Juan Ignacio Ceballos of ESPN Deportes on Approach Shots

Juan Ignacio Ceballos of ESPN Deportes at US Open

Meet Juan Ignacio Ceballos, the Coordinating Producer for all editions of SportsCenter for ESPN Deportes, ESPN Dos and ESPN Latin America North.

TPN: How did you become a producer, what was the path that led you to ESPN Deportes? Did you always want to work in sports?

JC: I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1973. Lucky me: I was part of the tennis boom in Argentina in late 70s, brought to us by Guillermo Vilas. So I started to play tennis at 6, and fell in love with it since then. Actually, I was a natural born sports fan, and that led to my journalism career.

From 1992 thru 2000 I worked for newspapers Clarin and Página 12 in Argentina. I also wrote for El Gráfico, the most renowned sports magazine in Latin America. I covered Grand Slam tournaments and Davis Cup. And then in late 2000 I jumped to TV, when ESPN launched its first SportsCenter version in Latin America. I kept traveling to Grand Slams as a news producer.

In 2004 I moved to México City, to help launch SportsCenter for ESPN Deportes, the new Spanish speaking ESPN network for the US and never went back to my country. Now I’m Coordinating Producer of all editions of SportsCenter for three networks: ESPN Deportes (US), Latin America North (México, Central America and the Caribbean) and ESPN Dos (same territory). I oversee our daily radio show ESPN Radio Fórmula. I’m also involved in the Spanish speaking version of E:60 (which debuted on July 19th ).  I supervise content for our ESPN The Magazine Mexico monthly publication.

Tennis? I saw Franco Squillari, Mariano Zabaleta, Mariano Puerta, Guillermo Cañas, Gaston Gaudio, Juan Ignacio Chela, David Nalbandian, Guillermo Coria grow up. I wrote their stories back then, and witnessed their success.

Now I write an Insider column in The Mag México and ESPN Deportes La Revista in the US, and I have a blog on ESPNDeportes.com.

Sadly, I can’t travel that much.  But I have a blast each season when I leave my Coordinating Producer duties and become a field producer during the ATP/WTA tournament in Acapulco. Best week of the year, by far.


TPN: How different is it being a producer for tennis versus other sports?

JC: From my perspective, tennis is a very good sport to work as a journalist/producer. You can have nice access to players for one-on-one interviews or special features. Very different to, let’s say, soccer. This year in Acapulco, for example, we got the chance to shoot a piece of Milos Raonic doing jet-ski with his girlfriend. We did exclusive photo sessions with WTA players for our magazine. And so on. But the challenge is the same for any coverage in every sport: to find good content. Original, entertaining, compelling.

TPN: Does ESPN Deportes have a “philosophy” when it comes to covering tennis? Does it differ from ESPN’s philosophy?

JC: Our main focus is on Latin American players along with the stars of the game. Tennis is huge in South America, especially in Argentina. ESPN Latam telecasts down there rate better than all other sports except soccer. We have on-site coverage in all four Grand Slams and some other tournaments during the year. But in United States tennis is not that popular into the US Hispanic population. It is behind soccer, boxing, baseball, football, basketball. So we focus our content on the best ones: (Roger) Federer, (Rafael) Nadal, (Novak) Djokovic, Williams sisters. And we look for good stories to tell.

TPN: You are on Twitter. How important do you think Twitter is to Spanish speaking tennis fans and to tennis fans in general?

JC: Twitter exploded a bit later in Latin America than in the US. But now it is huge. For tennis fans, it is a new way to be in touch with the game: latest scores, news, and lot of opinion and analysis. I think it’s the same for Spanish speaking fans as for the rest of the world. Twitter also allows you the get access to the players. Read what they say. Watch what they do. It is fun. It is great. Let’s see: (Juan Martin) Del Potro has 343 thousand followers. More than (Novak) Djokovic. (David) Nalbandian and (Juan) Monaco are near two hundred thousand each. More than Caro(line) Wozniacki. And Delpo (Juan Martin Del Potro), Nalbi (Nalbandian) and Pico (Juan Monaco) tweet in Spanish! That is big. Who follows them? Spanish speaking tennis fans, for sure. So Twitter is especially engaging for our stars and our fans. It also shows you how massive this sport is in our region.

TPN: What do you see for the future in terms of tennis coverage?

JC: New technologies brought the concept of new media in journalism. Instant access to news and information. Easier ways to shoot and deliver. New platforms other than TV and newspapers. Our readers/viewers/users are hungrier than ever to get more and more, as fast as you can. Even the athlete now delivers without any filter. It’s great for tennis: you can choose online which court do you want to watch in Grand Slams; you can have journos, players, coaches analyzing matches on Twitter; you can know what players are thinking or doing, if they decide to share. But the foundation remains the same: only if you put a great performance, people will watch. And if you tell it like it is, write it like it is… if you explain, report, analyze, in an entertaining and engaging way, your work will be valuable. But now you have more than a mic or a piece of paper to express yourself. Tennis fans know it, and demand you to be good not only in front of a camera or typing with your keyboard, but also telling them what’s going on in 140 characters.

Read Ceballos’ columns on ESPN Deportes: http://espndeportes.espn.go.com/blogs/index?name=juan_ignacio_ceballos&cc=3888 and follow him on twitter at @juaniceballos http://twitter.com/juaniceballos