By John Delong
The Olympics are always fun to watch, but they’ll be even more interesting this year for fans of the Winston-Salem Open.
A total of 30 players who have committed to playing in the Winston-Salem Open are in the Olympics’ 64-man singles field, and a handful more are playing doubles in London.
That number could increase since tournament director Bill Oakes still has three wildcards in his pocket, which he has saved specifically because of the Olympics.
"I think this underscores what we have said all along about this year’s Winston-Salem Open being a very international field and being a very deep and talented field," Oakes said.
The London Olympics begin with Opening Ceremonies on July 27, and the tennis competition will be held at Wimbledon from July 28-Aug. 5.
All of the WSO’s main attractions are playing in the Olympics – world No. 6 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France, defending champion and world No. 11 John Isner of the United States, and former world No. 1 Andy Roddick of the U.S. In fact, Isner and Roddick are teaming up in doubles, too.
Others who have committed to the WSO who are in the Olympics singles draw: Carlos Berlocq (Argentina); Jurgen Melzer (Austria); David Goffin and Steve Darcis (Belgium); Tomasz Bellucci (Brazil); Lu Yen-Hsun (Chinese Taipei); Santiago Giraldo and Alejandro Falla (Colombia); Ivo Karlovic (Croatia); Marcos Baghdatis (Cyprus); Jarkko Nieminen (Finland); Go Soeda and Tatsuma Ito (Japan); Mikhail Kukushkin (Kazakhstan); Gilles Muller (Luxembourg); Robin Haase (Netherlands); Lukasz Kubot (Poland); Alex Bogomolov Jr. and Nikolay Davydenko (Russia); Viktor Troicki (Serbia); Lukas Lacko and Martin Klizan (Slovak Republic); Blaz Kavcic (Slovenia); Feliciano Lopez (Spain); Malek Jaziri (Tunisia); Donald Young (USA); and Denis Istomin (Uzbekistan).
Defending WSO doubles champs Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram (Israel) will participate in doubles, and three other top WSO draws won’t play singles but will play doubles: Marcel Granollers (Spain) with Marc Lopez; 2011 WSO runner-up Julien Benneteau (France) with Richard Gasquet; and Michael Llodra (France) with Tsonga.
Oakes is also hoping that the Olympics will provide a scenario for more top players to wind up coming to Winston-Salem.
He can still hand out three wildcard entries for players who didn’t sign up before the deadline. The logic is that some top players may go deep into the Olympics and not be able to compete in the Masters 1000 tournament in Toronto the following week. That could leave players needing more hardcourt matches before going to the US Open, and could make coming to Winston-Salem attractive.
"It could be a situation where players who play in the Olympics cannot get back to North America in time to play the first tournament back, which is in Toronto," Oakes said. "They may have to skip that tournament, which means they would only have Cincinnati to get prepared in time for the US Open. Some of those players will certainly want more match time than what Cincinnati has to offer.
"So we’re going to hold the balance of our wildcards until just before the tournament. We’ve already got requests from a couple of top players to just keep them in mind. They may or they may not. So I feel we’re in pretty good position right now and we’ll get some pretty good requests."