winston salem

Polish Players Win First Tour Titles – Mondays with Bob Greene

Mondays with Bob Greene (Courtesy of WorldTennisMagazine.com)

STARS

Hubert Hurkacz beat Benoit Paire 6-3 3-6 6-3 to win the Winston-Salem Open in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA

Magda Linette beat Camila Giorgi 5-7 7-5 6-4 to win the NYJTL Bronx Open in New York, New York, USA

SAYINGS

“I was really surprised how many Polish people are around here, so I’m really thankful for them, that they came and supported me. It’s great because we don’t have a tournament in Poland, we’re not really used to having a home crowd.” – Magda Linette, who won the NYJTL Bronx Open.

“She’s our Jackie Robinson of tennis. I saw what it meant to be the best.” – Billie Jean King, who at 13 watched Althea Gibson play. A statute of Gibson, who broke tennis’ color barrier, will be unveiled on opening day at the US Open.

“For me, I love tennis. Sometimes I feel like I don’t, but I wake up every morning and if I don’t play, I feel like I’ve done nothing during the day.” – Naomi Osaka, the defending US Open women’s champion.

SNARES FIRST TITLE

Hubert Hurkacz won his first ATP World Tour title when he stopped top-seeded Benoit Paire to capture the Winston-Salem Open. The 22-year-old Hurkacz is the first Polish man to win a tour-level tournament since Wojtek Fibak won in Chicago in 1982. The champion beat four straight seeded opponents in the final week before the US Open begins its two-week run. “It’s a huge win for me today,” Hurkacz said. “Benoit is an amazing player, so it is a really great win for me. … I had to fight a lot, but I am so excited that I lifted my first trophy here.” In all three sets the first two games began with consecutive breaks of serve. And the match was slightly delayed by rain before the decisive set. Hurkacz played his best tennis in the final set, breaking Paire at love with deep returns. He converted his first match point when Paire netted a forehand. “For me it was a good week,” Paire said. “Honestly, I could have lost I (my second match), so it was really good to be in the final.”

SUPER WEEK FOR POLAND

It was a great week for Polish tennis. Not only did Hubert Hurkacz win in Winston-Salem, Polish qualifier Magda Linette captured the NYJTL Bronx Open in New York City, rallying from behind to down Italy’s Camila Giorgi. “I’m 27, so it’s not super super young,” Linette said after winning her first career WTA tournament. “So, it means really a lot. It gives a lot of boost, you know, for the confidence, and also a reward. Finally, it’s a reward for us, for all the hard work.” The champion played eight matches, including three rounds of qualifying. And Giorgi, who won their only other matchup, took the opening set. But Linette wo the first three games before Giorgi broke back to level the score at 4-4. Linette then broke back in the 12th game to level the match at one set apiece. Giorgi got the early break and led 3-2. It was all Linette after that as the Pole won the final four games. “I think it was a lot with the confidence,” Linette said. “I’ve played in practices with many top players and I know I’m able to beat them. But when I went to the matches, something was missing. And that was confidence.”

SICK BAY

Two former Grand Slam tournament finalists will miss this year’s US Open because of injuries. Canada’s Milos Raonic, the 2016 Wimbledon runner-up, pulled out because of an injured glute muscle. He was replaced in the men’s singles draw by Poland’s Kamil Majchrzak, who lost in qualifying.

Kevin Anderson withdraw with an injured right knee. The 33-year-old South African was runner-up to Rafael Nadal in the 2017 US Open and to Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon last year. Anderson, who was seeded 16th, hasn’t played since losing in the third round of Wimbledon in July. He was replaced in the main draw by lucky loser Paolo Lorenzi of Italy.

An injured right foot forced Germany’s Mona Barthel out of the year’s final Grand Slam tournament. Her spot in the women’s singles draw was taken by 2013 Wimbledon semifinalist Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium, who lost in qualifying but now will compete in her 11th US Open. Barthel hasn’t played since losing her opening match at Lausanne, Switzerland, last month.

