Lleyton and the tennis are rating well, but The Australian’s Patrick Smith hasn’t been won over by the Aussie star.

It’s not just Australian tennis that’s in thrall to our Lleyton, as Patrick Smith’s column in today’s Australian sports section pointed out:

Australian tennis the poorer for Little Lleyton’s power play

The Seven Network has found its fortunes and expectations for this week’s final week of the Open, firmly hitched to Hewitt’s performance.

Failure this afternoon for Hewitt will mean a collapse in the ratings which have been building as he, and to be fair, Alicia Molik, have progressed through the early round.

Now she’s up against Venus Williams and Hewitt plays Spaniard Rafael Nadal. For him and Seven, it could be all over by this evening’s session, or they live to go again on Wednesday.

Hewitt and the tennis (including Molik, of course) saw Seven beat Nine last week for the first time since the Olympics, and for the first time in a non-Olympic week for yonks.

The tennis built nicely for Seven last week so that by midweek it was winning the night, thanks mostly the million viewers or so delivered watching the evening broadcast of the tennis from 7.30pm through 10.30pm.

Good efforts by Seven News (of course helped by the day session of the tennis) and Today Tonight, and the return of Home and Away meant that Seven’s audiences nationally rarely dipped below the million viewer mark from around five pm or so onwards from Wednesday onwards.

On Saturday the night session of the tennis was the most watched program with an average audience of 1.349 million, which in turn helped power Seven News past Nine News into second place nationally.

The day audience for the tennis of 578,000 more than doubled in the evening, a good sign for Seven but also a big indicator of his drawing power, and the Network’s need for him to continue winning.

Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights also saw wins for Seven, with the Thursday and Saturday performances due to Hewitt and or Molik.

Seven won the week with a share of 29.4% from Nine with 26.2%, Ten on 21.7%, the ABC on 17.3% and SBS on 5.4%.

Saturday evening saw Hewitt win and Seven with a 33.6% share, but that was not as good as Thursday evening when Hewitt played and Seven won with a 36.7% share.

The tennis drove Seven to wins in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide, but funnily enough, not Perth, where the three hour time difference affected its performance, leading to Nine’s win in the west.

The wins to Seven on Wednesday and Friday also means that tennis, without Hewitt, is proving a bit more attractive this year to viewers than last.

Sunday saw the ratings confused by the late start to the cricket, so the numbers are not strictly comparable (Nine News went to air at 6.30pm).

Seven News at 6pm was easily the most watched program with 1.726 million viewers. It won easily in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.

The tennis day session and the cricket were matched from around 3.25pm to about 6pm and the cricket from the SCGH between Australia and Pakistan just pipped the tennis, which featured mainly Andre Agassi playing. The cricket averaged just over 836,000 people and the tennis on Seven nearly 832,000.

Law and Order on Ten beat the cricket, mainly because the cricket seemed to be meandering towards an inconclusive end with rain holding up play at 8.30pm, no doubt sending people off in their hundreds of thousands to Ten. There was no tennis on Seven last night.

The repeat of Law and Order Criminal Intent averaged 1.356 million people, the cricket evening session, 1.356million (but that might be a little mixed up with the news audience from 6.30pm).

Nine News had 1.094 million people, but that was people watching the cricket at 6pm when Australia had started their innings.

With only the day tennis Seven finished second to Nine, thanks to the big audience for the ODI between Australia and Pakistan, boosted by some good batting from Michael Clarke who scored his second ODI century. Nine finished with a share of 29.2% to Seven on 25.4%, Ten with 24.6%, the ABC with 16.1% and SBS with 4.7%.

Ten won Sydney from Nine and Seven, Nine won Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide and Seven won Perth, without any night tennis.

Peter Corris vs Patrick Smith

Subscriber email –24 January

If Lleyton Hewitt read the letters pages, he’d be surprised at the kerfuffle he’s helped stir up in The Australian. It started on Saturday, when an Adelaide reader, Wayne Groom, wrote this sarcastic letter “in praise” of sports columnist Patrick Smith.

“My thanks to The Australian for its ongoing support for Patrick Smith’s excellent articles about the Australian Open and in particular his astute observations about Lleyton Hewitt…”

“I don’t accept that Smith has a chip on his shoulder and is no longer capable of providing analysis of the Open worthy of the high
journalistic standards of The Australian,” etc etc.

Smith has been hammering Hewitt – again – over his behaviour at the Open and his attempts to thrown his weight around in tennis politics:

Groom’s sledge was followed in today’s Australianletters page by a gem from the writer Peter Corris. The detective novelist wrote:

“I seldom read Smith without wincing at his lack of charity and his bungled attempts at wit. Some time ago, he affected a hard-boiled style – something I feel equipped to judge. It was embarrassing.

Peter Corris,
Bellambi, NSW”

That’s gotta hurt. It doesn’t take Cliff Hardy to work out that Smith likes beating up on sportsmen from the privilege of the press box. We’ll soon see if he’s capable of taking on someone outside his own weight division.

Smith’s latest rant, another predictable tirade on “little Lleyton”, appears today.