Where: Wake Forest Tennis Complex, Winston-Salem, N.C.
When: Aug. 18-25, 2018
Defending champions: Robert Bautista Agut (singles); Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau (doubles)
Tournament website: http://www.winstonsalemopen.com
The last stop before the US Open, the Winston-Salem Open sees some of the top men’s players in the game make a final tune-up on the road to New York City.
The ATP World Tour 250 event is being held in Winston-Salem for the eighth consecutive year. Its past champions are John Isner (2011-12), Jurgen Melzer (2013), Lukas Rosol (2014), Kevin Anderson (2015), Pablo Carreno Busta (2016) and Roberto Bautista Agut (2017).
Previously, the event was hosted in Long Island (1990-2004) and New Haven (2005-10), held in conjunction with the New Haven women's event, the Connecticut Open. Past champions in those locations include Long Island winners Stefan Edberg, Lleyton Hewitt, Ivan Lendl and Patrick Rafter, and New Haven titlists James Blake and Marin Cilic.
Bautista Agut avenged his defeat in the final of the Winston-Salem Open 12 months earlier to win his first US Open Series tournament title at Wake Forest.
The championship was the sixth of his career, following two titles in each of 2014 and 2016 and a win in Chennai in January 2017.
After a first-round bye at the Winston-Salem Open, Bautista Agut cruised through the draw, defeating Dustin Lajovic, Marcos Baghdatis and Taylor Fritz without dropping a set. He then beat Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff, 6-2, 6-4, in the semifinals before toppling Damir Dzumhur of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the championship match, 6-4, 6-4, to make it a perfect 10-for-10.
“I feel good playing here on this court,” Bautista Agut said after winning the title. “I think it’s a great tournament, great preparation for the US Open and a great opportunity for me to get some points. I feel good now. Now I have to enjoy the title and start to recover and focus for next week at the US Open.”
Dzumhur was an unlikely finalist after beating eighth-seeded Spaniard Fernando Verdasco in the second round and No. 13 seed Hyeon Chung of South Korea in the quarterfinals. But maybe Dzumhur’s run was not so unexpected, considering just how many upsets there were at the 2017 tournament.
Half of the top 12 seeds – Carreno Busta, Pablo Cuevas, Verdasco, Gilles Simon, Yuichi Sugita, Viktor Troicki and Aljaz Bedene – went out in the second round; only one seeded player other than Bautista Agut – Steve Johnson – reached the quarterfinals.
In the doubles tournament, No. 2 seeds Rojer and Tecau defeated Julio Peralta and Horacio Zeballos, 6-3, 6-4, in the championship match after three of the top four seeds progressed to the semifinals.
The top-seeded Colombian duo of Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah withdrew prior to the tournament.
Players from 21 counties will take to the courts at the Wake Forest Tennis Complex this August, led by David Goffin, 2016 Winston-Salem Open champion Carreno Busta, Sam Querrey, Chung and 2017 finalist Dzuhmur.
Crowd favorites Verdasco, Johnson, Jared Donaldson, Ryan Harrison, Julien Benneteau and Feliciano Lopez will also return to the tournament.
Querrey has been a fixture throughout the tournament’s history, appearing five times and reaching the semifinals three years in a row, from 2012-14.
Reigning champion Bautista Agut will not play at Wake Forest, a venue at which he has played three times in his career. He’s already lifted trophies at hard-court events in Auckland and Dubai, but his absence opens the door for another player to take his crown.
Eighteen players, 18 champions. Over the past six years, six different men have won the singles title, and six different teams have lifted the doubles trophy. The last repeat champion was Isner, who won consecutive titles in 2011-12.