By John Delong
It’s always a treat when James Blake and Andy Roddick return to Winston-Salem, and that was definitely the case on Sunday night.
Blake, Roddick, Mardy Fish and Michael Chang delighted a large crowd at the Winston-Salem Open as the PowerShares Series returned to the Wake Forest Tennis Complex for the second year in a row.
Blake wound up winning the event, beating Roddick 6-3 in a one-set final after Blake had defeated Mardy Fish 6-4 and Roddick had defeated Michael Chang 6-2 in one-set semifinals.
Call this a tremendous success, on a warm-but-beautiful evening for tennis.
For Roddick, who was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame earlier this summer, it was a nostalgic return to where he has many fond memories. He started coming to Winston-Salem as a teenager in the Flow Motors Invitational, then was a member of US Davis Cup teams that played at Joel Coliseum in 2001, 2007 and 2008. Then he played in the first two Winston-Salem Opens before retiring in 2012.
“I love coming back here,” Roddick said. “The tournament is one thing, but just the memories, I played the Flow Motors in 1999. They let me in as a 15, 16-year-old kid and I got to play guys ranked in the Top 80 and it was a huge experience for me. Then playing Davis Cup here in ’01, ’07 and ’08 and then the tournament coming here, I’ve been here in three different capacities and three different formats, and now PowerShares. So we’re always adding great experiences.
“I’m thankful for the infrastructure here that Mr. Flow has created and Bill Oakes has done a great job as tournament director. It’s always an easy ‘yes’ to come back here.”
Blake was also a member of the three Davis Cup ties, and he too played in the Winston-Salem Open three times until retiring.
“I love coming back here,” Blake said. “I’ve had a lot of fun playing here, and any time we can be in conjunction with the event it’s a lot of fun to see some of the guys we don’t get to see as often anymore. It’s a fun time.”
Interestingly, Roddick and Blake agreed that their favorite Winston-Salem memory was the 2001 Davis Cup tie against India. Roddick was making his debut as the top American player, and Blake found out just before the start of the tie that he would be playing instead of Todd Martin.
“The first time that James and I played live rubbers and we were kind of a singles team for the first time, I think we were the first people to wear USA and represent the USA in international competition after 9-11,” Roddick said. “I don’t know how you get more emotion and more meaning than that. For us, it was a big moment. We were so young. I know they had delayed it a couple of weeks after 9-11, and it was a huge moment and to have the community here show out for us and have the attention of the country on relegation Davis Cup tie to get back into the World Group, it was an honor and it was a big moment for both of us.”
Blake said: “It was my first time playing Davis Cup and I remember, I don’t ever get nervous on a tennis court but I was full-blown butterflies in that match. I just couldn’t believe I was playing. We got to wear the USA patch as well, and it was pretty amazing. The first game hearing them say, ‘Game USA,’ and Patrick McEnroe and Andy both gave moving speeches, it just doesn’t get any better than that.”
The PowerShares event wasn’t the only action on Stadium Court Sunday.
Thiago Monteiro started the day with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over 2013 WSO semifinalist Alexandr Dolgopolov, and Marcos Baghdatis followed with a 7-5, 7-5 win over Ricardas Berankis.
It was Monteiro’s second win over Dolgopolov this summer, and it was a dominant performance as he did not face a break point all day.
“It was a great match for me today,” Monteiro said. “I thought I played really aggressive. My serve was very good. I have been practicing a lot on my serve and I just hope I can keep it going in the tournament.”
Baghdatis got late breaks in each set, and he too was pleased with his play.
“I enjoy coming here,” Baghdatis said. “I think it’s a very good tournament before the US Open. Very relaxed, a lot of courts to practice on, and it just fits into my schedule well. I’m feeling healthy, feeling good, feeling 100 percent to go through this week.”
In other first-round matches, Andrey Kuznetsov beat Nicolas Kicker 7-5, 6-2; Jan-Lennard Struff beat Norbert Gombos 7-6 (3), 7-6 (4); and Dusan Lajovic beat Wake Forest’s Petros Chrysochos 6-2, 6-3.
In the second round of qualifying, Kyle Edmund beat Jonathan Eysseric 6-3, 6-1; Marton Fucsovics beat Kevin King 6-2, 6-4; Rogerio Dutra Silva beat Dominik Koepfer 6-4, 6-4; and Alex Bolt beat Wake Forest’s Borna Gojo 6-0, 3-6, 6-1. All four winners advanced to the Main Draw along with Koepfer, who advanced as a lucky loser.
And in first-round doubles action, Julio Peralta and Horacio Zeballos beat Wake Forest’s Skander Mansouri and Christian Seraphim 7-6 (3), 6-3; and third-seeded Mate Pavic and Nenad Zimonjic beat Julian Knowle and Gilles Simon 6-2, 3-6, 10-6.