By Herman Wood
(July 24, 2015)ATLANTA, Georgia – The road to the US Open starts in Atlanta with the BB&T Atlanta Open this weekend with qualifying. The BB&T is a ATP World Tour 250 event, with a 28 player singles and 16 player doubles draw. Total prize money this year is $585,870.00. The venue is set in downtown Atlanta, amongst the sky scrapers and shopping of Atlantic Station. Two time champion and former University of Georgia all-time leader in singles and doubles wins, John Isner returns in search of a historic three-peat.
Arguably the best doubles team of all time, Bob and Mike Bryan make their debut in the BB&T. They got their first tour win in an Atlanta event in 1998. Defending doubles champ and singles semifinalist Jack Sock, along with doubles partner Vasek Pospisil, are looking to take another step in their development. The doubles draw could be very interesting if a showdown between the Bryan brothers and “Popsock” materializes. It was only a year ago that Pospisil/Sock denied the Bryans the Wimbledon 2014 title.
Marco Baghdatis is already turning heads in the ATL. As he dropped off his racquets for stringing by the Prince Team at the Serious Tennis tent with Deana Buzzy Mitchell, he was reportedly, “very sweet and winked at me!” That kind of behavior is sure to make him a fan favorite with at least half of the crowd. Americans Steve Johnson, Tim Symzek, and Donald Young are also looking to make a statement. In what could be a big story line, two time champion Mardy Fish is returning to the tour in this tournament. He has struggled with health issues almost since the last tournament win in Atlanta. He’ll also be teaming up with another former Atlanta champion, Andy Roddick. Roddick will not play in the singles main draw, but is playing an exhibition match against another young American, 17 year old Frances Tiafoe on Monday night. Tiafoe created a stir in the qualifying last year and has been granted a wild card into the main draw. Other crowd favorites returning include Dudi Sela, last year’s finalist, 2013 finalist Kevin Anderson, and 2012 finalist Giles Muller. The draw will also include 4 players from a 32 draw qualifying tournament to be played this weekend.
2015 French Open Boys’ champion Tommy Paul and this year’s Wild Card Challenge winner Trent Bryde have accepted two wild card spots into that BB&T Atlanta Open qualifying tournament. Paul is the No. 5-ranked American junior. Bryde had to make his way through 5 matches in the Wild Card Challenge. Georgia Tech also is providing a wild card to sophomore Christopher Eubanks. Eubanks was named all Atlantic Coast Conference as a freshman last spring and finished ranked number 47 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings.
Ticket sales have been on a record pace according to Tournament Director Eddie Gonzalez. Atlanta has always been a tennis town, with the largest local doubles league in the United States. There will be several special events that are part of the tournament scene, including the above mentioned exhibition with Roddick, a kids weekend with special ticket promotions during the qualifying tournament, a Commodores concert, College Night, another concert featuring LoCash, Ladies Day, USTA member appreciation day, and a Family Zone presented by Prince at Atlantic Station where kids can play tennis.