ITV gears up for French Open debut
Originally published on: 02/05/12 00:00
Almost every year in recent memory at least one broadcaster has made that quick gag about the red button.
‘Make sure you press the right red button if you want to watch the tennis’, they’ll say, because of course one button gives you uninterrupted coverage of the second Grand Slam of the year and the other gives you an instantaneous blank screen.
If you were the type to struggle before, there’ll be no need to worry about remote-related instructions during this year’s clay season, for the French Open is departing BBC’s well-hidden channel for a new home on ITV.
It’ll be the first time ITV has ever screened a Grand Slam tournament, with 150 hours of tennis from Roland Garros set to be shown during the 15-day tournament on ITV 4 (mainly) and ITV1 between May 27-June 10.
“I’m hugely excited that we are bringing the French Open to ITV,” said Niall Sloane, ITV Director of Sport. “It’s the first time a Grand Slam has been shown live on ITV and we’ll be offering viewers more free-to-air coverage of the French Open than ever before.
“We have a fantastic experienced line-up of presenters, commentators and pundits who will be able to bring the drama of the clay court to life, life on ITV.”
Those include commentator Nick Mullins, reporter Celina Hinchcliffe and former professionals Sam Smith, Mark Petchey and Fabrice Santoro.
The latter should be a particularly popular acquisition. The former world No.17 had a place in many hearts for his remarkable shot-making ability. Now 39, the 'magician' – as he was nicknamed by Pete Sampras – made the quarter-finals at the Australian Open in 2006 and knows a thing or two about Roland Garros too, having twice made the fourth round in 1991 and 2001.
ITV have constructed a special studio for Santoro and the rest of the broadcast team at Roland Garros from which to cover the 82nd French Open. This year’s event promises extra intrigue as Novak Djokovic bids to become the first man to hold all four Grand Slams since Rod Laver in 1969, while Rafael Nadal bids to claim his seventh French Open crown in eight years, Roger Federer looks for slam No.17 and Andy Murray continues his challenge for an elusive major.