British Tennis Coverage Review: Is It Really All About Andy Murray?

2008 was the year of the bull. 

Now that Nadal has closed down and overtaken Federer for the coveted No. 1 spot, not to mention the Wimbledon and Australian Open titles to add to his four French Open crowns, all—and I mean all—the talk, hype and analysis on British TV, radio and on-line has turned to Murray with full intensity.  

Of course, Murray, despite not having the softly spoken, self- deprecating persona of a certain Tim Henman, has been the darling of British tennis coverage for many years. Many commentators and insiders have been urging him to tone down the temper tantrums and fulfill his huge potential.  

Now that is coming to fruition with extreme speed and ferocity, Sky Sports, the UK’s premium tennis coverage provider, cannot (or will not) mask their undying devotion to the young Scot and his televised matches. When Murray plays, the world stops. Nothing else matters.  

Marcus Buckland, the chief presenter-anchor of the tennis show, together with commentator Mark Petchey, are especially vocal in their ardor for Nadal and Murray.  ‘Only a few hours until Murray walks on to court,’… ‘mark your schedules now,’… ‘let’s look forward to another great display,’ are his frequent cries. 

For the ardent Murray fans (although how many are there in Britain, really?  Do they really hold a huge majority?), of course, this is a delight.  But come on Buckland… there are other players out there!  

You get the feeling the other commentators are positive about Murray because they are told to be…  

Nevertheless, the majority of viewers put up with this slight inconvenience. After all—and I do not write such things lightly—I believe British tennis viewers have it good.  

In order for Buckland to provide us with unlimited Murray love, the coverage of the best events is second to none.

From Sky Sports, one gets unrivalled live and highlights coverage (day and night) of all ATP Masters 1000 events and the World Tour Finals, several prestigious Masters 500 events and the jewel in the crown—unlimited live, interactive and highlights coverage of the US Open. 

To add to this excellent foundation, we get to listen, admire and laugh with insightful, entertaining and engaging commentators from the team of Mark Petchey, Barry Milns, Barry Cowan, Leif Shiras and Peter Fleming. 

The latter, in particular, keeps me coming back to the coverage again and again with his witty and informative banter, peppered with technical analysis and personal reminiscing in equal measure.

More recently, Sky Sports has introduced a viewer interaction element, via text and email. A gimmick, a fluke, some may say – but certainly so far, tennis broadcasts this year have been jam-packed with insightful and interesting questions and comments from knowledgeable viewers.

It remains to be seen whether this will continue… 

Finally, and perhaps I save the best until last – we should not forget the delights (and quirks) of the BBC’s free, outstanding and extensive coverage of the remaining slams—the Australian Open, the French Open and most importantly, the illustrious and flagship tournament of Wimbledon.  

Every year—and I anticipate that this year will be no exception—I wait eagerly for uninterrupted and extensive coverage on two terrestrial television channels, as well as radio and on-line, of what seems like every court, every match (present and past when rain stops play), not to mention expert analysis and humour from tennis greats such as John McEnroe, Boris Becker and Jimmy Connors.  

A delight.  

Will Murray Mania burn deep into Wimbledon coverage, too? Of course. But that won’t stop anybody enjoying what hopefully will be a wonderful summer of tennis for the British audience.

(Published on Bleacher Report; May 3rd 2009)

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