Former Australian tennis player John Alexander has slammed the Nine Network’s new Australian Open commentary team as tired and not patriotic enough.
On Thursday night, Nine announced American tennis great John McEnroe will “spearhead” the commentary team.
Jim Courier – who helmed Seven’s Open coverage from 2005 – is seemingly shunted into the runner up’s position for what Nine called “expert analysis.”
While both broadcasters have established chops, Mr Alexander questioned Nine’s “fresh face” lineup claim.
“I thought they might have tried a new direction. In using McEnroe and Courier, they’ve picked staples of Channel Seven,” Mr Alexander told The New Daily.
“This raises questions about having two Americans commenting at our national championship in lead roles.
“We have great former Australian players who are good commentators and I would rather great Australian players commenting our national championship.”
Nine has also recycled former Seven tennis commentator Todd Woodbridge, signing him up with tennis players Sam Groth and Dylan Alcott, who last year won his fourth straight wheelchair title.
In addition to the male tennis brawn, the free-to-air network is also appealing to women viewers.
It has added Australian Ninja Warriors host Rebecca Maddern and homegrown tennis heroes including Australian Fed Cup captain Alicia Molik and former tennis star Jelena Dokic.
The announcement of the lineup follows Nine winning a five-year $300 million deal with Tennis Australia in March, before buying the rights to the 2019 Australian Open for an extra $48.5 million in June.
Nine is also hoping to attract women through a wide-content offering, putting the tennis on their women-focused website, 9Honey, launching a special ‘Summer Serve’ section.
Nine head of sport Tom Malone told The New Daily securing Courier was about retaining the “best of what the Australia Open has been”, while McEnroe “added another great layer on top of that”.
When asked how the two big personalities would work together and if Courier would continue his signature post-match interviews, Mr Malone said the finer details of the programming had yet to be finalised.
He told The New Daily more women and “international voices” would also be unveiled following Thursday’s line-up announcement.
“We don’t compare ourselves to Channel Seven. This is about getting the best [commentary] team and going from there,” Mr Malone said.
Mr Malone did not explicitly say Nine was attempting to appeal to more women viewers, but the network is working with the Australian Open to grow its audience in size and demographic, for “different audiences” and “different revenue streams”.