For the first time in years, women’s tennis is in the media forefront Down Under. Darren Cahill and Pam Shriver were peppered with WTA-focused questions in an ESPN2-sponsored conference call on Tuesday, and Len DeLuca, the station’s senior V.P. of programming and acquisitions, is counting on the ladies to pull their ratings weight:
“Tennis is set for a very big year because the women now have all the first names back. We’re back to first name tennis: Maria, Justine, Serena, Venus etc.”
“With Justine and Kim and Maria healthy, I can’t think of women’s tennis and men’s tennis being similarly situated at such a high level entering a season since the Capriati and Agassi days.”
Of course, we hard core fans are on a first name basis with the likes of Flavia, Dinara and Marion, too. We know our Anas from our Annas and our Jelenas from Elenas. But according to Darren Cahill and Pam Shriver, these ingenues may soon find themselves back in the chorus line:
“I think there’s no doubt that in the last 18 months to 2 years there’s been a great opportunity for the young guns to step up and win a major title.” Darren Cahill explained. “That window has all of the sudden closed a lot. With Kim Clijsters, Justine Henin and Maria Sharapova back in the mix, the women’s game just took a big injection of enthusiasm throughout the world.”
Pam Shriver made the “hard” admission that she’s “found the quality of women’s tennis the last couple years not good enough, not entertaining enough.” But she sees the return of both Belgians as a return to good form:
“It’s amazing to already have a match on the women’s side (the Henin vs. Clijsters final in Brisbane) that’s being talked about as far as quality and drama – along the lines of very few matches we’ve had in the last couple years. . .The Belgians have put a big boost back into women’s tennis. Without going into the players of the last couple years, I think the boost is welcome and it’s suddenly going to set women’s tennis back on fire and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Hmm, any guesses to who those “players of the last couple years” are?
Belgians may come and go, but Serena is forever a favorite – especially at ESPN2:
“From a television standpoint Serena is the No. 1 US domestic attraction for ESPN – then we talk Federer and Nadal and Andy (Roddick)” ESPN2′s Len DeLuca said. “Watching all of our numbers, when Serena’s been strong, that’s good.”
Darren Cahill thinks “strong” is an apt description for Serena Williams – and the state of the WTA:
“I saw her play yesterday in Sydney (beating Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, 6-1, 6-2) and she was fired up. She looked like she was on a mission. I think she’s going to take up this (Belgian) challenge in the right way, and I think you’re going to see the best of Serena in 2010. She has no chance of being as dominant as she has been unless she really picks up the challenge and trains a little bit harder and gets the best out of herself.”
“With Maria, Justine and Kim all coming back it’s on in women’s tennis in 2010.”
And it will be on your television, too. Click here for the full 2010 Australian Open TV schedule.