By Herman Wood
(July 23, 2021) The Truist Atlanta Open, the first tournament of the US Open Series on hard courts, begins this week in Atlanta, July 24- August 1. (The 2021 US Open Series began with the Hall of Fame Open in Newport, R.I. just a few days ago, with Kevin Anderson winning the grass court tournament as a wildcard.) The tournament has reduced capacity at venues and is requiring face coverings for fans as part of many precautions. One precaution for the players includes the utilization of Hawk-Eye Live electronic line-calling on all competition courts.
The tournament is a 250 Level ATP event. Past champions returning include five time winner John Isner and 2016 champion Nick Krygios. Other notables in the main draw include nineteen year old Jannik Sinner, Kevin Anderson, Milos Raonic, and Americans Jack Sock, Reilly Opelka, Taylor Fritz, Sam Querrey, and Steve Johnson. Other Americans may make their way into the main draw via qualifying. Donald Young, who has seen some success in the past in this tournament, is in the qualifying draw. A potentially big story could be in the singles qualifying draw with the awarding of a wildcard to 2021 Wimbledon Boy’s Champion, Samir Banerjee. The seventeen year old is a rising high school senior in New Jersey that is committed to Columbia University. He will have to work his way through qualifying to get onto the big stage of the main draw. With the Wimbledon Boy’s Championship on his resume, he won’t be new to the spotlight.
Historically, the tournament has been a showcase for young Americans, especially collegiate players. Tuesday night is known as college night. In the past, college cheerleaders and pep bands have escorted top college players to main draw matches. This year’s college night will feature players from the University of Georgia and Georgia Institute of Technology.
The University of Georgia’s Trent Bryde was offered the main draw singles wildcard on Tuesday and accepted. Bryde is a junior for the Georgia Bulldogs, playing No.1 singles this season.
“I’ve been playing in the qualifying of this since I was 15 years old,” said Bryde upon accepting the wildcard. “Eddie Gonzalez is a tournament director that wants to give opportunities to young players. It’s so big for us to jump-start our career and I can’t wait to play the top guys in the world and it’s going to be a fun night.”
“We are so appreciative of Eddie Gonzalez and everyone at the Atlanta Open who continue to make college tennis a priority,” University of Georgia Tennis Coach Manny Diaz said.
In doubles, a pair of student-athletes from Georgia Tech will compete. Just coming off their freshman campaigns, Keshav Chopra and Andres Martin will be part of the main draw as a doubles pair. Georgia Tech Head Men’s Tennis Coach, Kenny Throne, was excited for his players and this opportunity. “On behalf of Georgia Tech and American tennis, we appreciate this.” All of the college players invited have local connections beyond their collegiate experience.
The week could present several interesting stories beyond the youth factor. John Isner at 36 years old will be looking to win the title for the sixth time. Isner holds a career mark of 31-4 in Atlanta and is looking to join the ranks of Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors as the fifth American to win an ATP Tour title on six occasions. Isner tends to get a lot of crowd support. The former Georgia Bulldog standout said, “Obviously I love to play in Georgia and to compete at the Truist Atlanta Open where I feel at home and have had so much success. I can’t wait to get back on court at Atlantic Station in front of all those supportive tennis and Bulldog fans.” Kevin Anderson at 36 years old has been resurgent lately with a win at Newport in the Hall of Fame Open. Nick Kyrgios, the 2016 champion, has had an off-again on-again with Atlanta fans. At times, he has asked front row fans for advice on the placement of his serve, making him a fan favorite. At others, it seemed he left the fans wanting when he retired due to injury that clearly left him far from his best. If Kyrgios has recovered from his injury at Wimbledon, he well could be the man to beat.
Big serving will keep front row fans alert. The top four servers, as determined by the ATP Tour’s Serve Rating statistic, are Isner, Raonic, Opelka, and Kyrgios. (Roger Federer is number five.) Kevin Anderson is number seven and Sam Querrey is at number eleven. The Serve Rating© adds four service metrics percentages plus the average number of aces per match and subtracts the average number of double faults per match. If the courts are playing as quickly as usual, the margin between victory and defeat will be very small and a timely big serve could make all the difference. Atlanta temperatures can be difficult to manage at this time of year. An afternoon thunderstorm almost always affects the schedule. Managing the heat or perhaps a quick turn around after a match because of a compressed schedule makes fitness critical and will help players in their preparation for the US Open.