10 Things To Watch In Winston-Salem
1. Best in Class: The Winston-Salem Open, the final men’s event in the US Open Series, was voted by players as the 2016 ATP World Tour 250 Tournament of the Year along with the If Stockholm Open.
2. Back on Top: Last year’s finalists, Roberto Bautista Agut and Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain, are the top two seeds. Carreno Busta won his first ATP World Tour by rallying past his countryman 6-7(6), 7-6(1), 6-4 in the longest final by games in tournament history. Bautista Agut is the No. 1 seed for third time at an ATP World Tour tournament (2016 Sofia champion and 2016 Moscow second round).
3. Past Finalists: Carreno Busta and Bautista Agut are joined in the draw by 2011 and 2012 champion John Isner, 2011 runner-up Julien Benneteau and 2015 finalist Pierre-Hugues Herbert. Kevin Anderson, the 2015 champion, withdrew on Saturday due to a right elbow injury.
4. Reigning Champion: Carreno Busta was 49th in the Emirates ATP Rankings and without an ATP World Tour singles title entering the 2016 Winston-Salem Open. He’s 46-23 since then, adding to his Winston-Salem title with two more at Moscow and Estoril. The Spaniard achieved a new career-high ranking eight times in 2016 and nine times thus far in 2017, peaking at No. 15 on 24 July.
5. Hometown Hero: Isner, a North Carolina native, is 12-0 in matches and 8-0 in tie-breaks at the Winston-Salem Open, winning titles in 2011 and 2012. The No. 1 American and No. 3 seed returns to his home event for the first time since conceding a walkover in the 2014 quarter-finals. Isner won titles at Newport and Atlanta last month, holding in 146 of 149 service games since 19 July (98 per cent).
6. Fab Five: Five #NextGenATP players are in the draw and eager to earn points in the Emirates ATP Race To Milan. American Taylor Fritz received a wild card this week, while No. 13 seed Hyeon Chung, No. 14 seed Borna Coric and No. 15 seed Daniil Medvedev received first-round byes. Unseeded Andrey Rublev broke into the Top 50 on July 24 after winning his first title at Umag.
7. Wild Title Hopes: Wild cards are 6-3 in ATP World Tour finals this season. Hoping to become the seventh wild card champion of 2017 are Fritz, Coric, Ernests Gulbis and Wake Forest junior Petros Chrysochos. The 21-year-old Chrysochos is a two-time All-American and a Davis Cup teammate of Marcos Baghdatis, who is making his fifth Winston-Salem appearance this week.
8. All-Time Leader: Yen-Hsun Lu of Chinese Taipei has earned more victories at the Winston-Salem Open than any other player in the tournament’s first six years (2011-16). Lu is 13-4 at the event with a semi-final finish in 2014 and runs to the quarter-finals in 2013, 2015 and 2016.
9. Season of Firsts: No. 10 seed Yuichi Sugita won his first ATP World Tour title in his first final and following his first semi-final at the Antalya Turkey Open. After breaking into the Top 50 on 3 July, Sugita earned his first Grand Slam victory at Wimbledon and reached his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 quarter-final at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.
10. Still Going Strong: Daniel Nestor and Leander Paes, the 2013 doubles champions, are returning at the age of 44 with different partners -- Nestor with Dominic Inglot and Paes with Purav Raja.