STATUE OF ALTHEA

Althea Gibson not only broke the racial barrier in tennis, she dominated the women’s field in 1956-58, winning 11 titles, including the French, Wimbledon and United States Championships, now the US Open. That was a decade before Arthur Ashe became the first black man to win the inaugural US Open in 1968. The United States Tennis Association (USTA) unveiled a statue of Gibson on the first day of this year’s tournament. Among those expected to attend the ceremony was Angela Buxton of Great Britain, Gibson’s doubles partner. “It’s about bloody time,” said the 85-year-old Buxton, who teamed with Gibson to win the French and Wimbledon doubles titles in 1956. When she retired from tennis two years later, Gibson had won 50 singles and doubles titles. But that was before the professional era began in 1968, so she broke the color line in women’s golf, joining the LPGA. No other African American woman won the US Open until Serena Williams in 1999 or Wimbledon until Venus Williams in 2000.

SET FOR SINGLES

Since he reached the semifinals at the Australian Open, Hyeon Chung of Korea has missed so much time because of a back injury that he had to qualify to gain a spot in this year’s US Open men’s singles. He missed more than five months due to a back injury and his ranking fell outside the top 150. Chung began his comeback by winning an ATP Challenger Tour event before traveling to New York. He beat Mikael Ymer of Sweden 6-1 6-3 to qualify for the main draw.

Other men’s singles qualifiers included 18-year-old American Jenson Brooksby, Italy’s Jannick Sinner; Elliot Benchetrit and Gregoire Barrere, France; Soonwoo Kwon, Korea; Ilya Ivashka and Ego Gerasimov, Belarus; Santiago Giraldo, Colombia; Evgeny Donskoy, Russia; Tobias Kamke and Dominik Koepfer, Germany; Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, Spain; Sumit Nagal, India; Jiri Vesely, Czech Republic; and Marco Trungelliti, Argentina.

Joining two Americans, Caroline Dolehide and Taylor Townsend, in qualifying for the women’s singles draw were Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan; Magdalena Frech, Poland; Jana Cepelova, Slovakia; Peng Shuai and Wang Xinyu, China; Johanna Larsson, Sweden; Ana Bogdan, Romania; Mariam Bolkvadze, Georgia; Denisa Allertova and Tereza Martincova, Czech Republic; Harriet Dart, Great Britain; Timea Babos, Hungary; Richel Hogenkamp, Netherlands; and Anna Kalinskaya, Russia.

SENIOR FED

By playing in his 19th US Open, Roger Federer is closing in on another record. The Swiss star, then 19, made his US Open debut in 2000, losing to another promising youngsters, Juan Carlo Ferrero of Spain. Federer won five consecutive titles between 2004-08 and 85 matches. This year he’s seeded third, behind defending champion Novak Djokovic and French Open winner Rafael Nadal. Both also have won the US Open. Having just turned 38, Federer is now third behind two Americans on the most US Opens played. Jimmy Connors holds the mark, playing in 22 Opens, while Andre Agassi retired at the US Open in 2006 after playing in his 21st straight main draw appearance. Frenchman Fabrice Santoro played in 18 US Opens.

SET FOR DOUBLES

Youngsters Coco Gauff and Caty McNally will be seeking to add to their winning streak as a doubles team. The 15-year-old Gauff and 17-year-old McNally were granted a doubles wild card by the USTA. Each previously was given a wild card for the singles draw also. Last year, Gauff and McNally won the US Open junior girls doubles title. Then then paired up and won their first WTA trophy, capturing the doubles title at the Citi Open in Washington, DC, earlier this month.

SEEKING MATCHES

Great Britain’s Andy Murray is looking for work. Returning to the game after undergoing hip surgery earlier this year, Murray has decided to play a Challenger event in Mallorca, Spain, in order to get more singles matches. With his ranking of 329th in the world, Murray is ranked lower than any of the 41 players who earned direct entry into the Rafa Nadal Open. With most players competing in the US Open qualifying and main draw, the Mallorca tournament did not receive enough applications to run the usual qualification tournament. As a result, Murray’s first match will be against 17-year-old Imran Sibille, who is training at the Rafa Nadal Academy, which is hosting the event. Sibille does not have an ATP ranking and won total of USD $150 in his career.

