The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, August 4, 2020

Guess who's back? Back again... — Interview: Photographer Ryan Loco — Must-click women's tennis links

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..WTA’s back, tell a friend

Official WTA tournament action has commenced in Palermo, Italy for the Palermo Ladies Open – however, not without some drama.

The good news? Over 400 COVID-19 tests from the tournament tested negative. The bad? There was a positive result for an asymptomatic player in qualifying, who was immediately withdrawn. Mike Dickson, who is on site, was quick to note that Viktoriya Tomova, who received an exemption to play as her native Bulgaria is on an Italian travel ban, was withdrawn due to “illness.”

The tournament has continued and will be a good first test of how daily operations of a WTA event can be done, which is positive news for the US Open. Though COVID-19 has no plans of slowing down, I am optimistic that the more tournaments that can complete without issue, the easier it will get down the road.

Speaking of New York, Open Court tracked down a confidential document pertaining to the rules players need to adhere to for the US Open. Like I had mentioned in numerous Tennis Tuesdays, it’s imperative the tournament and USTA hold the players accountable in order for this event to work.

The Long Island Marriott will be used as a “bubble” to keep players only in the hotel and tournament site, which both will be guarded by security. They will have to receive permission ahead of time by Tournament Director Stacey Allaster and the Chief Medical Officer if they want to leave the bubble. If they don’t and still leave, they’ll be given the same fate as Danielle Collins last week in World Team Tennis.

There’s only three weeks until all eyes focus on the Big Apple and honestly, who know’s what to expect? Simona Halep, who has been rumored to skip the New York bubble and is entered in next week’s Prague event, was a surprise last-minute addition to the US Open entry list:

Defending champion Bianca Andreescu, who hasn’t played since retiring in the WTA Finals in October, is also set to appear.

With that said, keep an eye out on The IX. A little birdie told me an interview with Stacey Allaster will be dropping before the US Open commences.

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This Week in Women’s Tennis

The biggest news of the week came from Australia, where World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty announced she will not be participating in the Western & Southern Open and the US Open due to COVID-19 travel concerns. She’s yet to make an announcement for Roland Garros, where she is to defend her first Grand Slam.

The Mutua Madrid Open, set to take place directly after the US Open, has announced its cancellation. As of right now, there are no tournaments scheduled for the week of September 14th.

The New York Empire won the 2020 World Team Tennis season, taking out first-year franchise Chicago Smash in a sudden death point. Coco Vandeweghe and Nicole Melichar, a last-second trade before the WTT deadline closed, sealed the win thanks to a Vandeweghe return that was crushed just inside the line.

The Western & Southern Open announced their wildcards for the week before the US Open, handing Kim Clijsters, Venus Williams and Caty McNally berths. Though they could have entered the tournament the day prior, Naomi Osaka and Sloane Stephens will also be playing the tournament as wild cards. Five former champions, including 2019 champion Madison Keys, were spotted on the opening entry list.

WTA Insider shared two features with Maria Sakkari and top seed Petra Martic as they prepared for Palermo.

Tatiana Golovin, a promising rising star who peaked in the Top 15 in 2007 before a back injury prematurely ended her career, opened up about her career. her late 2019 comeback and continuing it post COVID-19.

Anett Kontaveit and Kaia Kanepi lead Estonia to a 6-5 win over Latvia in the Merko Cup, a Baltic team exhibition event.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova was the first ever women’s champion for the Ultimate Tennis Showdown series, taking out Alize Cornet in a sudden-death finish:

Former collegiate No. 1 Julia Elbaba sat down with the podcast to discuss her career at University of Virginia, her podcast, injuries and COVID-19 halting her comeback from injury.

Though Gabriela Sabatini isn’t in her native Argentina throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, she’s using her platform to help out millions of Argentina’s most vulnerable residents. profiled many WTA stars for their 21 & Under Club including Sofia Kenin, Elena Rybakina, Coco Gauff, Caty McNally and Leylah Fernandez.

The latest episode of Tennis United featured Naomi Osaka and Ons Jabeur, who both are their country’s biggest and most notable sportswomen.

Tweet of the Week

Kristie Ahn is back at it again with the stellar TikTok…..

Five at the IX: Ryan Loco

Ryan Loco is a freelance photographer who recently completed his stint at The Greenbrier Resort, shooting for the World Team Tennis season. He shares an insight to his career as a photographer, debuting with tennis and more. He can be found on Instagram, Twitter and his website.

