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tennisIlove09
Apr 18th, 2003, 10:00 PM
TV/radio: Tourney could get more TV time
By Jeff Elliott
April 18 2003
The Florida Times Union

Local tennis fans who can't get to Amelia Island this weekend for the Bausch & Lomb Championships will have the opportunity to see matches on TV, starting with today's live telecast on ESPN of the quarterfinals pairing between Patty Schnyder and Lindsay Davenport at 1 p.m.

Coverage continues tomorrow with portions of the semifinals airing on ESPN2 from 2-4 p.m. Sunday's championship singles match is scheduled to air on ESPN2 between 1-2:30 p.m. Pam Shriver and Mary Jo Fernandez will describe the action from the Stadium Court.

Tournament officials are close to finalizing a contract extension with ESPN through 2005. The two parties have had an agreement for the past 18 years. The tournament doesn't receive rights fees, but the network deal provides the national exposure sought by title sponsor Bausch & Lomb and tournament owner Octagon.

"We've had a great relationship with ESPN," Tournament Director John Arrix said. "They like our event and have done a great job in presenting our product and giving us and the WTA Tour the exposure that we want."

That exposure may increase next year, but it will not be from ESPN or ESPN2. The national sports cable network is content to air a couple of quarterfinals, the semifinals and championship match.

The Tennis Channel plans to be a 24-hour cable television network devoted to tennis and other racket sports -- using the same approach that has made the Golf Channel and Speed Channel viable cable operations. The goal of its owners is to provide coverage of the game, its elite championships and profiles on the top men and women stars on the ATP and WTA Tours. The Tennis Channel is set to launch May 15, following a 19-day "sneak preview" that begins April 26.

"Certainly we'd like to work with them about possibly having some of our early-round matches included on their programming," Arrix said. "It would be a great spot to air those and with the amount of content they will need to generate, this would provide a great opportunity to showcase some of the upcoming young women, those that usually aren't featured on the weekend telecasts."

The Tennis Channel will debut with a two-day Fed Cup event between the United States and Czech Republic. The first two matches will feature Serena and Venus Williams, the No. 1 and 2 ranked players in the world, respectively. The other two members of the Fed Cup team are Meghann Shaughnessy and Alexandra Stevenson, both of whom advanced to yesterday's Round of 16 at this year's Bausch & Lomb.

AROUND THE DIAL -- Sports directors Sam Kouvaris (WJXT TV-4) and Ryan Elijah (WTEV TV-47/WJXX TV-25) were among the 30 media members covering the Masters whose names were drawn to play the course on Monday. ... WOKV (690 AM) will be broadcasting live from Alltel Stadium next weekend during the college draft. With Jaguars radio announcer Brian Sexton in Europe for several Europe NFL telecasts, WOKV sports director Cole Pepper will host the show, which will be similar to the Jaguars' The 5th Quarter show following team home games. ... Florida's spring football game can be seen on a taped basis Sunday at 10 a.m. on the Sunshine Network.