SET ASIDE

Umpire Carlos Ramos will not be in the chair in any US Open matches involving either Serena or Venus Williams. Last year, Ramos officiated the women’s final when Naomi Osaka beat Serena 6-2 6-4. Ramos assessed Williams a penalty game, which gave Osaka a 5-3 lead in the second set. “This is our collective decision,” USTA president Stacey Allaster said in announcing Ramos would not umpire any Williams family matches. “We want to focus on the competition.” US Open tournament referee Soren Friemel said the tournament has made similar decisions in the past. “It’s not the first time that we made decision where it’s good for the tournament, good for the players, good for the umpires as well, to not be on those matches,” Friemel said, noting that Ramos “has worked all the other Grand Slams, he has done Davis Cup, Fed Cup, he’s going to the Davis Cup finals. He’s considered still for all high-profile matches.

SIGNED FOR TOKYO?

Japan could have a high-profile mixed doubles team for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. There’s a small possibility that Kei Nishikori, the UP Open runner-up in 2014, could team with defending US Open women’s champion Naomi Osaka for the fight for the gold next year. “I will play men’s doubles, for sure,” Nishikori said. “With that condition – very hot, very humid – playing singles and two doubles, I don’t know if I can. I haven’t (had to) think too much yet honestly. I don’t know. I will talk to Naomi later.”

SHARED PERFORMANCES

New York: Darija Jurak and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez beat Margarita Gasparyan and Monica Niculescu 7-5 2-6 10-7 (match tiebreak)

Winston-Salem: Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo beat Nicholas Monroe and Tennys Sandgren 6-7 (6) 6-1 10-3 (match tiebreak)

SURFING

New York: https://www.usopen.org/index.html
New Haven: http://ww1.oracelchallengerseries.com/
Genova https://www.challengergenova.com/

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

MEN and WOMEN

US Open, New York, New York, USA, hard (first week)

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

MEN

US Open, New York, New York, USA, hard (second week)
$162,480 Jinan Open, Jinan, China, hard
$162,480 Oracle Challenger, New Haven, Connecticut, USA, hard
$153,218 Aon Open Challenger, Genova, Italy, clay

WOMEN

US Open, New York, New York, USA, hard (second week)
$162,480 Oracle Challenger, New Haven, Connecticut, USA, hard

Sabalenka, Medvedev Win Summer-Ending US Open Series Titles

Twenty-year old Belarussian Aryna Sabalenka wrapped a breakout summer by winning her first WTA title at the Connecticut Open on Saturday.

Sabalenka beat Carla Suarez Navarro, 6-1, 6-4, on Saturday in New Haven, putting a ribbon on a US Open Series campaign that also saw her notch three Top-10 wins, reach the semifinals at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati and break into the Top 20 for the first time.

Sabalenka joins Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas — who beat four Top-10 players to reach his first ATP Masters 1000 final at Rogers Cup in Toronto — as the 2018 US Open Series’ Breakout Performers.

Daniil Medvedev, a 22-year old from Russia, won his second career ATP title, both of which have come in 2018, at the Winston-Salem Open in North Carolina, defeating American Steve Johnson, 6-4, 6-4.

Medvedev begins his US Open campaign against fellow Russian Evegeny Donskoy on Monday. Sabalenka plays American Danielle Collins on Tuesday.

James Blake Defends Winston-Salem Title With Another Win Over Andy Roddick

James Blake successfully defended his title at the Invesco Legends Winston Salem Sunday night once again beating his good friend and former Davis Cup teammate Andy Roddick 6-1 in the one-set championship match.

It marked the 11th career title for Blake on the Invesco Series QQQ, the North American tennis circuit for champion tennis players over the age of 30. Blake defeated Roddick 6-4 in last year’s Winston-Salem final en route to winning three titles in 2017 and finishing second to Roddick in the year-long Invesco Series QQQ points standings.

