10sBalls.com • TennisBalls.com

Alix Ramsay Chimes In On Watching Tennis On The Telly • As Hard In The U.K. As It Is In U.S.

Fans take the escalator to the upper level of the stadium court at the Miami Open tennis tournament in Miami, Florida, USA, 24 March 2019. EPA-EFE/RHONA WISE



Anyone for television tennis? It’s more difficult than it looks


By Alix Ramsay


Now that we are home, safe and sound, from Indian Wells and our laundry is done (unusually, both we and our luggage came back to London on the same flight), we thought we would drop in on the good people of Miami to see how they were doing.


How difficult could this be? We live in a technological age where old fogeys like us regard the TV as a window on the world and younger types use every gadget known to man to keep track of current events. Right. Turn on the TV and watch the tennis. And that is when the trouble starts.


Watching tennis in the UK requires infinite patience, infinite resources and a good deal of kit. Once upon a time, Sky covered men’s tennis and Eurosport covered women’s tennis. Easy enough – you got Eurosport as a freebie with your Sky subscription and all was well. But then BT got involved and it started to unravel.


For those lucky enough never to have heard of BT, it is the largest provider of fixed-line, broadband and mobile services in the UK. It is also eye-wateringly expensive. Sure, your BT sport package only costs a few quid a month but that is only if you have a BT landline and broadband. But paying for that requires re-mortgaging the house. It is cheaper to buy a first class ticket to Australia and talking to your Aussie mate face to face than it is to call them on a BT landline.


If you want to watch BT sport without all the other BT bits and pieces – let’s say watch it via your Sky set-up – the price starts at £29.99 a month. That is on top of the £83 we are paying each month for our Sky subscription. So now we are up to £110 a month and still we can’t watch men’s tennis.


That is because BT only have the rights to the WTA tour; Amazon Prime have now bought the rights to the ATP tour. And that means paying another £7.99 a month. That would mean shelling out £120 a month – or £1,450 a year – just to watch the tennis on our two TVs. Plus, of course, the £150 a year we have to pay for a TV licence in the UK (that pays for the BBC, the same BBC that cannot afford to buy the TV rights to any sport you want to watch over the course of a season). That all comes to the princely sum of £1,600 a year. Just for the TV.


This brilliant bit of marketing by both tours is supposed to help spread the love. Tennis is available everywhere, on every platform, for everyone. Watch on your phone, your tablet, your “device” (which always sounds vaguely rude and rather painful).


Except that the average tennis viewer tends not to be a techno geek with a hundred viewing gadgets; they tend to be a viewer of certain age who likes to settle down with a cup of tea and the cat and watch the telly. You know, the telly. That thing in the corner of the room that you flick on, pick your favourite channel and, hey presto, the pictures appear on the screen.


Ah, they tell us, but you can get a FireStick and connect it to your HDMI port on the TV and then watch Amazon Prime in comfort. But we only have one HDMI port on our TV and that is currently being used by the Sky box. So that we can watch the footy on the telly. And the other telly things on the telly.


So get a new TV, they say. But we’re already being threatened with £1,600 a year to watch the damned thing – now you want us to spend another few hundred quid on a new one? Just to watch the tennis? Do you think we are made of money? Are you mad?


And the end result is that we do not watch the tennis. We watch the football instead. It’s cheaper. And easier. And no matter how much tennis likes to think of itself as the super sport, it ain’t. Around the world, football is a religion. In the US, American football together with baseball, basketball and hockey rule the roost.


Tennis has to fight for its position and hiding it away on different media platforms does not sound like a particularly bright move.


As for the footy – Scotland were stuffed by Kazakhstan 3-0 in the first Euro qualifier, a result which prompted the Scottish commentator (who sounded almost suicidal) to sign off with the memorable line: “Make no mistake: this was a doing!” They scraped a 2-0 win over San Marino but it was nothing to cheer about. England, meanwhile, were looking smug after a 5-0 thumping of the Czech Republic. ‘Twas ever thus.


But back to the tennis. From what we can gather, Serena’s career is almost over. Well, it is judging by the reports back here. Her withdrawal from Miami due to a knee injury has sparked speculation that she will never be able to get back to anything like her best to claim that elusive 24th grand slam title. She pulled out of her second match in Indian Wells with a virus (she was a set down to Garbine Muguruza at the time) and now she has a sore knee. Clearly, then, she is toast.


This assessment neatly dodges the fact that Serena reached two grand slam finals last year and is back in the world’s top 10. She also played one of the best matches of the year so far to beat Vika Azarenka in the second round in Indian Wells. That she felt rough in her next match only proves that nasty wee bugs have no respect for reputation or ranking; a living legend is fair game for a virus.


Novak Djokovic is still not in cruise control after he was taken to three sets by Federico Delbonis. The Argentine played like a man possessed for an hour or so, coming back from 5-2 down in the first set but was eventually done 7-5, 4-6, 6-1. Djokovic now faces Roberto Bautista Agut.


Nick Kyrgios will, thankfully, never change and as he breezed past Dusan Lajovic 6-3, 6-1, he threw in a couple of underarm serves, had a running battle with a spectator (who was eventually chucked out by the security guards) and started a row with the umpire. But it was all in a day’s work for the Australian who now takes on Borna Coric.


Oh, and Bianca Andreescu, the champion of Indian Wells, beat Angie Kerber for the second time in a week on Saturday. Angie wasn’t happy. She called her young tormentor “the biggest drama queen ever” during what could only loosely be called the handshake after the match. Andreescu’s crime? She had taken a medical time out to have treatment on her right shoulder and had the trainer back on during change of ends for more work on the ailing joint. And she had won. Angie really wasn’t happy.


Bianca plays Anett Kontaveit later on today for a place in the quarter-finals. A win would take her streak to 11 matches.


It sounds like Miami is warming up nicely. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all watch it?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *