APRIL 22 - MAY 5, 2024

The show goes on with Twitch

It was the 29th of April 2022 at 11:30. A moment that is impossible to forget. Hundreds of fans began to gather around the spectacular set just outside the Caja Mágica’s centre court and started asking questions.

Where can I listen to this? Where can I watch that interview? Is it true that Nadal and Alcaraz will be coming here? They were unable to find out what was happening and (to tell the truth) we were too busy with the live broadcast to answer their questions. So, what was going on?

Those fans were unaware at the time, but they were witnessing something unique, special and historic: the emergence of the first Twitch channel at a tennis tournament.

Of course, its genesis came many years earlier. Allow us to take you back to 2013, when the Mutua Madrid Open consolidated its reputation as a media innovator by becoming the first Masters 1000 to include a radio station that broadcasted the main tournament matches live. It provided a special connection with fans who wanted to follow the event on their digital radios, making Setball Radio a resounding success story that would attract an annual audience of 50,000. There were a handful of incredible journalists there at the beginning; sharing the microphone with Rafa Plaza, Javi Méndez, Álvaro Rama, David Menayo, Ángel García, David Guerra, among others, was a unique experience. 

But time changes everything, and the Mutua Madrid Open, in keeping with its youthful spirit, has always mutated with the passing of the years. Therefore, this media revolution led to the birth of a TWITCH channel that in two weeks managed to capture the imaginations of the ATP, the WTA and, most importantly, the fans.

With 5 or 6 hours of streaming every day, tennis proved a perfect match for this brand new style of narrating an event. Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic made their Twitch debuts, daily pictures were shown from practice, commentary was provided for the best matches, heated debates took place, and there was even time to welcome stars of other sports such as Thibaut Courtois, and television personalities David Broncano and Arturo Valls. Highlights included the exchange between TheGrefg and Carlos Alcaraz following his win in the final and some fun with Ons Jabeur talking Spanish after being crowned champion of Madrid. 

Experiencing that barrage of positive feedback in person led us to reflect and search for the reasons for this success, which evidently had little to do with those who were there at the helm. All the questions led to the same answer: the tone is different, the style has changed. It’s a new language. And so it will be in 2023, when we will again enjoy the best tennis from a different perspective at the hands of the official Mutua Madrid Open Twitch channel.

Through my television work in recent years, I had grown accustomed to interviewing tennis players in a predefined and restrictive format. In a post-match television ‘flash’ interview, the goal is none other than to get the thoughts of these athletes no sooner has their match come to a conclusion. Although it’s true that, occasionally, I have had the chance to invoke an emotional response, normally what you get from the player is a technical analysis of the match, along with some thoughts on, or predictions for, their next encounter. I honestly believe you cannot aspire to much more in such a short space of time and in such limited context.

But Twitch is different. It’s not a question of comparing it to other audiovisual platforms (each has its own unique magic), they are simply all different. Twitch is about being natural and fresh and breaking the mould. Nobody has written any rules that have to be followed (as far as I know), and that enables us all to submerge ourselves in an oasis of freedom that seems to have triumphed with the young public who have perfectly interpreted this new language in order to connect with a sport that is now even more fashionable than ever.

That is what Twitch is all about. And because of that, from 23 April to 7 May, we will be in the Caja Mágica again, having fun, and generating that unique connection between the players, the fans, and anyone who wants to come back and have a good time. And don’t worry, if you’re practically a baby boomer like me, there’s plenty of room for you at the party. It’s a free bar for all! 

By Antonio Arenas