Channel 7 Made An Ace Decision Showing Kyrgios Over Barty
Ash Barty is amazing. She's not so much a breath of fresh air as a vast tank of oxygen pumped into the room.
In the 23-year-old world number one tennis player, we see so much of ourselves that we value as Australians. Grace. Humility. Talent employed to its full. No fuss. A straight bat -- or racquet as the case may be.
In Nick Kyrgios, we often see more or less the opposite.
Yet last night, thanks to a perfectly sensible programming decision by channel 7, I watched Kyrgios over Barty without a second thought. Why?
Well for one thing, because Barty has reached such stunning heights of late, you feel like you can afford to let a ho-hum first round encounter against a little known 44th-ranked Chinese player Zheng Saisai go by. Because in all likelihood, Bartly would win quickly and efficiently, and it would be satisfying but hardly thrilling. And so it proved.
Secondly, because a battle between two Aussies -- 43rd-ranked Kyrgios and 44th-ranked Jordan Thompson -- is always good value in any sport.
Thirdly, the Kyrgios match started first, and Seven is only entitled to show one match at a time. It can't put one on the main channel and the other on 7TWO.
So Seven started with Kyrgios/Thompson and stuck with it, knowing that sports fans absolutely hate it when they're watching a match and the broadcaster cuts away. Look at all the criticism of Olympic coverage over the years. TV programmers really are damned if they do, damned if they don't.
Put it this way. Imagine if 'Star Wars' was on telly and they Cut to 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' halfway through. Viewers would be roaring like angry Chewbacca.
But fourthly and most importantly, the Kyrgios match deserved to stay on telly because it was unbelievably entertaining. It was interesting to see critiques from senior ABC journalists, who appeared to lose sight of the commercial TV imperative to attract the most eyeballs possible.
Kyrgios MADE us watch. The kettle boiled, the microwave beeped, the dog scratched to be let in, and still you sat glued to the telly.
As far as we know, neither of the players juggled flaming chainsaws during the ad breaks, but it wouldn't have surprised if they did, because pretty much everything else in the world happened on the tennis court last night, including all the bombastic behaviour we've come to expect from Nick.
Player antics aside, so much happened in the actual match. There were trick shots and cricket shots. There were drastic tempo changes. Kyrgios lost the fourth set 0-6 in just 18 minutes -- less time than it took him to win a gripping third set tie-break. Then he bounced back and won the fifth 6-1, and with it, the match.
The whole show was three hours and 26 minutes of couldn't-look-away action. And just as we, the viewers, delayed bedtime, Channel Seven delayed showing Barty. And then Barty's match ended before the blokes' match did, which was a shame.
But this was not a disrespectful call by Seven, much less a sexist decision as some have construed it.
The whole of tennis world really was enraptured by this match, and nowhere more than here in Australia.
Indeed, an average of 451,000 people nationally tuned in, which was more than watched last year's Wimbledon men's final between Novak Djokovic and Kevin Anderson, according to OzTam figures.
We'll see plenty of Barty at Wimbledon this year. Kyrgios? He's a match-to-match proposition, especially with a second-round encounter against Rafael Nadal looming.
It was no double fault on Channel 7's part to let Australians enjoy him while he's still in the tournament.