From August 18-25 the Wake Forest Tennis complex will host the final stop in the US Open series. Every year players use this as a final tune up to try and get into form before the last major of the year, and this year they’ll try to in front of a crowd that will be energized as Wake Forest just took home not one, but TWO year end championships by winning both the team title as well as having Petros Chrysochos top Borna Gojo in the singles final.
I’ve worked a few tennis tournaments over the course of my years, and let me just start this by saying Tournament Director, and also Senior Associate Athletic Director for Wake Forest, Bill Oakes does an absolutely amazing job with this tournament, organizing and running it along with everything else pressing on his schedule. Only second to the ATP tournament run in my hometown of Atlanta, but I may be a bit biased there.
This year the tournament will feature a whopping 16 players inside of the world’s top 50, this is something that is no small feat for a 250 level tournament.
Just as a briefer, for Men’s professional tennis, the 250-level series is the 5th highest tier of Men’s tennis after 500 Level, Masters 1000 level, the ATP year-end Finals, and of course the 4 Grand slams. Below 250’s you have the Challenger Tour and Futures events. The Futures tour is somewhat of a proving ground, where youngsters use it to gather points in order to move up into the Challenger tour, and older players use it to try to stay afloat. Players in that usually are ranked from 2000+ in the world to a little under 200. The Challenger level usually caps out a bit under 100 in the world as people usually use them to get some extra cash as well as get into form to hopefully break through in other tournaments. With the 250’s you’re generally playing people 80th in the world and higher(towards #1). The fees the top players charge for appearances usually keep people from the top 5-10, but with homegrown connections(I.e. John Isner and Atlanta) it’s a lot easier to snag one of them while still having an absurdly good field.
Just think about it, in just the main draw you’ll have 32 of the top 80 players IN THE WORLD. It’s insane.
Now, to what’s important, how this affects Wake Forest.
First of all, it’s fantastic publicity to Wake Forest and Winston-Salem in general. Helps bring business to the city, but the tournament itself will be streamed on ESPN3 Monday-Friday Day and for the Friday Night and Saturday matches, they’ll actually be televised on ESPN2 thanks to the USOpen Series’ contract with ESPN.
Secondly, its a great selling point. 2016 Skander Mansouri and Christian Seraphim got a wild card into the doubles draw and lost a tough 3rd set tiebreak against the 3 seeds in the tournament. Petros Chrysochos got into the qualifying draw, and beat the 5th seed (someone who has a career ranking of 48th in the world). In 2017, Borna Gojo got the same treatment and beat someone who at the time was ranked in the top 100 in the world. Petros on the other hand got a main draw Wild card and played hard against someone who is currently ranked 64th in the world. Wake Forest tennis has no shortage of talent and the Winston-Salem Open has no problem helping out the rising talent.
Look at 2014 when then incoming Freshman Noah Rubin, fresh off of a Junior Wimbledon win, as well as a USTA boys 18 Nationals championship in both singles and doubles (which also gave him entry into the main draw of both at the US Open), was allowed by the WS Open to play in a match that by all means he should’ve won. I wouldn’t be surprised to see another Wake Forest player or 2 playing in this tournament.
Think about recruiting wise how big of a draw this could be to reload not rebuild:
You can tell kids, “Hey we’re coming off of winning the indoor title, the ACC regular season and tournament title, as well as the team and singles titles. Oh and we have a professional tournament at OUR courts that if you play your cards right and well, you can play in.”
Sign me up.
I hope this tournament stays in Winston Salem for the foreseeable future and as I said earlier, kudos to Bill Oakes for the job he’s doing. I’m sure Tony Bresky appreciates it as a help to his recruiting pitch.