Originally Published: July 16, 2008 9:18 p.m.
If you are lucky enough to have DirecTV and are a tennis enthusiast, channel 217 just may be where you surf while you're sitting in your easy-boy chair or lying in bed with clicker in hand.
Yes, that's the Tennis Channel.
Steve Bellamy is the person who launched the Tennis Channel in 2003, and at that time it was only cast in a few cities around the county.
Five years later and now with a wide variety of group investors - IMG, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and others - the TC has expanded to DirecTV, Dish Network, and continues on many cable systems. It's become a fixture in millions of households and a staple of life for tennis players who need a daily fix for their habit.
It's been a fixture in my household for about 6 months. And during that time I've seen the programming grow into much of what I consider to be a great way to relax and stay entertained and informed with a current and wide variety of live tournaments, news, one-on-one interviews, game analysis and skills instruction.
Their tournament coverage includes Davis, Fed and Hopman Cups, all four majors (Australian, French, Wimbledon and US Open), World Team Tennis and many additional tournaments throughout the world. And that's just for starters.
Add in all the extras they put together, knowing you can turn it on 24/7. And for a tennis professional it can almost become an overload of information...but I'm not complaining.
Former tennis pro Murphy Jensen hosts a show called "Murphy's Guide" where he takes you through a variety of cities like New York, London, Melbourne and Paris - normally with pros on the tour - and shows you some of the things you might enjoy doing.
Another show is "Destination Tennis" with Mieke Buchan. She also takes you all over the world, similar to Murphy, but with the female slant; resorts, tennis clinics, camps, restaurants, trails, hikes, bikes, boats, surfing, massages... enjoying the good life around the tennis.
If you like biographies, the "Signature Series" might be your cup of tea. Find out many behind the scenes details of Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Rene LaCoste and Chris Evert to name a few of the famous tennis players they portray.
Specials about Wimbledon, Roland Garros, Lleyton Hewitt, the Best 10 Temper Tantrums and great match reruns are also shows you can tune in to to whet your tennis appetite.
From one-minute tips of instruction by the top players, to more lengthy bits by the USTA, USPTA, Nick Bollettieri, Vic Braden, Dennis Van Der Meer and the best player-coaches in the world, your game and your practice sessions can be diced up with the information they show to help make you the best player you can be for the time you can devote.
Watch for health, nutrition and fitness information with "Change/Over."
"Open Access" and "No Strings" takes viewers on a worldwide tour for an up-close look at their favorite players when they're not competing.
"Center Court with Chris Myers" is an in depth interview with current and past top professionals as well as tennis shakers and movers. It gives the arm-chair players (us) a personal feel for the players you know little about. Good for the game and good for better player recognition, something that will enhance our sport.
Stay up with the current affairs of what the ATP and WTA are up to - the weekly scoop on the exciting story of professional tennis as it unfolds while leading up to each major.
Gotta run for now. Don't want to miss any valuable information I might catch while stringing racquets and watching the TC that I can use while on the courts with you all tomorrow.
(Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 30 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 445-1331 or firstname.lastname@example.org)