Friday, October 16, 2020

My Article on Ghosh's Notre Dame Commitment; Fresno State Drops Men's Tennis; Update on Next Two Grand Slams; ESPN's ATP Masters Coverage Moving to Tennis Channel Next Year

Although recruiting has pretty much ground to a halt in 2020, with no official campus visits or in-person meetings with coaches allowed since March, young players are still committing to college teams. I had an opportunity to speak earlier this week with five-star recruit Nibi Ghosh of New Jersey, who I met this summer at the ITA Summer Circuit event in Grand Rapids, about her decision to commit to Notre Dame, and how she arrived at that choice. Unable to meet with the coaches in person, or to take an official visit, Ghosh and her coach, former Michigan star Mike Sroczynski, devised a plan to reach out to schools she was interested in, which included sending videos. In addition to all the time they spend improving their tennis skills, I'm always impressed by the other interests that players find time for, which in Ghosh's case includes music, beginning with piano and now including guitar and songwriting. For more on how Ghosh decided on tennis after playing multiple sports as a kid, and what she's looking forward to in college, see this Tennis Recruiting Network article.

It's been quiet lately on the tennis program cuts, but another was announced today, with Fresno State dropping its men's team at the end of the current academic year. The program has had a long and successful history, and current coach Luke Shields led the Bulldogs to a Mountain West title last year, earning Mountain West Coach of the Year and ITA Northwest Region Coach of Year honors in the process. Earlier this month, the team had announced six new recruits, three of whom were from California. For another view at the Fresno State decision to drop men's tennis, wrestling and women's lacrosse, see this article from the Fresno Bee.

The Australian Open is only three months away, but Australia's strict quarantine rules have led to much discussion on how players could still prepare for the event, and any other warmups, while spending 14 days in isolation. The current plan still includes fans, but as with many tournaments, including the recent French Open, the number of spectators anticipated changes regularly, and will probably continue to do so. For more on some of the issues Tennis Australia is facing right now in its planning stages, see this Reuters article

Wimbledon released a statement today on its preparation for 2021 and for the first time voiced the possibility of a tournament behind closed doors. From the email I received this afternoon:

We are actively engaged in planning for next year’s Championships and are considering multiple operational scenarios at this point in time, given that there are still many months until the Wimbledon Fortnight.

These scenarios fall into three broad categories: a full capacity Championships, a reduced capacity Championships, and a ‘behind closed doors’ Championships, all of which are dependent on the status of government and public health guidelines. Our overriding priority will continue to be the health and safety of all of our stakeholders, in particular our guests, our staff, and our competitors. We are working closely with the relevant government and public health authorities, alongside the rest of the sports industry, to understand the varying challenges and opportunities presented by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The full statement from Wimbledon is here.

Earlier this week, Tennis Channel announced it had acquired the rights to ATP 1000 Masters events beginning in 2021. Previously, the big ATP tournaments in the United States were broadcast by ESPN, including Indian Wells, Miami and Cincinnati. ESPN will continue to hold the rights to the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open, but Tennis Channel will have the bulk of all tennis shown in the United States, as it already has a WTA deal. I don't really consider this good news for the sport, with ESPN a much more widely carried channel on most cable providers, and the implication that ESPN doesn't view a tournament like Indian Wells as important isn't positive either. The hope is that Tennis Channel can become more widely available and it can function as the Golf Channel does, as the go-to place to watch the sport. But not being on network television or ESPN (except for the three majors) hurts the visibility of the sport and limits the audience of casual fans.