© Siggi Bucher
LOS ANGELES, Calif. - For the first time in television history, this spring Tennis Channel will rank the best 100 players ever to pick up a tennis racquet. 100 Greatest of all Time Presented by Ally Bank, a five-night, weeklong special series, will cross generation and gender as it counts down the game's most elite on-court competitors. Airing in prime time at 7 p.m. ET each night, the first edition gets underway Monday, March 19, with the all-time No. 1, the greatest tennis player in history, unveiled at the conclusion of the final episode Friday, March 23.
From Bill Tilden and Suzanne Lenglen, to Billie Jean King and Rod Laver, to Serena Williams and Roger Federer: 100 Greatest of all Time will encompass tennis' best performers throughout the ages, ranking both men and women on the same top 100 list. The series will include archival footage, interviews and still images from bygone eras as it determines the game's most remarkable competitors. As the series winds its way toward revealing the No. 1 player, it will factor changes that have occurred in the game throughout the years, among them the advent of an Open Era that allows professional superstars to compete in major tournaments and exponential improvements in fitness and equipment along the way.
The project introduces a significant franchise for Tennis Channel, one that will live far beyond its initial week on the air this spring. Network executives expect the special series' all-time list to take its place beside widely discussed, highly debated top-100 lists dedicated to film, music, books, actors, athletes, television programs, vacation destinations and other rankings collections.
"This is a televised answer to the old sports saying that great athletes don't just compete with their contemporaries - they compete with everyone who ever played the game, said Laura Hockridge, vice president, original programming. "No one has devoted this much air time to exploring and ranking the top 100 tennis players in history and, while we don't think viewers will be surprised with the names at the top of our list, we expect this series to add to the ongoing fan debate, rather than settle it."
Tennis Channel's 100 Greatest of all Time rankings were decided by an international committee of players, journalists, coaches, historians and industry representatives. Participants hailed from six continents and included the International Tennis Hall of Fame. During the 2011 voting and selection process, the series' producers spent several months taping interviews and collecting footage before editing the individual episodes this winter. In all, the entire project has taken about a year to prepare.
Each new edition of 100 Greatest of all Time will debut at 7 p.m. ET throughout the week of March 19-23, with all previous episodes replayed immediately prior. This means that on Tuesday, March 20, the previous night's opening edition will air at 6 p.m. ET, followed by the second installment at the standard, 7 p.m. ET debut time. By Friday, March 23, the week's entire run will begin at 3 p.m. ET, with the Monday-through-Thursday episodes preceding the final night's premiere.
Throughout the spring, Tennis Channel is supporting the 100 Greatest of all Time project with online activity on its Web site (www.tennischannel.com/goat), Facebook page (www.facebook.com/tennischannel), YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/tennischannel) and Twitter feed (@TennisChannel - www.twitter.com/tennishcannel - with the hashtag #TC100).