Joey: Talk a bit about your journey as a photographer and describe what a normal day entails – both on and off the road?

Ryan: I started off wanting to make short documentary videos, I never had any plans to be a photographer. I was on a gig in south Florida with an MMA team  and I took some photos in between filming. Those photos ended up being on a website. Another work trip with an MMA fighter, I took some photos. Those ended up being in a magazine. While the photos were terrible, I realized that having this access and a camera meant I could take photos and add to the services I offered. As I went along, it started being 75/25 video. Then 50/50 video. Then eventually it turned into me doing photos full time. 

As for a normal day, it’s not very exciting. Wake up, kiss the wife as she heads to work, and then I sit on the couch with the dog. Before Covid, a lot of my work was out of town, so that meant if I wasn’t on a plane, I was sitting at home doing nothing. I’m usually so drained from work that my time at home is a luxury. 

On the road, it was flights and hotel check-ins, trying to find a healthy meal, and then preparing for the next day which was usually shoot day. For fight weeks, it would be a studio day, photographing all the athletes for TV, and then the next day was weigh-ins and the next day would be the fight. For tennis, it was similar in the sense that we would have studio day for TV images, and then shooting practice sessions or matches.

Joey: Can you talk about some of the positives and negatives of working as a freelancer? What are some of the misconceptions related to your job?
Ryan: On one hand, it’s nice to be able to set my own schedule, but at the same time, I’m at the mercy of my clients. I can’t tell someone “Hey I know you want to start shooting at 8am but I really want to sleep in tomorrow.” Also there is usually a lot of waiting, either for that email or that phone call requesting a shoot. Oftentimes, it’s a bunch of work requests for a while, followed by a long period of nothing. When I was first starting out, I would take every job, regardless of the pay, simply because I wasn’t sure when my next gig was coming. Now that I’ve been doing this awhile (and I’m old), I’ve gotten way better at turning things down. I realize my time and my mental well being is more important than jumping on a gig simply because I haven’t had a job in awhile. 

Joey: Prior to World Team Tennis, did you have any experience with tennis? How did the WTT job come up?
Ryan: I had no experience in tennis. I enjoyed watching it when I was younger. Michael Chang was my favorite player. When Carlos Silva became affiliated with WTT was when I got the call. I had worked with Carlos at PFL, an MMA league. Shawn Schrager, VP of digital at PFL and now WTT, was always a fan of my MMA work and he and Carlos got together and thought I could be a benefit to WTT. They basically told me to photograph tennis however I liked. When someone gives me the complete freedom to work how I like, it’s so amazing. The fact they trust me like that is incredible. 

Joey: What were some of your personal highlights covering all of the WTT season? Did you learn anything new about photography as a result?
Ryan: This was a very challenging season. 66 matches in 23 days plus multiple studio days. Dealing with heat, rain, moving venues due to weather, living in a hotel. It was a unique experience. But definitely something I’ll be talking about for the rest of my life. I think my personal highlight was photographing Venus Williams v Sloane Stephens. Was incredible to be on the court as these two champions battled it out. Due to restrictions it was a very limited crowd, but they sounded like the stadium was full. I couldn’t even imagine if it were under normal circumstances and it was sold out. 

As for learning, I always try to learn. Every day is a learning experience. I’ll be the first to tell you I don’t know everything and I don’t want to know everything. Learning is so much fun. Nothing better than finding out some new technique and then being excited to try it out the next day. 

Joey: What’s next for you?
Ryan: Currently have a couple shoots lined up. Otherwise, it’s just sitting on the couch with my wife and my dog, appreciating not being in a hotel room. 

What was the best piece of advice you’ve been given and who gave it? If you could go back in time, what would you tell 18-year-old Ryan?

Ryan: Best piece of advice I got was an old man telling me to just take a compliment. I used to fight back and almost argue with people when I would get any sort of compliment about anything. Now I just say thank you. As silly as it may sound, it makes everyone feel better.

The advice I would tell younger me is to introduce yourself to everyone, be kind, and listen. It’s amazing how many jobs I have gotten simply due to relationships.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By Carly Grenfell, @Carlygren
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, @ELindsay08 NWHL Broadcaster

Written by Howard Megdal

Howard is the founder of The Next and editor-in-chief.