ESPN Begins Coverage of AUSTRALIAN OPEN Tennis, 1/18

The stars of tennis - among the biggest names in the sport's history, including four with career Grand Slams - play the first Major of 2015 at the Australian Open, starting Sunday, Jan. 18, at 7 p.m.ET with ESPN presenting more than 100 live hours on television and nearly 800 more on ESPN3 where fans can choose from action on up to 13 courts. ESPN's 31st consecutive Australian Open will culminate with the women's and men's championships live on ESPN at 3 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 31, and Sunday, Feb. 1, with an encore presentation later that morning at 9 a.m. on ESPN2.


ESPN2 will present daily, marathon, overnight telecasts from Melbourne (primarily starting at 9 p.m.) through the women's semifinals, when the action switches to ESPN.

Approximately 40 additional hours will be aired on ESPN2 during the afternoon with action from the overnight telecasts.

ESPN3 will offer nearly 800 hours from up to 13 courts, both the most ever for an ESPN tennis event, adding nearly more than 300 hours and from six additional courts than in 2013. ESPN3's coverage starts at 7 p.m. over the first 11 days of the tournament with the first ball each day of all TV court matches. Additionally, ESPN3 will offer live the men's, women's and mixed doubles championships and the finals of the boys and girls divisions.

All the action on ESPN and ESPN2 is also available through WatchESPN online at, on smartphones and tablets via the award-winning WatchESPN app, and streamed on televisions through Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, Xbox 360 and Xbox One to more than 75 million households nationwide via an affiliated video or internet provider.

Tennis Channel and ESPN's ongoing Grand Slam alliance includes the Australian Open and gives viewers near round-the-clock tournament enjoyment from Melbourne. ESPN produces the Australian Open for both networks, with each utilizing its own commentators and cross-promoting their combined television offerings.

Surveying the Fields

The "Big Four" of recent years in men's tennis - Roger Federer (17 career major wins), Rafael Nadal (14), Novak Djokovic (7) and Andy Murray (2) - have won 36 of the last 39 Majors (nearly 10 years), but captured "only" two of four in 2014 (Stan Wawrinka, Australian Open. The four comprise 30 of the last 34 Major finalists and 58 of the last 70.

Of the last 12 Majors, only four active women have titles - Serena Williams (18 Major wins, five in that time), Maria Sharapova (five, two) and Victoria Azarenka (2, 2), and Petra Kvitova (2, 1). The other winners, Marion Bartoli (Wimbledon 2013) and Li Na (Australian Open 2014), have retired.
The current top-ranked players and No. 1 seeds - Djokovic and Williams - each have enjoyed great success in Melbourne with five and four championships, respectively, but neither won last year.
Former champions Nadal (2009) and Azarenka (2011, 2012) are question marks, having been hampered by health issues and playing little since Wimbledon.
Two men (Federer, Nadal) and two women (Williams, Sharapova) in the field have a career Grand Slam.
Will someone from "Generation Next" break through for their first Major title? Japan's Kei Nishikori has been the closest on the men's side, reaching the US Open final, and is joined by two under-25 players near the top of the rankings - Grigor Dimitrov and Canada's Milos Raonic.

On the women's side, it was also a Canadian youngster who reached a Major final for the first time in 2014; 20-year-old Eugenie Bouchard was runner-up at Wimbledon. Several young Americans are also looking establish themselves among the game's elite players, including Sloane Stephens (21) and Madison Keys (19).

Another player to watch is former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, a finalist at the most recent Major, the US Open, and no doubt well-rested from her remarkable time in the New York Marathon.

The ESPN Tennis Team, the best tennis team in television, returns for 2014:

Darren Cahill, who once reached the US Open semifinals and the Australian Open doubles finals and went on to coach fellow Australian Lleyton Hewitt and Andre Agassi, has worked for ESPN since 2007.

Cliff Drysdale, a member of the Tennis Hall of Fame, he reached the US Open finals and is a two-time Wimbledon and French Open semifinalist. He has been with ESPN since its first tennis telecast in 1979. Drysdale was a leader on the court - a top player for many years who was one of the first to use a two-hand backhand - and off the court, as the first president of the ATP.

Chrissie Evert, a Hall of Famer who joined ESPN in 2011, her 18 major titles includes a record six US Open titles. She recorded the best career win-loss record in history. Played the Australian Open six times (1974 the first), reaching the finals every time, winning twice.

Mary Joe Fernandez, who played in three Major singles finals and won two Majors in doubles, won a Gold Medal in doubles at the 1992 and 1996 Olympics and a Bronze in singles in 1992. An ESPN analyst since 2000, she leads the United States' Fed Cup team and coached the 2012 U.S. women's Olympic team.
Chris Fowler, who joined ESPN in 1986 and has hosted College GameDay on football Saturdays since 1990, calls matches, having joined the ESPN tennis team as a host in 2003. In 2014 he became the lead play caller on ABC's Saturday night college football, including the new championship game. His diverse resume includes hosting World Cup soccer, college basketball including the Final Four, the X Games and Triple Crown horse racing events, after first serving as host of Scholastic Sports America and then anchoring SportsCenter.
Brad Gilbert, whose personality and unique nicknames for players has enlivened ESPN's tennis telecasts since 2004, parlayed his playing career - once reaching the quarterfinals of the US Open and at Wimbledon - into coaching Andre Agassi (six Major titles with Brad), Andy Roddick (US Open victory) and Andy Murray.
Jason Goodall, who played in several Grand Slams and has coached some of the most prolific women's players including Pam Shriver and Jennifer Capriati.
John McEnroe, who will be making his Australian Open debut for ESPN, has won seven Grand Slam singles titles during his storied career, which included 10 more major championships in doubles or mixed doubles. He also led the U.S. to four Davis Cup titles and won the NCAA's while attending Stanford. He has worked for ESPN since 2009.
Patrick McEnroe, who has worked for ESPN since 1995, was the U.S. Davis Cup captain 2001-2010 and in 2007 the team won its first championship since 1995. A three-time singles All-American at Stanford - where the team won NCAA titles in 1986 and 1988 - he won the 1992 French Open doubles title and reached the 1991 Australian Open semifinals in singles.
Chris McKendry, a SportsCenter anchor since joining ESPN in 1996, serves as a host at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. She attended Drexel University on a tennis scholarship.
Tom Rinaldi will serve as a reporter and call matches. His features and interviews have graced a wide variety of ESPN programs - including SportsCenter, Outside the Lines, E:60 and event telecasts such as golf and tennis' Majors, COLLEGE FOOTBALL and more - since 2003, winning numerous Sports Emmy Awards.
Pam Shriver, who started working for ESPN in 1990, long before her Hall of Fame career ended, played in the 1978 US Open finals at age 16 (losing to Evert) and won 21 Grand Slam titles in women's doubles (another in Mixed) including five at the US Open plus a Gold Medal in doubles at the 1988 Olympics.

DIGITAL MEDIA, AT HOME AND ABROAD; INTERNATIONAL TV; ESPN DEPORTES; ESPN Classic will once again feature Courtcast, a cutting-edge application presented by IBM, featuring official IBM tournament and real-time statistics, Hawk-Eye technology, a rolling Twitter feed, Scribble Live analysis and interactive poll questions. Digital Serve video, 60-second slice, Baseline Buzz and our daily Aussie Open notebook from contributors Jim Caple, Matt Wilansky, Peter Bodo and Greg Garber will add to the depth of coverage.

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