In a move that came out of the blue, ESPN has announced that it has moved the Thursday’s Australian Open men’s semfinals as well as both singles finals from ESPN2 to the Mothership. In the olden days of ESPN, before there was an ESPN2, the Australian Open finals were always on the main channel. Now with ESPN showing the Wimbledon finals as of last year, it seems a natural fit for the Mothership to air the year’s first Grand Slam Final.
The Women’s Semifinals will be aired tonight on ESPN2 as scheduled. The men’s semifinals will air on ESPN on Thursday and Friday at 3:30 a.m. ET.
Then the finals will be seen Saturday and Sunday morning at 3:30 ET.
We have the release from ESPN.
Top Four Men’s Seeds in Semis
Surprising Sloane Stephens to face Defending Champ Azarenka, Sharapova-Li for Slots in Championship
The men’s semifinals and both the women’s and men’s championship matches of the Australian Open will now be aired live on ESPN. The encore presentations of those matches will remain on ESPN2.
For the second straight year, the men’s semifinals feature the top four seeds. In the first semifinal, top-seeded Novak Djokovic, seeking his third consecutive title Down Under, will face No. 4 David Ferrer on ESPN late tonight (Wednesday) at 3:30 a.m. ET (half past midnight PT). In the other semi, No. 2 Roger Federer plays No. 3 Andy Murray 24 hours later, late Thursday night at 3:30 a.m. Federer – who counts four victories in Melbourne among his all-time best 17 Grand Slam titles – will be aiming for his 25th career major final. Murray, who broke through with his first major title last year at the US Open, is seeking to win back-to-back Grand Slam events.
Tonight on ESPN2, No. 2 Maria Sharapova plays No. 6 Li Na in a semifinal at 9:30 p.m. The other women’s semifinal will follow, pairing the defending champion and No. 1 seed Victoria Azarenka against the 19-year old American who ousted Serena Williams Tuesday night in the Quarterfinals – Sloane Stephens. The Florida native is the No. 29 seed and has never advanced this far in a major event. Should the top two seeds Azarenka and Sharapova advance to the championship, it would be a rematch of last year where Azarenks took home her first Grand Slam trophy.
The two weeks of live late-night, marathon telecasts will climax with the women’s championship Saturday, Jan 26, and the men’s championship Sunday, Jan. 27, both at 3 a.m. Each will reair at 9 a.m. and in prime time. The telecasts are available through WatchESPN online at WatchESPN.com and on smartphones and tablets via the WatchESPN app.
ESPN’s 29th consecutive Australian Open represents the company’s longest uninterrupted professional sports programming relationship.
Late Night Thrills
Since the Australian Open finals became a prime-time event in Melbourne (men in 2005, women in 2009), the live telecasts at 3:30 a.m. ET have provided ESPN2’s biggest five audiences at that time of day in the last 10 years (since January 2003, measured by average number of households tuned to ESPN2 during the program). Last year’s men’s final is tennis’ longest Grand Slam final ever, with Djokovic outlasting Rafael Nadal 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 7-5 in five hours, 53 minutes.
Date Event Players Rating Homes – avg. Jan 31, 2009 Men’s Final Nadal-Federer 0.9 860,000 Jan 30, 2010 Men’s Final Federer-Murray 0.7 671,000 Jan 28, 2012 Men’s Final Djokovic-Nadal 0.7 662,000 Jan 26, 2008 Men’s Final Djokovic-Tsonga 0.6 582,000 Jan 29, 2010 Women’s Final S.Williams-Henin 0.6 589,000 Sept 29, 2012 College Football Final – 0.6 568,000
2012 Australian Open on Television
This week’s television schedule (For these charts, all times are Eastern, and each day “begins” at 6 a.m. ET. Therefore, the listing Sat., Jan. 26 at 3 a.m. ET is actually very late on Saturday night.):
Date Time (ET) Event Network Wednesday, January 23 9:30 p.m. – 2 a.m. Women’s Semifinals
ESPN2 LIVE Thursday, January 24 3:30 – 6 a.m. Men’s Semifinal #1
ESPN LIVE Noon – 4 p.m. Men’s Semifinal #1 ESPN2 encore Friday, January 25 3:30 – 6 a.m. Men’s Semifinal #2
ESPN LIVE Noon – 4 p.m. Men’s Semifinal #2 ESPN2 encore 3 – 5:30 a.m. Women’s Championship ESPN LIVE Saturday, January 26 9 – 11 a.m. Women’s Championship ESPN2 encore 10 p.m. – MID Women’s Championship ESPN2 encore Sunday, January 27 3 – 6:30 a.m. Men’s Championship ESPN LIVE 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Men’s Championship ESPN2 encore 7:30 p.m. – 12:30 a.m. Men’s Championship ESPN2 encore
There you have it.