Tennis Industry magazine

 

Tennis media: Media Players

The US Open is a boon to recreational tennis growth, thanks to extensive press coverage, facilitated by the USTA.

By Cynthia Cantrell

With more than 700,000 fans, the US Open is the highest attended annual sporting event in the world. In fact, the tournament regularly breaks its own attendance, website traffic and television viewership records from year to year.

Yet while the number of newspaper, magazine and online articles disseminated worldwide are incalculable, their origin is the same: the media center within Arthur Ashe Stadium at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, located within Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens, N.Y., just a short trip from Manhattan.

According to USTA President David Haggerty, the organization supports about 1,500 credentialed members of the media from 60 countries in producing around-the-clock coverage throughout the two weeks of the Open.

“The US Open is one of the world’s premiere sporting events, which provides the USTA with an unparalleled platform to promote our most important tennis initiatives in the United States and around the globe,” he says. “Exposure extends beyond the tournament itself, to include broader coverage of all we do to benefit communities across the country.”

For example, youth tennis demonstrations held during the tournament showcase to families and the media how learning the game is now easier than ever using tennis equipment and courts that are sized right for children. A special press event at last year’s Open highlighted the many facilities and events nationwide designed to get kids active and fight childhood obesity, generating stories to help the game grow. In addition, the US Open provides a natural platform to educate fans about ongoing efforts by USTA Player Development to improve American tennis at the highest level.

“From player interviews, to press materials, to information packets to the broadcasters, we can tell all these stories through the US Open,” Haggerty adds.

Cindy Shmerler, a writer and broadcaster who will be covering her 35th consecutive US Open this year, calls America’s Grand Slam the “cornerstone and most visible representation of tennis in the U.S.” The result, she says, is a financial boon for the sport and the New York City area.

“That can’t help but have a trickle-down effect for the recreational game, as people who watch the Open on television are far more likely to want to go out and play at their local club or park,” she says. “Parents see the health benefits, not to mention the potential for keeping their kids occupied and out of trouble, college scholarships and even future pro careers, and they will spend the money for lessons and become their kids’ biggest fans. It doesn’t get much better than that.”

Joel Drucker, who has covered the US Open for a variety of print and broadcast outlets since 1978, agrees that media coverage generates fan interest. “It’s fascinating also to see how recreational players can get inspired to play more by all the great stories that emerge from the US Open,” he says.

Media and fans have the luxury of rarely suspecting the tireless preparation that has taken place long before the first key is struck on a journalist’s laptop. In her role as manager of USTA Corporate Communications, Jeanmarie Daly oversees the state-of-the-art media facilities and working conditions so members of the international press can perform their jobs at the highest level.

“A lot that goes on behind the scenes isn’t enviable,” says Daly, who will work her 12th US Open from Aug. 26-Sept. 9, “but it’s still rewarding.”

By March, Daly is already preparing for the late summer tournament. One of her first tasks is updating the previous media credential application, which was made available this year on April 15. The document assists her in tracking the total number of print, online, radio and broadcast journalists and photographers, along with their respective requirements in terms of discounted hotel reservations, parking, workstations, lockers, meal allowances, tickets and technical requirements.

During the tournament, complimentary Wi-Fi is available in both media work rooms, and each of the 347 workstations also is equipped with a high-speed Ethernet connection and television hookup to a sophisticated surveillance system that monitors the courts and interview rooms. Throughout the Open, virtually from dawn to well into the night, USTA communications staff continually updates the media both via email and by producing and distributing all types of press releases, interview transcripts and informational sheets.

Another challenging aspect is feeding the 700 to 1,100 media who pass through the grounds each day. The media dining room in the media center is open from 8:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., with special emphasis placed on variety and the eclectic tastes of an international clientele. Members of the media can also dine at the US Open food village.

Although Daly’s role is primarily behind-the-scenes, she can occasionally catch a few minutes of a match on Arthur Ashe Stadium while checking on the photographer pit. Aside from the actual tournament, which she calls a “fantastic event to be part of,” her best memories are getting to know tennis legends such as Hall of Fame photographer Russ Adams, whom Billie Jean King has called a “national treasure.”

“My responsibilities have grown through the years, but I still really enjoy what I do and the people I work with,” says Daly, noting her appreciation for the contributions of colleagues including Corporate Communications Managing Director Chris Widmaier and Director Tim Curry.

“I like to think we’ve built a world-class media center here,” she adds. “I take a lot of pride in that.”

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About the Author

Cynthia Cantrell is a contributing editor of RSI magazine.

 

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