“That’s not a good way to treat a friend” said Invesco Series QQQ on-court commentator Mark Knowles to Blake in his post-match on-court interview of the one-sided nature of the final, causing Blake to jokingly retort, “He’s done that to me plenty of times.” While Blake played clean and efficient tennis, striking six aces, Roddick was sluggish, still reeling from winning a very physical second semifinal just minutes before against Robby Ginepri 7-6(4). Blake had an easier time dispatching Michael Chang 6-3 in the opening semifinal match, and having the luxury of having an hour’s rest entering the final.

Blake earned 400 Invesco Series QQQ ranking points to vault into second place for the year with 600 points. Tommy Haas, the winner this year in Charleston, S.C. and Kohala Coast, Hawaii, remains in first place with 1,000 points. Mark Philippoussis, the winner in Toronto in May, falls a notch to third place with 500 points while Roddick, who earned 200 points for his runner-up showing, moves into a fourth place tie with Lleyton Hewitt and John McEnroe with 400 points.

The Invesco Series QQQ continues Thursday and Friday this week at the WTA Tour’s Connecticut Open in New Haven, Connecticut featuring Blake, Tommy Haas, Todd Martin and John McEnroe. The remaining schedule, with player fields, is as follows

The remaining 2018 Invesco Series QQQ schedule is as follows:

• August 23, 24: New Haven, CT (Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale) – John McEnroe, Tommy Haas, James Blake and Todd Martin
• October 4: St. Louis, MO (Chaifetz Arena) – John McEnroe, Andy Roddick, Jim Courier, and Mark Philippoussis
• October 5: Houston, TX (Tudor Fieldhouse) – John McEnroe, Andy Roddick, James Blake, and Jim Courier
• October 21: Los Angeles, CA (Sherwood Country Club) – Andy Roddick, James Blake, Tommy Haas, and Mardy Fish
• December 6: Orlando, FL (USTA National Campus) – Jim Courier, Andy Roddick, James Blake and Mardy Fish

2018 Invesco Series QQQ Results

April 7: Charleston, SC (Family Circle Tennis Center) F: Tommy Haas def. Andy Roddick 6-1; SF: Tommy Haas def. Michael Chang 6-2; Andy Roddick def. Mark Philippoussis 6-3

May 5, 6: Kohala Coast, HI (Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows) F: Tommy Haas def. John McEnroe 7-5 SF: Tommy Haas def. Mardy Fish 6-3, John McEnroe def.Jim Courier 6-3

May 17: Toronto, ON (Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre) F: Mark Philippoussis d. John McEnroe 7-5, SF: Mark Philippoussis d. James Blake 7-6 (5); John McEnroe d. Jim Courier 6-2.

July 22: Newport, RI (International Tennis Hall of Fame) F: Lleyton Hewitt d. Tommy Haas 7-6(2) SF: Lleyton Hewitt d. James Blake 6-3; Tommy Haas d. Jim Courier 6-3

August 19: Winston-Salem, NC (Wake Forest University) F: James Blake d. Andy Roddick 6-1 SF: Andy Roddick d. Robby Ginepri 7-6 (4); James Blake d. Michael Chang 6-3

Each Invesco Series QQQ event features special VIP experiences, including hit-with-the-pros opportunities and special back-stage access. All ticket, experience and event information can be found at www.InvescoSeries.com

In 2017, the year-long points championship was decided in the final match of the season when Andy Roddick defeated James Blake in the Los Angeles final at the Sherwood Country Club. Roddick, the 2003 U.S. Open champion and world No. 1, won four Invesco Series QQQ titles in all in 2017, winning in Birmingham, Ala., Chicago, Lincoln, Neb., and Los Angeles. Blake, the former world No. 4 and former U.S. Davis Cup star, won series titles in Charleston, S.C., Winston-Salem, N.C. and in Lynchburg, Va.

In 2016, Mark Philippoussis won the Series points title with 1600 points and tournament titles in Memphis, Tulsa, Newport, Winston-Salem and New Haven. Roddick finished in second place, also earning 1600 points but losing the head-to-head tiebreaker with Philippoussis 5-2, while winning titles in Charleston, St. Louis, Los Angeles and Orlando. Blake finished in third place with 1100 points and tournament titles in
Chicago, Portland and Brooklyn.

