Competitive First-Round Matchups Highlight WSO Draw

August 21, 2015 07:56 PM

2015 Main Singles Draw

By John Delong, Winston-Salem Open

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - Gilles Simon is the top seed and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is the top draw, but there will also be a youth movement this year at the fifth annual Winston-Salem Open.

The ATP World Tour 250-level event boasts four teenagers in the 48-player Main Draw, including the top three teens in the ATP World Tour rankings.

That list is headed by 18-year-old Borna Coric, the Croatian sensation who currently checks in at No. 38 after being as high as No. 33 earlier this summer. Coric will be the tournament’s No. 8 seed.

Coric was the ATP player representative at Friday’s Draw Ceremony at Deacon Tower, and he said his first impressions of the Wake Forest Tennis Complex were excellent.

“I have heard it’s a very nice tournament,” Coric said. “I just got here (Thursday), but it’s all been very good. All the courts are unbelievably good. It is a very nice gym. So it has all been good so far and I am looking forward to spending some time in the city.”

The tournament starts Saturday morning with qualifying, with a field of 32 looking for four available spots in the Main Draw. Qualifiers will have to win two matches on Saturday, then another match on Sunday. Play starts Saturday at 10 a.m.

The Main Draw will begin on Sunday and will run through the week, with afternoon sessions starting at 3 p.m. and evening sessions starting at 7 p.m.

Besides Coric, teenagers in the Main Draw include 19-year-old Hyeon Chung of Korea, who is currently ranked No. 73; 19-year-old Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia, who is currently ranked No. 79; and 18-year-old Jared Donaldson of the United States, who received the tournament’s fourth and final wild card on Friday. Donaldson is currently ranked No. 153.

Coric will be worth watching, for sure. A former US Open junior champion in 2013, he has had a dramatic rise up the ATP Tour World rankings in the past two years. He climbed 276 spots last year to finish inside the Top 100, and has continued to skyrocket this year.

Already, he boasts wins over Rafael Nadal (last year in reaching the semifinals at Basel, and Andy Murray (this year in reaching the semifinals in Dubai). He also reached the semifinals at Nice this year, and reached the third round at Roland Garros.

“I broke through last year and finished in the Top 100, and it’s been a very good year for me this year,” Coric said. “But still I have to keep pushing hard because now I’m starting to defend some points and I know it’s not going to be easy. But if you want to be the best, you have to do it.”

Coric comes to Winston-Salem after losing a tough third-set tie-break to Stan Wawrinka in the second round in Cincinnati.

The spotlight of being winner of the ATP’s 2014 “Star of Tomorrow” award has only served to motivate him.

“I try to look at the positive things about it,” Coric said. “It means that you are doing something very good if people are looking at me and saying that I’m going to be the next No. 5 in the world, or No. 1. So it’s actually all the more motivating for me to keep working.”

Simon, who joined the field as a wild card, will be making his first WSO appearance. The winner of 12 career titles including Marseille earlier this year, he is currently ranked No. 11.

There are three other Top 20 players in the field – No. 15 Kevin Anderson, No. 19 Tsonga, and No. 20 Viktor Troicki.

The seeds are, in order: No. 1 Simon; No. 2 Anderson; No. 3 Tsonga; No. 4 Troicki; No. 5 Guillermo Garcia-Lopez; No. 6 Thomasz Bellucci; No. 7 Sam Querrey; No. 8 Coric; No. 9 Benoit Paire; No. 10 Joao Sousa; No. 11 Jiri Vesely; No. 12 Pablo Andujar; No. 13 Steve Johnson; No. 14 Marcos Baghdatis; No. 15 Teymuraz Gabashvili; and No. 16 Jerzy Janowicz, the 2014 WSO runner-up.

Also in the Main Draw are defending champion Lukas Rosol, former World No. 2 Tommy Haas, former World No. 10 Ernests Gulbis, and WSO regulars Alexandr Dolgopolov, Robin Haase and Donald Young.