecka/CZE 5-7/6-2/8-6 (saved 2 MP)
TOP MIDDLE-RD. MATCH (3r-QF): 4th Rd. - Melanie Oudin/USA d. Jelena Jankovic/SRB 6-7/7-5/6-2
FIRST SEED OUT: #23 Aleksandra Wozniak/CAN (1st Rd.-Schiavone/ITA)
IT GIRL: Sabine Lisicki/GER
MS. OPPORTUNITY: Elena Dementieva/RUS
CRASH & BURN: Maria Sharapova/RUS - lost to Gisela Dulko/ARG in 2nd Rd.
ZOMBIE QUEEN: Dinara Safina/RUS - in 4th Rd., down set and a break, then 3-0 in 3rd to Amelie Mauresmo/FRA; advanced to first Wimbledon SF
LAST BRIT STANDING: Elena Baltacha/GBR (2nd Rd.)

All for Day 9. More tomorrow.


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Thu Jul 02, 10:37:00 AM EDT  

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