Winston-Salem Open returns for fifth year

The Winston-Salem Open, the annual ATP 250 event held at Wake Forest, began on Aug. 22 with one of its strongest player fields in the tournament’s five-year history.

This year, the field has included three top-20 players, including world No. 11 Gilles Simon of France; No. 15 Kevin Anderson of South Africa; and No. 19 Viktor Troicki of Serbia. Other well-known participants include No. 24 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France and American Sam Querrey, currently ranked No. 38.

The tournament — which is expected to have an overall attendance of more than 40,000 people this year — has undergone significant growth since it first launched in 2011. This year, the entire event will be covered for 30 hours on ESPN 3 and for six hours on ESPN 2 later in the week. It was also recently announced that the tournament’s sponsors had recommitted to the event, ensuring its place at Wake Forest at least through 2020.

Bill Oakes, associate athletic director and director of the tournament, expressed optimism at the tournament’s outlook.

“It provides stability for the event and the ability for us to continue to focus on other sponsors and opportunities to grow the event, and hopefully one of those will be permanent seating for the venue,” Oakes said in an interview with the Triad Business Journal. “It provides confidence when the large money is participating, that we’re taking care of people and doing what we’ve set out to do.”

Construction for permanent seating for the event is being completed in several phases, though a firm time frame has yet to be set. The new seating is also being installed in preparation for the university to host the 2018 men’s and women’s NCAA tennis championships.

The Winston-Salem Open is the last event of the Emirates Airlines U.S. Open Series, a string of tournaments across North America leading up to the U.S. Open in New York, the fourth and final major of the year. The tournament saw a major upset early on, when Simon, the No. 1 seed, lost to Brit Aljaz Bedene in the second round in three sets on Aug 25. That same day, in a rematch of the 2014 final, defending champion Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic fell to world No. 47 Jerzy Janowicz of Poland in straight sets.

Veteran and former world No. 2 Tommy Haas of Germany was awarded one of the wildcards of the tournament but lost in straight sets in the first round.

The finals are scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 29, with play at the U.S. Open beginning on Monday, Aug. 31. The winner will take home almost $700,000 in prize money.