Tennis Channel Becomes Exclusive Home of U.S. Davis Cup
LOS ANGELES — Tennis Channel, the only 24-hour, television-based multimedia destination dedicated to both the professional sport and tennis lifestyle, has signed a multi-year deal to be the exclusive U.S. television home of all U.S. Davis Cup ties, effective immediately. The agreement struck with the International Tennis Federation (ITF), the sport’s governing body, and the United States Tennis Association (USTA), which fields and manages America’s Davis Cup team, puts all three prestigious ITF annual international team competitions — Davis Cup by BNP Paribas, Fed Cup by BNP Paribas and Hyundai Hopman Cup — on Tennis Channel in the United States.
Tennis Channel plans to surround its high-definition U.S. Davis Cup coverage with short- and long-form ancillary programming, specials and year-round promotion, building up the team’s annual quest for the championship as a long-term franchise for the network. In addition to exclusive U.S. telecast rights, a broadband component to the agreement will see U.S. Davis Cup matches available on demand and in their entirety on Tennis Channel’s Web site, www.tennischannel.com, posted the day after each competition.
2009 Davis Cup play gets underway with the eight World Group first-round ties March 6-8, as the United States hosts Switzerland in Birmingham, Ala.
“It is fitting that the sport’s namesake network will be the television home for U.S. Davis Cup competition, one of the most exciting team competitions in all of sport,” said Pierce O’Neil, USTA chief business officer. “Under the leadership of Patrick McEnroe, the U.S. continues to field one of the world’s most competitive teams, all of whom are looking forward to taking on Roger Federer and the rest of the Swiss team this coming March.”
Tennis Channel has had multi-year rights to all other ITF team competitions since 2004, including non-U.S. Davis Cup play. Since 2006 it has partnered with VERSUS to offer alternating or same-day U.S. Davis Cup coverage. In 2009 the network also enters into its first year of US Open coverage in conjunction with ESPN2 on cable and CBS on broadcast television. With U.S. Davis Cup in its lineup the network will cover the sport’s highest-profile competitions in 2009: exclusive Davis Cup and Fed Cup, and the four Grand Slams: the US Open, Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon.
Since the competition began in 1900, Davis Cup matches have featured almost every great player in men’s tennis history representing his country at some point during his career. In many countries Davis Cup ties are as popular as the sport’s four major events, the Grand Slams, because they offer the national passion that comes only when competing for country, and an opportunity to see live top-level tennis in venues outside of Grand Slam hosts New York, London, Paris and Melbourne, Australia.
“Davis Cup is to tennis what the World Cup is to soccer or Ryder Cup is to golf, and among the most exciting, dramatic team contests in the world,” said Ken Solomon, chairman and CEO, Tennis Channel. “Our platform of year-round tennis was built to put into context and drive premium franchises like U.S. Davis Cup. With American tennis’ enormous resurgence right now and the country’s Australian Open success and thrilling Davis Cup win 14 months ago, the time is ripe for elevating this event on television with HD coverage and promotion throughout the entire calendar, especially during the four Grand Slams.”
The U.S. Davis Cup team has won the competition more than any other country, with 32 titles including its first at the inaugural event in 1900 and most recent in 2007. Directing the 2007 championship run, Captain Patrick McEnroe has been at the American helm since 2001. Though unnamed as of yet, the 2009 U.S. Davis Cup team is likely to feature the four players who led it to victory in 2007 and have been the consistent faces of the squad for the past five years: Andy Roddick and James Blake playing singles, and twin brothers Bob and Mike Bryan on the doubles court.
Adding to the traditional excitement that comes with every round of Davis Cup competition, this year’s first-round contest between the United States and Switzerland is likely to feature one of the greatest players in the game today, if not all time: Swiss star Roger Federer, currently the World’s No. 2 singles player following a record 237 consecutive weeks at the top that ended last summer. Federer comes to this year’s Davis Cup play having reached the finals at each of the past four Grand Slams, and winning the championship in New York at the US Open. Beyond his singles success, Federer and likely teammate Stanislas Wawrinka are fresh off a championship-caliber Olympic doubles performance, winning gold medals in Beijing last summer.
During the first weekend of 2009 Davis Cup competition, Tennis fans have the very real prospect of seeing Federer take on America’s top-ranked singles players, Andy Roddick and James Blake, on Friday and Sunday, respectively, and play against the country’s and world’s top-ranked doubles tandem of the Bryans on Saturday. Roddick lost to Federer in the semifinals of the Australian Open last month, but defeated him in their previous meeting during 2008 ATP Masters Series event in Miami. The Bryans, who won the Australian Open doubles championship for their seventh major title, have owned Davis Cup’s doubles Saturday, posting a 14-2 lifetime record when competing for the United States. Because of Davis Cup’s 2-1-2 Friday-Saturday-Sunday match format, the middle day of doubles is a pivotal contest.
This will be the first time Federer, who has 13 Grand Slam singles championships, just one less than all-time Open Era titlist Pete Sampras, will play a Davis Cup competition on U.S. soil. He has played the U.S. team only once, in Switzerland in 2001. That meeting saw him win both his singles matches and his doubles, for a 3-0 lifetime Davis Cup record against the United States. Roddick, who was on that U.S. Davis Cup team, did not play against Federer during the meeting but won his lone singles match and has a 1-0 Davis Cup record against the Swiss. Neither Blake nor either Bryan has ever competed against Switzerland in Davis Cup play.
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