In 2015, Roddick won the Series points title in his second year of competing on the series with 1,600 points. Roddick won a record eight events Los Angeles, Lincoln, Chicago, Austin, Little Rock, Dallas, Richmond and Minneapolis. Blake finished second in the points rankings with 1,200 points, winning events in Boston and Cincinnati. Philippoussis finished in third with 1,100 points, winning titles in Salt Lake City and Vancouver. The year before in 2014, McEnroe won the points title for the first time in the nine-year history of Invesco Series QQQ tennis by winning events in Kansas City, Indianapolis, Nashville and Charlotte.

ABOUT INSIDEOUT SPORTS + ENTERTAINMENT
InsideOut Sports + Entertainment is a Los Angeles based producer of proprietary events and promotions founded in 2004 by former world No. 1 and Hall of Fame tennis player Jim Courier and former SFX and Clear Channel executive Jon Venison. In 2005, InsideOut launched its signature property, the Champions Series, a collection of tournaments featuring the greatest names in tennis over the age of 30. In addition, InsideOut produces many other successful events including “Legendary Night” exhibitions, The World Series of Beach Volleyball and numerous corporate outings. Since inception, InsideOut Sports + Entertainment has raised over $4 million for charity. In 2014, InsideOut Sports + Entertainment merged with Horizon Media, the largest privately held media services agency in the world. For more information, please log on to www.InsideOutSE.com or InvescoSeries.comor follow on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

ABOUT HORIZON MEDIA
Horizon Media, Inc. is the largest and fastest growing privately held media services agency in the world. The company was founded in 1989, is headquartered in New York and has offices in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Chicago. Horizon Media was chosen as 2011 Independent Media Agency of the Year by Mediapost, 2010 U.S. Media Agency of the Year by Adweek, Brandweek, and Mediaweek as well as by Ad Age and as one of the world’s ten most innovative marketing and advertising companies by Fast Company in 2011. In 2012, Bill Koenigsberg, President, CEO and Founder, was honored by Advertising Age as Industry Executive of the Year. Most recently, in 2014, Bill Koenigsberg was named 4As Chair of the Board and is the first person from a media agency to hold this prestigious position in the 100 year history of the 4As, the marketing industry’s leading trade association. The company’s mission is “To create the most meaningful brand connections within the lives of people everywhere.” By delivering on this mission through a holistic approach to brand marketing, Horizon Media has become one of the largest and fastest-growing media agencies in the industry, with estimated billings of over $5.3 billion and over 1,200 employees. The
company is also a founding member of Columbus Media International, a multi-national partnership of independent media agencies. For more information, please visithorizonmedia.com.

ABOUT INVESCO
Invesco Ltd. is an independent investment management firm dedicated to delivering an investment experience that helps people get more out of life. NYSE: IVZ; Invesco.com, Invesco Distributors, Inc. is the US distributor for Invesco Ltd. and is a wholly owned, indirect subsidiary of Invesco Ltd.

The Little Match That Could

On the evening of Friday August 26, 2011 the eyes of the country were on Hurricane Irene, who was fast approaching the East Coast of North Carolina.  Tennis fans had turned their attention to New York, waiting to see how the storm would effect their favorite players and the upcoming U.S. Open.

I was about three-hundred miles inland from the storm watching one of my favorite matches of the year.

At Wake Forest University in a make-shift tennis stadium located underneath the overhang of the football stadium the 43rd ranked player in the world, 10th seeded Robin Haase, took on the 113th ranked player in the world, Qualifier Julien Benneteau, in the semifinals of the inaugural Winston-Salem Open.

As the sun set and provided some relief from the scorching August sun, approximately four thousand locals packed the temporary stadium ready for some Friday night entertainment.  Most spectators had bought their tickets long before the order of play had been announced, and were feeling a bit slighted- after all, the afternoon semifinal had been between Andy Roddick and hometown hero John Isner!

