Murray calls for testing transparency

As Andy Murray returns to action Monday night, he made a plea for more transparency with the ITF drug-testing stats.

“Sometimes from what I’ve seen it’s quite vague, like they put ‘7-plus’ so that means that someone could have had seven (tests) or someone could have had 20 -– which is obviously quite a big difference,” Murray said during a press conference at the Citi Open.

No reason they couldn’t; other associations do.

Murray also pointed out tennis players get tested a lot less than other sports, and the sport is rich enough to devote more resources to it.

Mardy Fish joins ESPN for Slams

This news seems to have gone fairly unnoticed over the last week.

But it’s a nice addition to the already king-sized ESPN tennis crew.

American Mardy Fish, who turned 36 Dec. 9, is joining the network’s tennis coverage in 2018, as reported by Vero News.

He will work the four Grand Slams, beginning with the Australian Open next month.

Fish worked a little bit on the Tennis Channel in 2015. But this past summer, stints for ESPN at Wimbledon the US Open led to an offer of an expanded role.

Fish remains close to the game, having retired just two years ago.

“People I know seem to like what I’ve done so far, and they’ve been pushing me to do more of it. And I’ve really enjoyed the TV experiences I’ve had, probably more than I expected,” Fish told VeroNews.com.

“So when I had a chance to work with ESPN again, especially at the four biggest tournaments of the year, I decided to go for it. This is a tremendous opportunity.”

In-studio, hopefully not for long

Mardy
Fish on the practice court at the Australian Open in 2011. He’ll be there in January – except in a suit and tie. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

Vero News says Fish is expected to be an in-studio analyst. Hopefully, they can quickly promote him to a live match commentary role. 

It’s a great add for ESPN, which needs to get a little younger and more current.

The fact that Fish has faced most of the players they’ll be featuring on the broadcasts can only be a major plus. In recent months, he also has done some coaching with the USTA, working with up-and-coming pros.

Click on the link for more of a very good interview with Fish.

He talks about how wanting to be a mentor to young American players met with surprising resistance. And he also talks about how his awareness that playing tennis and being a television analyst are separate skill sets means he has already begun preparing for Melbourne.

2017 US Open – by the numbers

With the end of the 2017 edition, the US Open tallied up the numbers on various fronts.

There are a lot of big numbers.

Here’s a list of the main points, as released by the USTA.

 

American Players

  • Four American women reached the singles semifinals at the US Open for the first time since 1981. First-time US Open champion Sloane Stephens, first-time US Open finalist Madison Keys and first-time US Open semifinalist CoCo Vandeweghe joined two-time US Open champion Venus Williams in the semifinals.
  • Eighty five American men and women competed in the US Open main draw and the US Open Qualifying Tournament – an increase of nearly 40 percent since 2013.
  • 2017 also marked the first time there was an all-American women’s singles final and an all-American junior girls’ final since 1981. Sixteen-year old Amanda Anisimova defeated 13-year old Coco Gauff, who was the youngest-ever girls’ singles finalist at the US Open, in the title match.
  • David Wagner won his third US Open quad singles title, his eighth US Open quad doubles title and remained unbeaten in doubles at the US Open.
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“HOW much is that check for? Girl!”

Attendance

  • Twenty of the 24 sessions comprising the US Open sold out.
  • Total attendance for the 2017 US Open was 691,143.
  • More than 100,000 fans visited the first-ever US Open Experience, a two-day recreation of the US Open during US Open Fan Week at the South Street Seaport Historic District in Manhattan.

Social Media

  • From August 28 to September 10, US Open social channels, including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, posted 3.8k pieces of content that generated 18 million interactions and 92 million video views.
  • Across Twitter and Instagram, hashtag #usopen was the most engaged hashtag of the 2017 Grand Slam season, producing 38 billion impressions.
  • Record fan engagement on all social platforms resulted in unparalleled growth for every social channel. Overall interactions were up 625 percent and video views were up 556 percent.

