The US Open Series Begins with the Atlanta Open
By Herman Wood
(July 21, 2019) ATLANTA – The ATP Tour moves to hard courts with the BB&T Atlanta Open this week. Part of the sixteen year old US Open Series, the Atlanta tournament returns to its downtown home at Atlantic Station. The temporary stadium has again been re-imagined, moving from the edges of the parking decks at Atlantic Station across the street into a parking lot, providing a much better flow for fan movement and even better sight lines. Seating features lots of shade, which will provide some relief from the Atlanta heat if not the humidity. Fans have a dedicated area for player autographs and several interactive areas for kids to have some fun. Weather is always a factor here. If not the heat and humidity, then it will be thunderstorms. Qualifying on Saturday was marred by multiple rain delays and finally postponed to Sunday after the completion of only three matches. The forecast calls for thunderstorms in the early part of the week and a bit of cooling during the later stages of the tournament and a lesser chance of thunderstorms.
Last year’s champion, John Isner, returns as the top seed, fresh off winning Newport on grass. This will be only his third tournament since an injury to his foot in a match against Roger Federer in Miami. If Isner is able to return to form and win this year, it will be the sixth time winning the same tournament. He would join Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras as the only Americans to win the same tournament six times. “Obviously I love to play in Georgia and to compete at the BB&T Atlanta Open where I feel at home and have had so much success,” said Isner. “I can’t wait to get back on court at Atlantic Station in front of all those supportive tennis and Bulldog fans.” Isner played collegiately seventy miles east of Atlanta at the University of Georgia, helping the Bulldogs win the team title in 2007 as well as winning the doubles title that year. Isner will likely play for the first time Wednesday evening, facing the winner of the Reilly Opelka /Alexander Bublik match. If Opelka gets through, Isner will face a tall challenge, as Opelka, standing 6’11”, is one of few opponents the 6’10” Isner has to look up to. Playing Bublik would be a rematch of the Newport grass court final.
Other Americans of note in the main draw include Tennys Sandgren, Bradley Klahn, Frances Tiafoe, Denis Kudla, Cole Cromley, Jack Sock, and Taylor Fritz. Other American may join the field via qualifying. Fritz is seeded second in the draw, but could face former number three ranked Grigor Dimitrov in his opening match. In their only meeting, Fritz prevailed in two tight tiebreak sets. The draw looks promising for number three seed Alex De Minaur. A title in a US Open series event is a logical next step for De Minaur, as he was a finalist last year in Washington. Frances Tiafoe, as the number five seed, will also be looking to break through again in 2019 after a win at Delray Beach in 2018. Tiafoe has to get past Bernard Tomic in his first round match.
Atlanta fans always look forward to the doubles part of the tournament. Atlanta is the home of the world’s largest local tennis league, the Atlanta Lawn Tennis Association. ALTA play is a team event, pitting neighborhood against neighborhood and local park. Doubles is the main event for ALTA, with leagues for men, women, mixed, juniors, seniors and super seniors. Neighborhoods built in Atlanta and its suburbs would not have been complete without the two lit courts required for league play.
The doubles draw features the Bryan brothers as the number one seed. They won the tournament in 2015 and 2017. They will face an early challenge, playing a pair of locals in the opening round. Donald Young is an Atlanta resident, as is his partner, Christopher Eubanks. Eubanks was the ACC player of the year in 2016 and 2017. The doubles draw has several intriguing players to watch. American Austin Krajicek is teaming with Dominic Inglot of Great Britain as the number two seed. Veteran Leander Paes always provides great entertainment in his matches with amazing shot making. Jack Sock, who formerly teamed with Mike Bryan while brother Bob dealt with a hip injury and subsequent replacement, teams with fellow American Jackson Withrow. Though not part of the singles draw, Australian Nick Kyrgios is teaming with young American Tommy Paul. Kyrgios won the tournament in singles in 2016. He withdrew with an injury in 2018, which did not sit well with the Atlanta fans in attendance. He had been a crowd favorite in appearances and around the tournament site prior to that match.
The event also features a pair of exhibitions, with Venus Williams beat Madison Keys on Sunday in a charity match and Andy Roddick is playing local product Robby Ginepri on Monday. A college night is planned for Tuesday night and will feature Georgia Tech prominently, which is just around the corner from Atlantic Station. Last year saw cheerleaders from the University of Georgia lead a parade with pep band that escorted players through Atlantic Station into the night session.