During the second point of the match, as the sky was turning orange and the crowd was still settling in, Haase’s forehand clipped the net and dribbled over.   Benneteau scampered to the net and made it just in time, awkwardly pitching the ball back over the net.  The two men stayed at the net for a twenty shot sensational yet clumsy exchange of volleys and returns before Haase finally was able to angle the ball out of Benneteau’s reach.  The Winston-Salem crowd leapt to their feet in appreciation and the two men smiled and laughed before Benneteau jovially reached across the net to shake Haase’s hand.  Then the umpire, Somat Madgi, intervened.  Apparently during the exchange Haase had reached his racket over the net and therefore the point was automatically awarded to Benneteau.  Haase and Madgi had a heated exchange before Haase finally settled back in at the baseline and signaled he was ready to move on- to the third point of the match.

Winston Salem, meet Robin Haase and Julien Benneteau.


Robin Haase, 24, is a talented Dutchman often recognized as one of the big underachievers in tennis.  He hits big and plays aggressive, reminiscent of James Blake at his best only with a little more variety.  Coming into the Winston-Salem Open he was soaring at a career high ranking and with his first tournament victory freshly under his belt.  He made it to the semifinals with easy victories over James Blake and Pierre Duclos, and with an upset win over #3 seed Dolgopolov in the quarterfinals.

Julien Benneteau,29, is an effervescent Frenchmen, who prances around the court and makes power and precision seem graceful.  In 2010 he reached a high ranking of 31 before a wrist injury derailed him, and he came into the Winston Salem Open on the comeback trail.  He had to qualify just to get into the tournament and on this Friday night he was playing his eighth match in seven days following three-set come-from-behind escapes against Igor Andreev and Sergiy Stakhovsky.

Early on Haase was clearly rattled from Madgi’s call and Benenteau easily raced out to a 3-1 lead despite not being able to find a first serve. However once Haase started getting balls in play he quickly won five games in a row to win the first set 6-3.   When Haase went up a break early in the second set things seemed grim- the excited crowd became restless, worrying that their night might end way too soon. Would Benneteau be able to pull off another magical escape or would the second point of the match be the highlight?

That’s the phenomenal and infuriating thing about tennis- nothing is a guarantee.  Anything can happen.  Every match has an equal opportunity to be an epic or a complete dud.  The most dramatic match can have no memorable rallies and a blow-out can contain points for a highlight reel.  You just never know.

Luckily on this beautiful night things were far from over. Benneteau finally found his first serve midway through the second set and managed to take it to a tiebreak, where he saved two match points to extend the match to a third set. It wasn’t without drama though.  At one point Benneteau disagreed with one of Madgi’s calls so fiercely that he sat in the back of the court and tried to wait the decision out.  (This tactic was not successful, in case you’re wondering).

In the third set, like clockwork, Benneteau fell behind a break.  Robin Haase served for the match at 5-4 but his nerves found him once again and he was broken.  Benneteau faced one more match point in the third set tiebreak before winning the last three points of the match.  Julien Benneteau defeated Robin Haase 6-3 7-6(7) 7-6(6) to make it to the finals of the Winston-Salem Open.

After a two hour and thirty-two minute sometimes sloppy, sometimes sensational, and always dramatic match the Winston Salem crowd was wild with applause.  This sport of tennis, with two players most had never heard of before, had made it’s way into their hearts.  The energy in the stadium that night was electric and it gave me chills.  There are few things more heartwarming than seeing people fall in love with the sport for the first time. As cheesy as it sounds, it makes me fall in love with the sport all over again.

When all was said and done Benneteau danced, and it was unlike anything Winston-Salem had ever seen- I’d call it a mix of the chicken, the robot, and the electric slide.  People shouted “Allez” in a southern accent. The man I had seen in qualification rounds on a side court had made it all the way to the finals. It was a magical moment.

For Robin Haase, however, it was another memorable collapse.  Every single time he had control he let the match go.  When his game is on it’s indescribable, leaving opponents on the other side completely helpless.  When his brain turns on and he overthinks things his game often falls to pieces and it’s hard to watch without wincing.

