I read with interest the news that CBS is to expand its coverage of the US Open this year, to include live coverage of the qualifying event at Flushing Meadows. It is an innovative move and one that will be appreciated by diehard tennis fans. There are plenty of good matches in qualifying – if anything they can be far more exciting than the first and second rounds because there is so much on the line – and the drama should make for some good television.
In one way I was quite surprised – opening up qualifying to live television may increase the betting interest from abroad, where usually those matches are largely ignored. I supppose it is up to the tennis authorities to work with the betting companies to ensure that everything that can be done is done to avoid the dreaded match-fixing but to be quite honest, the lure of getting into the grand slams and the increased prize money on offer for first and second-round losers should take care of that anyway.
But it is also perhaps fair to say that what prompted the move on the part of CBS was not just a knack for innovation but also necessity because ESPN did such a great job at Wimbledon in what was the first year of their all-singing, all-dancing deal with the All England Club, which really took coverage of the event to a new US audience. Anything that pushes other companies to improve is a good thing but CBS will do well to hold onto the tennis in the long run for ESPN’s star is rising fast.
Time is a great healer when it comes to falling out in tennis but there is always the opportunity to throw in the odd dig when the chance arises. On Tuesday as he joined Andy Murray and all the adidas athletes in the GB Olympic team, former British No 1 Tim Henman, now happily retired, chimed in on a discussion about whether it was necessary to get along with your doubles partner. “I played with Greg Rusedski for ten years,” he said, “so it’s not that important”. Cue laughter all round, some of it slightly nervous.