By Herman Wood
(July 19, 2013) ATLANTA, GA – The men’s tour returns to Atlanta for the BB&T Open, part of the Emirates US Open Series, July 20 – 28. The BB&T is the first event in a five-week lead up to the US Open in August. The venue is in downtown Atlanta, at Atlantic Station. The location proved to be very popular with the players last year. Jack Sock said, “Love the venue with the skyscrapers around Center Court.” The tournament is convenient to the whole sprawl that makes up Atlanta with the courts just feet away from the downtown connector, the joining of Interstate 75 and Interstate 85 that bisects the city, yet steps away from the shops, restaurants & theaters that make up Atlantic Station.
There will be a focus on doubles this year, with Bob and Mike Bryan committed to the tournament. The Bryans, with 15 men’s doubles grand slam titles, are the current holders of the Olympic Gold Medal and all four of the previous Grand Slam titles. If they are able to win the US Open, they will complete the calendar year Grand Slam. The 15 wins represent more than any other pair. They are the first to hold all four Grand Slams and Olympic Gold at the same time as a doubles team. Their participation is a perfect fit for the Atlanta tournament. Atlanta is home of the Atlanta Lawn Tennis Association, a league of 80,000+, almost all playing purely doubles. A “Bro Down” exhibition has been organized for Monday, July 22nd as the first event in the evening session. The Bryans, along with Jack and Eric Sock, James and Thomas Blake, and Ryan and Christian Harrison will play match tiebreaks. The Bryans’ participation was announced with a video of the twins sandwiching the tournament director Bob Bryant with one of their signature chest bumps: http://www.bbtatlantaopen.com/videos/bryans-chest-bump-with-bryant/ Players will also interact with fans during the exhibition.
The singles field includes local favorite John Isner (Isner led the Georgia Bulldogs to the 2007 NCAA team title in Athens), Ryan Harrison, Radek Stepanek, Lleyton Hewitt, James Blake, Kevin Anderson, and Mardy Fish. This will be Fish’s second ATP tour appearance since the US Open last fall. After winning the tournament in 2010, Fish defended the title against Isner in 2011 and caught fire. He reached several finals and semifinals, making it to the fourth round of the US Open and finishing a career high at No. 8 in the world. Unfortunately, Fish has had multiple health issues since losing in the quarters in Miami in 2012. He has had several attempts to return to play, one of which was at the BB&T last summer where injury in the first round kept him from defending his title. A successful return by Fish would put a charge into the event.
Qualifying begins Saturday, July 20th, with two local college favorites participating; Nathan Pasha, a rising junior at the University of Georgia will take part. Pasha was ranked No. 51 in the NCAA singles this past year. Juan Spir, a graduating senior from Georgia Tech, will also take part in qualifying. Spir was ranked No. 44 in NCAA singles this past year. The local flavor looks to also include Robby Ginepri & Donald Young. Ginepri graduated from Wheeler High School in 2001, just up I-75 in Marietta, before going on tour. His career high ranking was #15 in 2005. Young was at one time ranked the number one junior in the world and has achieved a career high of 38. Both will have to get through qualifying. Four players will advance from qualifying to round out a draw of 32.