In the big scheme of things this little match didn’t mean much in the narratives of 2011. Maybe the more interesting story to most is whether or not Rafael Nadal win one or two majors this year, if Federer can get to seventeen slams, or whether Djokovic will have the best-ever season or merely a top-5-ever season.  But to me that’s like seeing the rich get richer. No disrespect to the top athletes of this sport, but sometimes I think it means more when the players have less.  For these two players, for this inagural tournament, for this Friday night crowd this match meant everything.

The majority of Winston-Salem may never learn how to properly pronounce Benneteau or Haase, but I know that none of them will ever forget the match that night- and shouldn’t that count for something?

 

(Photos c/o Fred and Susan Mullane/Cameraworks USA)

Andy Roddick is the top seed at the Winston Salem Open – Around the corner

With only one week left before the start of the U.S. Open, the Winston Salem Open provides tennis players with one final opportunity to prepare themselves for the final Grand Slam of the year.

Usually the top players in the world like Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer take this week to rest-up before heading to New York, while the lower ranked players who are seeking a few more ranking points or preparation on their games can be found in the draw.

This is the first year of this event as it was previously held in New Haven, Connecticut. With Pilot Pen vacating their spot as tournament sponsor, the event could not find a suitable replacement and was forced to fold.

Let’s look at this week’s draw to see who might end up as the inaugural Winston Salem champ.

First Quarter:

Andy Roddick arrives here as the number one seed. Normally Andy would not be playing in the week leading up to the Open, but he is struggling to find his game this summer and needs all the help he can get. On Monday his ranking will drop out of the top-twenty, something that has not happened for him since August 2001. That was back when Roddick was on his way up in the rankings as a new tennis professional. He has done an amazing job at consistently being one of the top players in the world and will be very focused to get back there.

He opens with a first round bye and then is scheduled to face the winner of the match between Albert Ramos and Lukas Rosol. Either way this should be exactly the confidence boost that Roddick requires.

A tricky third round match could have him play against veteran Lleyton Hewitt, who is also trying to find his game after struggling with injuries this year. It’s sad in many ways to see these two former world number ones and Grand Slam champions having such difficulty with their games.

Second Quarter:

American John Isner is the 4th seed and will face either Dudi Sela or Filippo Volandri in the second round. This is a tournament that Isner should do quite well at and his only real competition could be in a quarter-final match against either Marcos Baghdatis or Dmitry Tursunov.

Isner defeated Baghdatis in Montreal this past week 6-3, 6-4 and the Cypriot has been quite mediocre of late. He has not advanced past the quarter-finals of any hard-court events this summer.

Third Quarter:

Enigmatic Alexandr Dolgopolov is seeded third and has also been playing under his talent-level for many stretches this year. After starting the 2011 season strongly by reaching the quarter-finals of the Australian Open, he has failed to really build on his potential on hard-courts. He did win the event in Umag a few weeks ago but that was on clay. He could face either Grigor Dimitrov or Donald Young in the third round, but otherwise should be able to navigate his way to the quarter-finals.

There he could meet big-serving Kevin Anderson, who is the 6th seed, and has had a solid summer that was highlighted by a victory over Andy Murray in Montreal. He will likely face wild-card Ryan Harrison in the second round. The up-and-coming American faces Victor Hanescu in his opening match. James Blake is also lurking in this section and could face Anderson in the third round.

Fourth Quarter:

Jurgen Melzer is the second seed and will have the toughest opening match of the top seeds as he will face either Bernard Tomic or Igor Andreev. Tomic is a fast rising star on the ATP World Tour who showed his promise at Wimbledon this year by making the quarter-finals. Andreev is never an easy opponent and has skills on all surfaces. I’d call an upset over Melzer here a distinct possibility.

Nikolay Davydenko is the 5th seed and should be able to navigate his way towards the quarter-finals, but after a brutal 6-0, 6-2 defeat at the hands of Mardy Fish in Cincinnati, I wonder if his confidence is able to handle anyone at the moment.

I’m going to go with Roddick or Isner prevailing in this one. They are both great hard-court players and with their serves they are incredibly dangerous. This tournament could do wonders for their confidence as their home-country Grand Slam approaches.