Speed and Quality: Covering the Australian Open Tennis
By Neil Bennett, AAP Head of Photography
Covering one of Australia’s biggest sporting events is an arduous task. It is hard work to make it look “so easy” when countless images of players, ball kids and crowds flood the pages and screens of the country’s top publications.
But in order to make it happen, planning is critical.
The AAP Photography team led by Sports Photo Editor Viki Lascaris started working on the Australian Open coverage in November last year.
Staff rosters, accreditation and IT support all have to be planned. Viki joined AAP in September 2019 and one of her previous roles was as the Photography Manager for the Australian Open, so she is forensically across the detail and demands of the event.
But she wasn’t alone. These things would not work without a coordinated team: the creative skills of our photographers rely on planning and tech - without which none of this would be possible. Our team at this two week global event was made up of highly experienced, award-winning and creative staff photographers: Dan Himbrechts, Dave Hunt, Michael Dodge, Scott Barbour, Lukas Coch - plus freelancers Vinnie Caligiuri, Rob Presiozo and Natasha Morello. And let’s not forget Jack Gohsn, our superhero IT technician.
Dave Hunt, Lukas Coch, Scott Barbour, Michael Dodge, Neil Bennett, Rob Presiozo, Natasha Morello, Viki Lascaris and Jack Gohsn - The AAP Australian Open 2020 team
THE FUN BEGINS
Prior to the first day Jack had to set up computers on site at Melbourne Park and create profiles for each photographer. He coordinated with the event’s Media Operations team to service our requirements and those of European partner agency, EPA, who shared our office.
There are over 200 photographers and editors accredited from around the world and they are housed in a make-shift space, divided into little bunkers. Offices are erected for agencies like AAP, Reuters, AP, EPA and AFP, plus publishers, News Corp and Nine Publishing. There are also spaces for camera companies Sony, Nikon and Canon who are on-site all day to support the photographers and loan gear when needed.
Nick Kyrgios of Australia signs autographs for spectators after winning his first round match against Lorenzo Sonego of Italy on day two of the Australian Open tennis tournament at Melbourne Arena in Melbourne, Tuesday, January 21, 2020.(AAP Image/Michael Dodge)
Novak Djokovic of Serbia returns a shot during his third round match against Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan on day five of the Australian Open tennis tournament at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Friday, January 24, 2020. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)
PLAY HARD, WORK HARD
Covering matches can be just as exhausting as playing them! The scheduled tournament days are very long. Tennis matches start on the outer courts at 11am, and the evening matches can go into the early hours of the next day. The photographers worked long days for the two weeks of the event, plus the preview week before it started, as superstar players arrive to practice at Melbourne Park.
When deciding what to cover, Viki and the team consulted AAP journalists on-site and focused on Australians in matches and at practice, plus the top 10 seeds and the newsmakers. There is a lot to cover every day and it takes meticulous planning.
Once everyone knows what they are doing, the job doesn’t stop with the match. During the busy days the photographers were filing images directly from camera, via wifi, to Dan Himbrechts, AAP’s live editor, who selected the images, carefully captioned, colour corrected and cropped them in seconds, delivering them to our website and customers within minutes.
A Kobe Bryant fan watches Simona Halep of Romania during her fourth round match against Elise Mertens of Belgium on day eight of the Australian Open tennis tournament at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Monday, January 27, 2020. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)
ACING THE SLAM
The two main pillars we judge our success on are speed and quality.
Within seconds of the women's singles finalist, Sofia Kenin dropping her racquet and holding her face in disbelief, our photographers were choosing a couple of frames on their cameras to send via wifi, to the AAP office at Melbourne Park. A split second ahead of everyone was Dave Hunt's pictures from the roof of the Arena.
Sofia Kenin of the USA poses with the Daphne Ackhurst Memorial Cup after winning the women's singles final against Garbine Muguruza of Spain on day 13 of the Australian Open tennis tournament at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Saturday, February 1, 2020. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)
Only minutes after Garbine Muguruza hit the ball into the net for the double fault, Dave's images from the roof of Rod Laver Arena hit the AAP website and our customers were able to publish them. The TV was still live broadcasting Kenin waving to fans on court and celebrating with her excited father in the crowd, I was happy that our customers had the images as our photographers continued to cover the celebrations.
Garbine Muguruza of Spain plays a return shot during the women's singles semi final against Simona Halep of Romania on day 11 of the Australian Open tennis tournament at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Thursday, January 30, 2020. (AAP Image/Scott Barbour)
The event was a success and so was our coverage. Across the two weeks the AAP team delivered nearly 6000 creative images across every facet of the event and was featured along headlines all over the world.
I’m incredibly proud of the team and the content we were able to deliver for our customers.
Bring on 2021.
Subscribe to Back Story updates