Just more than two months remain before the start of the Winston-Salem Open, Aug. 20-27.
The good news is, all the pre-tournament preparations are right on schedule and tournament director Bill Oakes couldn’t be happier with the progress.
Construction of the tennis complex located next to BB&T Field continues at a brisk pace. The field for the 48-player singles draw continues to get stronger. Ticket sales are encouraging, and sponsors continue to show interest in being associated with the ATP World Tour 250 event.
"Having so many pieces in place already, in such a short time period, is very exciting and a bit surprising,," Oakes said. "The next 60-plus days, we’ll have more accomplished than in the past 120, but still, we’re moving along well. I’m feeling good about where we’re going to be on Aug. 20."
Remember, it was just six months ago that Winston-Salem was awarded the tournament, and just four months ago that Oakes came aboard as tournament director.
Everything involving the tournament has had to be built from the ground up.
Oakes will head to Wimbledon at the end of the month for ATP meetings, plus a little recruiting.
The 48-player draw already has commitments from No. 9 Mardy Fish, plus Greensboro’s John Isner and Americans Sam Querrey and Ryan Harrison. Oakes figures that his trip to London will produce more commitments, especially from top European players.
"One of the reasons I’m going is to run into players and agents and coaches and talk to them," Oakes said. "The way the ATP works, they send down information to the players, and ours just went out last week. So I’m hoping that over the next couple of weeks, we’ll see more and more players sign up. I think we’ll do pretty well with that."
Oakes said he is getting good reaction from top players who have yet to commit.
"You know, we’re a new tournament, and some people say it’s a tough week to get people to play because it’s the week before the U.S. Open," Oakes said. "But we’ve been contacted by Top 10 players, Top 20 players, former No. 1s, about playing. We haven’t come to an agreement on certain issues with some of them, but it is nice that people are calling us. It’s nice when they are calling us and I’m not having to call them."
The Wimbledon fortnight will be significant for the WSO in another way.
That’s when Triad tennis fans will start seeing more television advertising for the WSO, and more media exposure in general.
Shortly after Oakes returns from London, the tennis complex itself will begin taking form in earnest.
The Deco-Turf II surfaces the 13 courts are scheduled to be laid in early July. Then the construction of center court stadium will begin near the end of the July.
"It only takes about 10 days to construct the stadium," Oakes said. "We’re doing fine on that. The courts are getting paved and we’ll be ready to put the green down right after the fourth of July, so we’re excited about that. I’m feeling real good about all of that. One thing I’ve got to say, Mother Nature has been kind to us over the last three weeks and that has been vitally important."
Oakes said he is pleased with ticket sales – two categories of grandstand seating have already been sold out for the entire week – and he is happy with the support of the tournament sponsors. BB&T, Champion and the Flow Companies are the presenting sponsors; Wake Forest Baptist Health, Corona, Forsyth Medical Center, Olympus, American Express and South African Airways are event sponsors; and sponsorships remain at other levels.
Oakes is also pleased with the reaction he continues to get throughout the Triad. Winston-Salem has created a buzz in the past when it has hosted Davis Cup ties, and a similar buzz is in the air for the WSO.
"The people of Winston-Salem and the Triad have been so welcoming to this event," Oakes said. "It seems like everyone wants it to be successful, which is a nice thing to have. People want us to be successful, and that’s neat.
"I’m hoping it’s not just because we’re in a honeymoon period, but people are excited. And they should be. How often is a city like Winston-Salem going to have CBS live coverage? We’re the only men’s tennis tournament in the world that week. There are no other men’s professional tennis tournaments in the world that week. That makes a big difference. So I feel very good about where we are at this point."