- US Open 2001 - Tennis outdraws football for a night
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Thursday, July 17
Tennis outdraws football for a night

NEW YORK -- Venus and Serena Williams helped make tennis more popular than football, for one night at least.

Nearly 23 million viewers watched at least part of Venus' 6-2, 6-4 victory over her younger sister Saturday night in the first prime-time women's U.S Open final.

The preliminary national rating for CBS Sports' telecast was 6.8 with a 13 share.

That means an average of 6.8 percent of all of the country's television homes were tuned in to the tennis at any given time, and 13 percent of in-use televisions were tuned to CBS.

It was the largest TV audience of any program Saturday night, including ABC Sports' coverage of No. 5 Nebraska's 27-10 victory over No. 17 Notre Dame. The college football game's ratings might have suffered because Nebraska opened a 17-point lead early.

Venus and Serena didn't play exceptionally, and their match was rather lopsided, too.

Still, the television audience for the first Grand Slam championship match between sisters in 117 years increased each half-hour during the broadcast, peaking with a 7.7 from 9:30-10 p.m.

The high numbers might prompt the U.S. Tennis Tennis Association, which runs the tournament, and CBS to keep the women's final at night. It previously was played on Saturday afternoon, sandwiched between the men's semifinals.

"It was a one-year experiment. We agreed to try it for a year, and we will talk to the USTA about it in the next few months," CBS Sports president Sean McManus said Sunday.

"Judging from the viewer interest, it was a phenomenal event. It really transcended sports and became a news item. People who wouldn't normally watch a women's tennis event tuned in to see what all the buzz was about."

A potential sticking point for next year is that CBS owns the television rights to the college football game between national powers Miami and Florida scheduled for Sept. 7, 2002, the same Saturday as the U.S. Open women's final next year.

"It would take some working out," McManus said.

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