Tennis' Summer Lifeguard

J. Wayne Richmond’s enduring relationships throughout the sport make the U.S. Open Series work for fans, tournaments and TV partners

Why This Matters

J. Wayne Richmond

General Manager, Olympus U.S. Open Series, USTA

B.S., Business Administration, Belmont U., 1973

Employment Highlights:
Converse, tennis sales rep, 1974-79
Adidas: regional manager, sports promotions, 1979-81;
national dir. of tennis promotions, 1981-86;
national dir. of promotions– all sports, 1986-88
ATP World Tour, EVP/ Americas, 1988-2004
USTA: consulting GM, U.S. Open Series, 2004-08; current title since January 2009

b. Sept. 11, 1951; wife, Susan; children Lynsey, 29; Laura, 25; Kristin, 23

Growing up in Smyrna, Tenn., was a little tough for a
kid who eventually chose tennis as a lifelong career—
the town didn’t have any courts. J. Wayne Richmond’s first love was basketball, and he went to
Belmont University in Nashville expecting
to make the team. When that didn’t
work out, he picked up a racquet and
found his calling. He helped put himself
through school teaching tennis in Nashville
public parks and watched Rod Laver
play on PBS, the only broadcaster that
regularly covered the sport in the 1970s.

Richmond, who now oversees nearly
200 hours of tennis telecasts each summer
on CBS, ESPN2 and the Tennis
Channel as general manager of the
U.S. Tennis Association’s
U.S. Open series,
got his start in the
business as a West
Coast sales rep for
Converse in 1974.
“Converse was all
about basketball
then. I was their
very first tennis
guy, this kid from
Tennessee,” Richmond
recalls. “It was like dropping
Opie Taylor into L.A.”

One of Richmond’s early sales calls for
Converse, at the La Costa club near San
Diego, included a sweet bonus: He got to
see his idol Laver play in person. When
Richmond moved to Adidas a few years
later as tennis promotions director, he
worked with Laver, one of the brand’s top
endorsers; the two became close friends.

Richmond’s talent for building longlasting
relationships and getting pro
tennis’ fiefdoms to work together are
keys to the success of the Open Series,
a six-week, 10-tournament, all-youcan-
watch buffet of televised men’s and
women’s hardcourt events in the U.S.
and Canada leading to the U.S. Open in late August. Keeping the peace among
the sport’s commercial interests—players,
agents, tournament directors, sponsors,
broadcast partners—is a tricky
business, and Richmond’s broad experience
gives him valuable perspective on
all the competing agendas.

When he was hired by the USTA
seven years ago to help create and manage
the U.S. Open Series, pro tennis in
the summer was a haphazard jumble of
independent tournaments on various
TV networks. Richmond’s relationships
throughout the sport—honed in part
from a 16-year stint, beginning in 1988,
with the Association of Tennis Professionals,
where served as executive VP, Americas—
helped the USTA convince the ATP
Tour, the Women’s Tennis Association, local
tournament directors and broadcasters
that a linked, branded series of events
and telecasts leading up to the U.S. Open
would bring consistency and help draw
fans and viewers to each event.

“It’s not an easy thing when television
wants to show the best match at a particular
time, which may not be in line with
the time of day the event wants to sell the
most tickets—it’s a constant push-andpull,”
says Jason Bernstein, who manages
all of ESPN’s tennis coverage as senior director
of programming and acquisitions.
“J. Wayne helps all of the parties maneuver
through lots of challenging situations.
He understands the issues.”

This year’s Series, kicking off July 18-24
in Atlanta, is introducing several enhancements
to keep viewers engaged, including
live “look-in” coverage, switching
between separate men’s and women’s
events taking place during three weeks
of the schedule. ESPN2 and Tennis
Channel also will offer coverage from
three courts at the Cincinnati event
Aug. 15-21, where the men (including
newly crowned Wimbledon champ
Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger
Federer) and women (Maria Sharapova
and Kim Clijsters
among them) will
play during the
same week for the
first time. “I’m sure
I’ll be having some
really interesting
meetings figuring
out how we’re
going to schedule
matches for TV in
Cincinnati,” Richmond

Also on Richmond’s to-do list is lining
up a new title sponsor for the Series;
Olympus is exiting after four years. Ratings
on primary broadcaster ESPN2 have
held steady at 0.3 for several years, with
total reach over the six-week run up from
35 million in 2006 to 41 million last year.

“With ESPN, Tennis Channel and
CBS, we have really changed the landscape
of TV and tennis in the summer
with the Open Series,” Richmond says.
“But we’ve got to keep making tennis on
TV better for viewers and get our ratings
up, because every other sport out there
is trying to do the same thing.”

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