It was a slightly incongruous scene. The Wimbledon Championship Trophies, in the hands of John McEnroe and Chris Evert, the pair bedecked in Hawaiian colours, standing on sand, in Central Park, as the Beach Boys played in the background. The occasion marked the launch of ESPN's inaugural exclusive coverage of The Championships in the United States, as McEnroe and Evert presented the Challenge Cup and Venus Rosewater Dish to the American world on Good Morning America.
It was the first time in the Club's celebrated history that the trophies have left the grounds, in what proved to be a very popular exercise among American fans.
The trophies then travelled to Bristol, ESPN's headquarters, where they appeared with Patrick McEnroe and Mary Joe Fernandez for their 'Countdown to Wimbledon' show (video above). Discussing Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova's chances of lifting the trophies sitting next to them, ESPN are looking forward to giving fans a proper representation of Wimbledon in the US, and doing away with tape-delayed coverage.
"We got bombarded with emails over the last four, five years of, 'Why can't I watch this match live?'" said Mick Desmond, commercial director at the All England Club. "I think that was a frustration for us because in nearly every other territory with our broadcast rights, people are watching live. In this day and age, you've got to provide a live proposition."
Jamie Reynolds, ESPN's vice president for event production, also noticed a shift in fans' expectations around 2007-08.
"There's this unofficial promotional edge that's going, because sports is social currency," Reynolds said. "If you're in the moment, you're in the know. You know exactly where there's a tipping point where somebody has to get involved and engage."
The network's coverage starting next Monday will include simultaneous airings of quarterfinals on ESPN and ESPN2, the return of the "Breakfast at Wimbledon" moniker, and all televised courts shown on ESPN3.com.
"So that when you do happen to have a life outside of the time that you may spend six hours watching a gentlemen's final, you can still access your device if you're at a wedding — which I've been before to watch a Sharapova match or someone else," said Jason Bernstein, ESPN's senior director of programming and acquisitions.
20:08It brings me no pleasure but it's time to bring the curtain down for another year. Seemed somehow appropriate to leave the last word to Roger Federer. Thanks a billion for reading. What a fortnight, what a final, fast forward to 2015 please...
20:03"I already have seven. It's not like I need another one. But it would have been awfully nice to have it. I think that's what the feeling was of the people, and I felt that... I know they love tennis. They love tennis after we're all gone."View all