by Andrew Gigacz
It’s just over four months since Sam Stosur bowed out of the Australian Open. You might remember Stosur’s brave but ultimately unsuccessful effort against Serena Williams. But you could hardly be blamed for not being able to recall it.
Why? Because as that exciting match was unfolding, the Seven Network, in their infinite wisdom, chose to show on FOUR of their five available channels, a pale imitation of an hour of news and current affairs before treating us to a half-hour of quality drama in Home and Away.
If you feel the urge the really wind yourself up, you can see the full story of that debacle here: http://footyalmanac.com.au/?p=7473
But life goes on. The Grand Slam tennis circus has moved to Roland-Garros and we are well into the second week of the French Open. As fate would have it the quarter finals have thrown Sam Stosur up against Serena Williams once more. The two were due to meet on Wednesday evening at around 10:30pm. What a perfect way to top off a cold winter’s evening: knocking off a cuppa or two in front of the telly while cheering Stosur on towards a French Open semi-final birth.
I have fond memories of staying up way too late in the ’80s and watching match after match on Channel 9 over the two weeks of the French Open. And I looked forward to reliving those times, if just for one night, on Wednesday evening.
But when I turned on Channel 9, I was confronted by a strangely familiar feeling. It was just past 10:30 and the news was on. I quickly checked the guide. The tennis would start at 11:00pm. This was annoying but at least I’d be able to see the majority of this match, probably the most important of Sam Stosur’s career.
Sadly, infuriatingly not.
Certainly the tennis did come on; and it was the French Open. But it was not live coverage of it. Merely a highlights package of the previous day’s play.
So as Sam Stosur’s big moments were played out, tennis fans were subject to an annoying voice trying to drum up viewer tension by asking us if Roger Federer could come back and ultimately hold off Robin Soderling in a game that finished 24 hours earlier, the result of which anyone with a passing interest in tennis would have already known.
Thus, just as had happened four months earlier, I was forced to turn to the internet and watch a scoreboard updating every 30 seconds or so to find out how Sam Stosur would fair against the might of Serena Williams.
Amazingly, when a close match is nearing a climax, watching a static screen and waiting for a “15″ to change to a “30″ can actually be quite exciting. But certainly not the equal of watching the game live on TV.
The great news is that Sam Stosur survived a match point to defeat Williams 8-6 in the third set.
For Stosur, fortunes appear to have taken a turn for the better.
Sadly, the same cannot be said for fans of free-to-air tennis.