By Herman Wood
(July 19, 2018) ATLANTA – The BB&T Atlanta Open, an ATP World Tour 250 event, opens the hard court season and the US Open series this year. The singles draw has 28 players with an additional four players coming from a 16 player singles qualifying draw. Doubles is a 16 team draw.
2017 champion John Isner returns to defend the title he has won four of the last five years. In 2016, Nick Kyrgios was able to end Isner’s title streak in two tiebreak sets. The tournament is billed as a mini US Open, despite being an ATP-only tournament. The WTA is given a nod in an opening night exhibition featuring a rematch of the 2017 US Open final between Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens. The Saturday and Sunday prior to the main tournament also feature kids weekend sessions and concerts, much like the US Open.
The tournament is played in downtown Atlanta at Atlantic Station, a live, play, work development built on the former site of the Atlantic Steel mill. Atlanta weather is always a factor in this tournament. Highs are expected to be in the mid 80’s with humidity levels around 70%, making afternoon play especially challenging for players and spectating a challenge in itself. Afternoon thunderstorms always present a challenge to scheduling.
Play has been underway with pre-qualifying. A tournament was held giving locals a chance at a spot in the qualifying draw. Three-year Georgia Tech standout Christopher Eubanks made especially good use of the the pre-qualifier in 2016 to gain entry to the main draw. He took it a step further in 2017 to make it to the quarterfinals, falling to finalist Ryan Harrison. The local that earned his way into the qualifying tournament is Kiranpal Pannu, a NCAA Division II standout from Columbus State University. Pannu has been playing some ITF Futures events. Notable Americans in the tournament include Isner, Jack Sock, Frances Tiafoe, Jared Donaldson, Taylor Fritz, Dennis Kuala, Tim Smyczek, Reilly Opelka, Noah Rubin and Donald Young. Australian Nick Kyrgios also returns to try to unseat Isner. The doubles draw features the 2017 champion Bryan brothers. This will mark the return of the pair to tournament play since Bob Bryan’s right hip injury forced retirement from the Mutual Madrid Open final in May. Main draw play opens Monday morning, July 23rd, with the finals set for Sunday July 29th.
The obvious singles favorite is Wimbledon semi-finalist John Isner. After a bit of a slow start to 2018, Isner won the ATP World Tour 1000 in Miami. It was his first career tournament win at a 1000 level event. Jack Sock enters the tournament having lost in the first round of his past four singles draws, though he is fresh off winning the Wimbledon doubles with Mike Bryan. This year’s Wimbledon doubles title was his second, the first coming with Vasek Pospisil in 2014. That year saw him reach the semifinals of the BB&T. Perhaps the Wimbledon win will again lead to success in Atlanta. Nick Kyrgios seemed to like conditions in Atlanta, with his 2016 win. The crowd was certainly entertained by his play. Next Gen ATP 2017 champion Hyeon Chung, currently ranked No. 22 in the world, could also be a contender. He was a quarterfinal victim to Isner this year in Miami.
Main draw play opens Monday July 23rd.