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Digital Platforms

  • For the third straight year, more than 10 million unique visitors engaged with US Open-owned-and-operated digital platforms – usopen.org and the US Open app, produced in partnership with US Open sponsor IBM – throughout the tournament.
  • Those fans consumed more content than ever: 46 million visits (+15 percent vs. 2016), and 366 million page views (+-23 per cent vs. 2016).
  • More than 63 per cent of all page views came from outside the United States.
  • Mobile consumption continues to drive growth, as more than 73 per cent of the total unique audience came via a mobile device.

Television

  • Saturday’s US Open Women’s Championship on ESPN earned a 1.9 overnight rating in the metered markets for the match portion of the three-hour telecast, 36 per cent higher than last year’s women’s final and the highest overnight rating for the match in the three years ESPN has held exclusivity for the U.S.
  • The three components of streaming the match were also significantly higher than previous years. The total number of unique viewers was up 71 per cent, the total minutes watched was up 15 per cent and the average minute audience was up 38 per cent to a new high for 2015-17.
  • ESPN’s Total Average Audience for US Open was up 11 per cent after 11 days.
  • The total average audience for ESPN’s exclusive coverage of the U.S. through Thursday, Sept. 7, was up 11 per cent to 952,000 viewers on average, compared to 856,000 for the first 11 days of last year’s event.  The increase includes a 50 per cent rise in the audience for streaming.

Federer win nudges ESPN ratings

It’s a bit surprising, but the presence of Roger Federer in the Wimbledon men’s singles final resulted in only a slight increase in the ratings on ESPN.

A year ago, Andy Murray and Canadian Milos Raonic played the final before 2.22 million viewers. This year, the Federer victory over Marin Cilic – not a compelling match, per se, other than the history at stake – pulled in 2.36 million.

The 1.5 Neilson rating was the same for both finals.

On TV, the audience was up six percent. The live stream viewership was up significantly – 51 per cent – to 46,400.

Serena proclaims Andy Murray love

Serena Williams has been on an interview binge for her sponsor, Tempur-Pedic.

And while most of the answers have been obligatory, her reaction to Andy Murray’s “reporter correction” was heartfelt.

“I don’t think there’s a woman player … that is not totally supportive of Andy Murray. He has spoken up for women’s issues, and women’s rights – especially in tennis – for … forever,” Williams said on ESPN. “He has such a wonderful mother, who’s been such a strong figure in his life. And he’s done so much for us on our Tour.

“So we love Andy Murray.”

ESPN ratings way up for ’17

ESPN announced the total live audience for the first two days of Wimbledon was up 42 per cent over 2016. The network averaged 601,000 viewers between the television broadcasts and live streams, compared to 422,000.

Through the first three days online, all major statistics were more than double those of 2016.

What they don’t mention  is that there were major rain delays on both Tuesday and Wednesday last year. Play went on under the roof but on the rest of the courts, it was sparse.

The weather this year has been spectacular – so far. 

“Maybe it’s better if it hadn’t been said”

It wasn’t exactly an apology for the comments concerning Serena Williams. Or a retraction.

It was one of those sort of non-apology apologies athletes make when something they say makes a splash.

“I’ll agree, it would have been better not to have said it.  I didn’t realize it would create something like this. Maybe it’s better if it hadn’t been said, because I have a lot of respect for Serena,” John McEnroe said on an ESPN conference call Wednesday.

“I mean, that was just an opinion. I mean, that’s just my opinion.”

 

Patrick McEnroe’s junior cheating solution

Anecdotal evidence suggests that cheating at the junior level just keeps getting worse.

Former USTA development head Patrick McEnroe offered up an idea on an ESPN conference call Wednesday.

“I went to Italy to play in a big European 14-and-under tournament. They forced every player to have to umpire a couple of matches – other junior matches – which I think was a great lesson for the players,” McEnroe said. “I would like to see something like that because that could be tricky to pull off; parents are just way too uptight at the moment.”