John Isner and Tomas Berdych waged an epic third-set tiebreak to decide last year’s Winston-Salem Open, with Isner fighting off three match points to eventually prevail.
The two are back again to headline the third annual WSO, which will begin Saturday at the Wake Forest Tennis Complex with two rounds of qualifying.
But don’t expect to see a rematch in the finals this year.
That’s because Berdych, the tournament’s top seed, and Isner, the third seed, found themselves in the same half of the bracket when the pairings were announced at the Draw Ceremony on Friday afternoon.
That means they’ll be on a collision course to meet in the semifinals, should they advance through their respective quarters.
Tournament director Bill Oakes, who scored a major victory when Berdych joined the 48-player Main Draw late Thursday night by accepting one of the tournament’s four wild cards, was touting the potential showdown shortly after the draw was announced.
"That would be a dream for me, to see those two playing in the semifinals," Oakes said. "They’re great competitors. The match was so close last year, Tomas had opportunities to put it away, but John gutted it out. So if we’re in a position where those two meet again in the semifinals, I would be very happy. But we’ve got a really good field and a lot of depth to our field, so it’s going to be interesting to see who makes it through. I think this tournament could be really fun."
After a flurry of activity that included both wild card additions and withdrawals in the past two days, the field is set to include eight players currently ranked in the Top 30, and 15 ranked in the Top 50.
Berdych, No. 6 in the latest ATP World Tour rankings and still alive in the semifinals at the Masters 1000 tournament in Cincinnati after a quarterfinal win over Andy Murray on Friday, is the top seed. Italian Andreas Seppi, No. 21, is the second seed. And Isner, currently No. 22 and also in the semis in Cincinnati after beating Novak Djokovic on Friday, is the third seed.
The remaining seeds, all of whom will receive first-round byes, are Tommy Robredo (ranked No. 23), Benoit Paire (No. 24), Sam Querrey (No. 28), Fernando Verdasco (No. 31), Juan Monaco (No. 32), Jurgen Melzer (No. 33), Alexandr Dolgopolov (No. 37), Jarkko Nieminen (No. 39), Lukas Rosol (No. 43), Dmitry Tursunov (No. 44), Martin Klizan (No. 45), Gael Monfils (No. 49), and Pablo Andujar (No. 51).
Also in the field are Americans James Blake, Mardy Fish, Jack Sock, Bobby Reynolds, Michael Russell and Rhyne Williams, and Wake Forest sophomore Romain Bogaerts, who was granted the final wild card on Friday after wild card Bernard Tomic withdrew.
"I’m very happy with the field," Oakes said. "Actually, I’m psyched. There are guys who are able to play here this year who normally would not, a Bobby Reynolds for example. Am I sad to lose some of the guys we lost? For sure. We lost some great guys who we were really looking forward to having here and for a variety of reasons they couldn’t make it work, and we’re disappointed but we understand. So we just wish them the best at the US Open."
The late addition of Berdych clearly offset the losses.
"I don’t think there’s a word in the vocabulary that kinda fits how my excitement was when I found out Tomas was coming," Oakes said. "It was a relief, actually, because we had worked really hard to make sure Tomas had a great experience last year, and I had talked to him in March in Miami, in London in July, and he said, ‘Look, I’m just going to make my decision at the last minute.’ But knowing you have a chance with the No. 6 player in the world makes a big difference to the sponsors and to the fans, so I’m really happy for them as well."
Berdych is in the same quarter of the draw with Querrey, Nieminen, Klizan and Fish. Isner is in the same quarter as Paire, Melzer, Tursunov, Blake and Sock. Seppi wound up in the same quarter with Andujar, Dolgopolov, Monaco and Nicolas Mahut, and the most-interesting quarter may be the one with Robredo, Monfils, Rosol, Verdasco, Dennis Istomin and 2011 WSO semifinalist Robin Haase.