By John Delong, Winston-Salem Open
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - Wake Forest University freshman Petros Chrysochos has his sights set on becoming the first Demon Deacon to play his way into the Main Draw of the Winston-Salem Open.
Chrysochos won his first-round qualifying match on Saturday afternoon when veteran Alejandro Falla was forced to retire in the second set, after Chrysochos had taken the first set 6-4. Chrysochos will meet James Duckworth in Sunday’s second round of qualifying, with the winner joining three other qualifiers in the 48-player Main Draw.
“It feels great,” Chrysochos said of the opportunity to reach the Main Draw. “It’s my first 250, so it would mean a lot to make the Main Draw. I’ve always played Futures and Challengers, so I’m really excited to play my first one.”
Two former Deacons have made the Main Draw of the Winston-Salem Open – Romain Bogaerts in 2013 and Noah Rubin in 2014 – but both made the field as wild card entries.
Two other current Deacons played well in their first-round qualifying matches on Saturday, but both fell in three sets. Rising junior Skander Mansouri came up on the short end of a 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 loss to Tim Van Rijthoven, and rising sophomore Dennis Uspensky fell to Liam Brody 2-6, 6-1, 6-2.
Chrysochos said he got a confidence boost from countryman Marcos Baghdatis, the former Top 10 player who is already safely in the Main Draw. Chrysochos has played doubles with Baghdatis in Davis Cup several times already in his young career.
“We have played Davis Cup together several times, great matches,” Chrysochos said. “Having him here gave me some confidence. He doesn’t usually practice in Cypress but when he does we practice together. I’m so happy he’s here and he can support me.”
Chrysochos said he was intimidated upon learning that he would play the veteran Falla, who has been ranked as high as No. 48.
“I was playing my first matches since the NCAAs actually, so I thought I wasn’t going to do great,” Chrysochos said. “I saw my opponent was Alejandro Falla, very experienced, has been on the tour and has had some great wins. So I was just trying to go and play my best. Fortunately for me he got tired a little bit and he had a problem with his calf, so he had to retire.”
Chrysochos had a 26-5 singles record for the Deacons as a freshman, earning All-America honors after reaching the NCAA singles quarterfinals. He is currently ranked No. 760 in the ATP World Tour rankings, after being as high as No. 469 last September after he had won two Futures events in Cyprus.
“I got here in January so I was in season when I got here, so it’s my second semester now and I’m still a freshman,” he said. “I’m very happy with the way things have gone so far. We had to play a lot of matches, great players, the NCAAs I made the quarterfinals in singles which was great, and now I’m hoping next year I can win the NCAAs with the team and the individual.
“So, so far, so good. We have everything here. We have great practice facilities and a lot of great matches, and you get a degree from a great school as well. It’s a win-win for me any way you go.”
Mansouri, the rising junior from Tunisia and the Deacons’ No. 1 player, was playing qualies at the WSO for the second straight year. He had momentum against Van Rijthoven after coming back and winning the second set, but Van Rijthoven reclaimed control in the third and won the last four games.
“It was a great experience,” Mansouri said. “Playing here at home is a great feeling, it couldn’t be any better. I came back and won the second set and was doing well, but it’s tough because he really started serving well in the third set and it was tough to hold every time and the pressure was on me. But it was a good match.”
Uspensky, who had a 27-5 record as a freshman and was the ACC Tournament MVP, said he simply wore down in the sweltering August heat.
“It was a great experience,” Uspensky said. “I had never played anything similar, playing on Stadium Court. The level of tennis I think was pretty high in the first two sets, and then I kind of went dead. It was getting really hot. But it was a great experience.”
Uspensky said Saturday’s results bode well for the future of Wake Forest tennis.
“I think this shows you how good Wake Forest tennis is,” Uspensky said. “Coming into next season I feel like me, Petros and Skander are (great players) and I feel like it shows what a high level we have. I think going into the season we should be very confident that we can play at a high level.”
In other first-round qualifying action, Duckworth beat Michael Mmoh 6-3, 6-4; Yoshihito Nishioka beat Lukasz Kubot 6-4, 6-4; Radu Albot beat Wil Spencer 6-3, 7-5; James McGee beat Mackenzie McDonald 7-6 (3), 6-3; and Michael Berrer beat Matwe Middelkoop 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 (2).
In Sunday’s second round of qualifying, Chrysochos will face Duckworth, Albot will face Van Rijthoven, Nishioka will face Broady, and McGee will face Berrer, with all the winners advancing to the Main Draw.