Winston-Salem, N.C. – While Jeff Ryan comes to the Winston-Salem Open with more than 30 years of experience in professional tennis, the senior director for United States Tennis Association’s National Team Events is more well-rounded than you might think.
“One time I did a dog show. The dogs were the talent, but it was still a big event for national television. Then, there was an ice-skating show in Central Park!” He doesn’t even touch on his involvement with several Olympic games.
Since 1982 Ryan has been tied to tennis in some way, after beginning as a self-described “grunt” at the storied Longwood Lawn Tennis and Cricket Club in Boston, Mass. “I just did whatever they threw my way, but I loved it.”
After he completed his college education at Ohio Wesleyan University in 1986, the native New Englander made his way to International Management Group and began working on ATP and WTA events across the country.
“None of this was intentional,” chortles Ryan. “I didn’t play. I played sports like hockey and lacrosse. I was a golfer. After a few events though, I really felt comfortable around and connected to tennis.”
In 1997 Ryan took a job with the USTA beginning his focus on Davis Cup and Federation Cup events. It’s these international events that helped create a strong connection with North Carolina. The Tar Heel state has hosted six ties since 2001.
“Jeff's history here means that he comes into the Winston-Salem Open with a deep appreciation of the tennis community and the army of volunteers who have been responsible for these great tennis experiences over the years,” says Don Flow, chairman of Winston-Salem Professional Tennis Board of Directors.
Ryan has been a member of the Senior Leadership Team for the U.S. Open, served as the tournament director in Memphis, Tenn., participated in more than 100 professional events in his career and even assisted in acquiring the ATP sanction for Winston-Salem.
He is known in the industry as setting a high bar for global event management, and he comes to Winston-Salem ready to embrace his next challenge. “I’m incredibly enthusiastic about this opportunity. This is an excellent transition from running around and traveling for the bulk of my professional life.”
The 56-year-old says coming to the Twin Cities will give him a chance to settle down.
“I need to slow down a little bit, and it’s always been my plan to become vested in a community – ideally at the helm of a tennis event.”
Ryan will retain his executive responsibilities with the USTA while assuming the additional role and responsibilities of tournament director, but long-time friend and colleague Kelly Gaines, executive director of USTA North Carolina, has no doubt he will succeed.
“He is the consummate professional, Gaines says. “I have a ton of respect for him. He is stellar at developing meaningful relationships. Jeff has a knack of knowing exactly what people need to have a good experience at an event. I definitely think he will take the Winston-Salem Open into the future.”
While Ryan will be in a new role in 2020, he is not a novice in his passion for the tournament. “I have been here every year. This new role is just going to be an extension of my love for the event.”