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Time-Shifted Tennis

Normally, I hate any sort of time-shifted coverage of a sports event. ‘Watch it live, or don’t bother’ is how I usually approach things. And for the most part, that formulation still holds.

But I have to admit, Tennis Channel’s “Wimbledon Primetime” coverage of The Championships is a godsend for someone on the West Coast like me. (And one who happens to be a night-owl at that, so no real hope of getting up early for the live broadcast.)

Embed from Getty Images
Venus wins in the semi: if not in the moment, a little later is OK, too

I’ve foundĀ  these last several days–particularly here in the second week of the fortnight–that checking out these matches on the delayed broadcast is almost as good as the real thing…so long as you can studiously avoid checking news outlets that might slip with the results before you get to see them. (A task that’s gotten a lot easier lately, thanks to the drek that passes for news these days.)

In the case of “Wimbledon Primetime,” the coverage lands directly in the middle of the day (when there’s nothing else to watch anyway) and serves as a fine background accompaniment to a good day’s work (if you’re lucky enough to work from home as I do). Much easier than trying to temporarily shift your entire schedule around to catch the matches at their appointed hour.

Also, the coverage itself is, for a ‘secondary’ outlet, pretty damn good. Most of the matches have been covered extremely well vis-a-vis camerawork, and the broadcasters have been good, despite the play-by-play announcers being mostly unknown to me. They may be a touch below the A-team level of ESPN’s coverage, but mostly they’ve acquitted themselves very well. So, too, with the color analysts (though if someone could convince Martina Navratilova to pause and take a breath once in a while, so much the better).

And, as an added bonus, none of the heavy rotation ads have been nearly as cloying and annoying as the infamous Melbourne tourism commercials.

Unfortunately, there is a slight backhand (pun intended) compliment in all this–namely, the reason watching Grand Slam tennis results on a delay works here is because tennis has fallen somewhat off the radar in the United States. It’s much easier to avoid finding out the results of these matches than it would be for a baseball or football game. Perhaps that will change, a little bit, if Sam Querrey and Venus Williams are able to pull off an American two-fer this weekend. (The odds look good for the latter, so-so for the former.)

Still, no point in looking a gift horse in the mouth. “Wimbledon Primetime” has been working for me, and I’ll keep on tuning in in the future, both from England and Roland Garros when it’s time for whatever they call their French Open coverage next spring.

But I’ll still be glad when the U.S Open hits our TVs live in September.


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