Mainland fans in for a treat

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 September, 2005, 12:00am

Tennis fever is gripping China as the nation sits down to almost a month of saturation TV coverage of major tournaments at home and abroad.

Two weeks of all-night broadcasts from the US Open will be followed immediately by another fortnight of day-long programming for the second annual China Open.

Both tournaments are being covered live by state sports channel CCTV5, allowing fans to tune in to more than 300 hours of tennis.

CCTV5 is broadcasting the US Open for the first time since 1995 after achieving astonishing viewing figures for last year's China Open.

'The China Open in 2004 was watched by a total audience of about 200 million - it was the number one broadcast for those two weeks,' said CCTV5 spokeswoman Qiao Dongguang.

'That is why we have decided to broadcast the US Open for the first time in 10 years. And we fully expect people to continue watching when we start our China Open coverage.'

Mainland tennis fans are excitedly following the progress of superstars such as Spanish teenager Rafael Nadal and Russian sensation Maria Sharapova at New York's Flushing Meadows because they know they will soon be seeing them in action in Beijing.

French Open champion Nadal heads a top-class men's singles line-up for the China Open that also includes three former grand slam winners.

Sharapova will be joined in the women's draw by the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, and world number one Lindsay Davenport.

China Open tournament director Ekkehard Rathgeber acknowledged that the action from New York was helping heighten expectations for the Beijing event.

'It's certainly getting fans here in the mood,' said Rathgeber. 'Last year's inaugural China Open had excellent attendance figures - the men's and women's finals were both 10,000-seat sellouts - and we expect even more people to come and watch this year.'