Behind The Scenes

Whatever the hour, ESPN.com has your Australian Open coverage

Coverage of the Australian Open continues tonight on ESPN2 and Watch ESPN.

Since the tourney began a week ago, ESPN has presented comprehensive coverage on multiple platforms. By the time the tourney ends Jan. 29, more than 100 live hours will be telecast on ESPN2. Matches also are available through WatchESPN.com and the WatchESPN app.

ESPN.com tennis editor Matt Wilansky is burning the midnight oil — just an expression, not the old Aussie band — coordinating the Web site’s coverage from Connecticut.

Between power naps, he gives Front Row some insight into the challenges of watching tennis at all hours for two consecutive weeks, new aspects of ESPN’s digital coverage of the event and predictions.

FR: What’s the best part of ESPN.com’s Australian Open coverage for fans?
MW:
We stream the entire tournament on Watch ESPN (ESPN3). The service is fantastic anyway, but when you factor in blanket access from the first ball to the bitter end for two weeks, that’s pretty special for both the tennis junkies and garden-variety fans. The stream showcases multiple courts, so if you aren’t eager to watch, say Serena scorch another opponent, there’s a good chance you can catch another star.

Also, our CourtCast application is the best in the biz. We’ve worked tirelessly with our Pulse colleagues to create a dynamic, multifaceted tool that encompasses everything from real-time scoring to rolling Twitter feeds to live blogging. It’s simply can’t-miss one-stop shopping.

FR: What’s new this year?
MW:
For the first time, we’re getting contribution from [ESPN.com senior writer] Greg Garber from his home. He’s usually tied up covering that silly little sport they call the NFL, but he’s graciously sacrificed sleep to wake up at 3 a.m. and cover matches. We’re also going to get daily espnW content in Week 2, which will diversify our overall Aussie coverage more than we ever have.

FR: What’s it like working an event that has at least 12 hours of multiple matches going on for a week or so, and then more matches for a full two-week commitment?
MW:
It’s a head-spinning, arduous but incredibly captivating experience. Think about it: My job is to watch tennis — all day long for two weeks. And if I’m going to lose sleep, might as well make my awake time count. It’s really tough in the beginning. With 256 players (men and women) combined, there are myriad factors that determine who we’re going to cover and when. Invariably, a five-set thriller or big upset will throw a wrinkle in our plans, which complicates coverage.

But as the event moves on and players are eliminated, our plans become more streamlined. And the end of the two-week grind is typically rife with big-name players who have fierce rivalries. And if not, new faces spawn fresh storylines and excitement.

FR: How many stories or words regarding the Aussie Open do you publish a day?
MW:
The short answer is a lot. With so much going on, it’s our responsibility to feed our loyal fans the best possible content. Right now in Australia, Ravi Ubha is producing at least three stories a day, each with an average of about 1,000 words. So if my math is right — three stories multiplied by 1000 words times 14 days –, that’s a whopping 42,000 words in one fortnight. We also have Garber contributing on a frequent basis as well as espnW. In other words, we have a lot of contributors pounding away at their trusted laptops.

FR: What were the surprises in first week’s results? Who do you see getting to the finals?
MW:
We haven’t had too many major upsets — yet. But that only means we’re in store for some exciting Week 2 showdowns. Of course, as they have for the past few years, the big four, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray appear destined to clash in the semifinals. On the women’s side, Serena Williams is smoking her opponents and world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki is waxing her foes. Maria Sharapova seems to have found her form.

Mardy Fish was the biggest disappointment on the men’s side. This coming after an auspicious 2011 campaign. For the women, U.S. Open champ Slammin’ Sammy Stosur disappointed her faithful Aussie followers. It’s going to be a fascinating second half Down Under.

As for the finals, I picked Djokovic and Serena from the outset, and I’m trusting my prescience. Check out what all the experts had to say here.

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