Tennis Channel asks ‘What if?’

August 11, 2011

LOS ANGELES — Tennis Channel, the only 24-hour, television-based multimedia destination dedicated to both the professional sport and tennis lifestyle, will explore five alternative tennis histories in the upcoming edition of countdown series Best of 5. Among the scenarios the fourth season’s latest episode, What Ifs, will consider: What If young No. 1 Monica Seles had never been attacked by a deranged fan at the height of her dominance? The show will premiere Sunday, Aug. 14 at 7 p.m. ET, and appear on the network throughout the month.

Other questions posed in Tennis Channel’s Best of 5: What Ifs include prolific Grand Slam singles champion Pete Sampras’ place in history had he not dug deep to rally in the 2000 Wimbledon final. There are also three cross-generational all-star competitions between some of the greatest players the sport has ever seen, with insight and commentary from the likes of Martina Navratilova, Rafael Nadal, Bud Collins, and Stan Smith.

“Sports conversations are fueled on the great ‘what if’ moments in competition when, had something gone slightly the other way or someone come along a few years earlier, history would’ve been completely different,” said Laura Hockridge, vice president, original programming, Tennis Channel. “Best of 5 explores some of the more intriguing of these, along with unending debates over who would win if champions from different eras had played at the same time.”

Tennis Channel’s Best of 5: What Ifs are as follows:

5) What If Serena Williams and Martina Navratilova competed in the same era? These two players are different in every way except for the fact that they were the most dominant players of their respective times. Williams is a right-hander who overpowers her opponents with her thundering groundstrokes, while Navratilova was a lefty who spent as much time at the net as possible with an aggressive serve and volley game. Both are superior talents, so which one wins?

4) What If Patrick Rafter beat Pete Sampras in the 2000 Wimbledon final? Sampras was tied for the record of most Grand Slam singles titles (12) and injured with a shin inflammation when he took centre court for the 2000 Wimbledon final against Rafter. Sampras felt that if he did not get the record then he may never get it, and had to rally after dropping the first set. Would a loss have pushed the aging Sampras to retire without having clinched a place alone atop the list of all-time Grand Slam singles champions?

3) What If Monica Seles was not attacked by a fan at the height of her career? The youngest-ever French Open champion in 1990 at the age of 16, Seles dominated the women’s tour for three years. She rapidly collected an amazing eight Grand Slam singles titles before a deranged fan stabbed her from behind during a changeover — forcing her from the sport for two years of recovery time. Considering Seles’ 92-percent winning percentage prior to the attack, how might her career have played out if this event had never happened?

2) What If Roger Federer and Pete Sampras played at the same time? What if arguably the two greatest tennis players in the history of the sport had both started their careers at the same time? Federer is an all-around player who can make any shot from anywhere on the court at anytime, while the legendary ability of Sampras to beat his rivals always provided him with a slight on-court edge. What would a rivalry between two of the game’s most complete players in the prime of their careers have looked like?

1) What If Bjorn Borg and Rafael Nadal faced each other on clay? Two of the fastest players ever on clay, Borg and Nadal are both acknowledged as tennis’ all-time masters of the sport’s slower surface. Each covers clay courts so well that it is nearly impossible to hit a winner against him, answering shot after shot with breathtaking reach. Considering their unquestioned precision and the way they blanketed their respective halves of the court, would a clay-court battle between these two be one of the longest matches in tennis history?

Tennis Channel ( is the only 24-hour, television-based multimedia destination dedicated to both the professional sport and tennis lifestyle. A hybrid of comprehensive sports, health, fitness, pop culture, entertainment, lifestyle and travel programming, the network is home to every aspect of the wide-ranging, worldwide tennis community. It also has the most concentrated single-sport coverage in television, with telecast rights to the US Open, Wimbledon, Roland Garros (French Open), Australian Open, Olympus US Open Series, ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events, top-tier WTA competitions, Davis Cup and Fed Cup by BNP Paribas, and Hyundai Hopman Cup. Tennis Channel is carried by nine of the top 10 MSOs, Verizon FiOS TV, AT&T U-verse, DIRECTV and DISH Network.