TV REVIEW: Move over BBC, tennis has a new hero and maybe a new home too – after slick Amazon Prime Video and Channel 4 shared transmission of Emma Raducanu’s stunning US Open triumph on Saturday night
When we watch sport does it really matter who is broadcasting commentating, analysing or presenting?
The unscripted drama of live sport is what global audiences of millions tune in to watch. Some have even been known to stand in the rain outside television shop windows to grab a glimpse of live action.
Still, it was a bit of a novelty that one of the biggest tennis events in living memory was not on Wimbledon’s BBC home but the relatively obscure Amazon Prime Video, in a uniquely shared transmission with Channel 4.
Emma Raducanu won the US Open in the most unbelievable of unlikely triumphs on Saturday
The match was broadcasted on Amazon Prime Video and uniquely shared with Channel 4
But it worked – apart from the lack of sound for the first minute or so on C4 – boy did it work.
The US Open TV directors are usually obsessed with star spotting close-ups, but in the absence of too many/any A listers two teenage players rightly took centre stage. And what a drama it was.
The tennis production unit of the Amazon Prime Video team is based in Stockley Park.
It was a wonder they did not draft in Mike Dean from his VAR match duties on the Arsenal v Norwich match to give his view on the decision of always excellent umpire Marijana Veljovic to allow Radacanu a medical time out as she served for the match.
The slick set and the power of green screen technology make it hard to believe that presenter Catherine Whitaker and her team were anywhere but New York.
Presenter Catherine Whitaker (R) alongside Greg Rusedski (L) and Anne Keothavong (centre)
So sorry to let daylight in on magic there, but that did not prevent experienced and knowledgeable tennis broadcaster Whitaker sound any less enthusiastic about the night in prospect than if she was playing in the final herself.
In fairness to Whitaker, she has been guiding us night owls through Radacanu’s route to the final since the qualifying rounds and is deeply invested in the sport well beyond the nationalistic fervour it was almost impossible to avoid in the build-up to one of the greatest sporting fairytales ever.
The WhatsApp pings were as relentless as the pre-match superlatives, but as one learned friend commented ‘this makes Leicester winning the Premier League seem normal.’ Sorry, Gary Lineker.
Alongside her in the studio sat the excellent Anne ‘Annie’ Keathavong, the former British No,1 and long-time follower of and advisor to Radacanu.
Fellow ever-present pundit grinning Greg Rusedski is a consummate television performer these days and he was able to tell us what it was like to be a British US Open finalist, who also happened to be born in Canada. He is just as likeable and enthusiastic, but no, he still has not lost the accent.
Mark Petchey (L) and Martina Navratilova (R) commentated on the match live from New York
Over in New York us Amazon and C4 viewers (it was literally the same frame for frame on both channels), things went up a level as Martina Navratilova sat in the commentary box alongside the ever-improving British player turned commentator Mark Petchey.
Martina admitted even before the match: ‘I don’t want to be crazy but I have never seen anything like this before.’
Tiger Tim Henman was so cool courtside and has had the added quality of being Radacanu’s lucky charm throughout the tournament. Radacanu’s coach Andrew Richardson, we learned, was also Henman’s best man, so he had some inside info.
Petchey went to Henman for a post first set summary and we were told to settle in for a three-setter. What does he know!
Petch noted ‘we have a proper match on our hands.’
Tim Henman was courtside throughout the match and interviewed Raducanu afterwards
Raducanu poses with the trophy alongside beaten finalist Leylah Fernandez on Arthur Ashe
But he had less time for those in the crowd of the world’s biggest tennis stadium.
He wryly remarked: ‘this is the final that has captivated everybody’ as the camera pulled back from a lingering close up on a group of well-dressed women who resembled, or may well have been, the Real Housewives on New York City, all preoccupied by their mobile phones, alongside their glasses of champagne.
They were ahead of the game, though, as the corks were probably popping throughout the tennis loving land and no doubt the teams back in London at Amazon and C4 headquarters.
Move over BBC, tennis has a new hero and maybe a new home too.