NCAA National Championships Showcase Winston-Salem

May 20, 2018 08:56 PM

You might not know the difference between an ace of spades or an ace of serve, but with the increased exposure of Winston-Salem as a marquis destination for tennis that could change.

“This is one of the most beautiful facilities anywhere in the country,” says United States Tennis Association Men’s Tennis Head of Player Development Brian Boland.

Boland would know. He has coached in more than a dozen Final Four NCAA Tennis Championships in his tenure as Head Men’s Coach at the University of Virginia. 

Boland is in the Piedmont Triad to scout the best talent collegiate tennis has to offer since the NCAA National Championships are in full swing at the Wake Forest Tennis Complex.

“The first thing I did when I got here was take a photo. The job that Winston-Salem and Wake Forest University have done to put this together for the community as well as the state is amazing. You can see the most exciting brand of the sport in your own back yard.”

But, as the saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” The evolution of the tennis complex has taken five years, to be exact.  Ellie Shannon, director of event management and NCAA Championship tournament director, has witnessed and helped plan the construction brick by literal brick, “To see this finally come to fruition has been a little bit surreal. There have been a lot of meetings, a lot of preparation.”

The planning appears to have paid off. Fans stuffed the permanent seating around the facility tighter than passengers flying coach as the number one seeded Men’s Demon Deacons fought through their Elite Eight match against Illinois, ultimately securing a berth in the Final Four with a 4-0 win.

For ten years the head racquet-stringer for the Deacs, David Yamane, has seen the complex and the Twin Cities evolve. “It’s nice to have a facility in the community that can accommodate all the people who are fans. You don’t get [the Winston-Salem Open] and an NCAA tournament without a community to support these events.”

Wake Forest University Associate Athletic Director Mike Odom says it’s the community who benefits, “There are thousands of people coming to our city to stay in hotels, eat, and see our facilities who otherwise might not have visited. I think you can see the community enjoys coming out.”

The collegiate teams enjoy it too and share the crowds’ energy with red-faced outbursts of joy (or pain), and sweaty fist pumps.

Activity at the Wake Forest Tennis Complex doesn’t end with the NCAA tournament. An International Tennis Federation Futures event, where one can catch a glimpse of up and comers, is slated for June, and the eighth Winston-Salem Open kicks off August 18th.

Tournament Director Bill Oakes not only helped secure the NCAA Tournament but has also helped the Winston-Salem event, the only ATP event in the world held on a university campus, receive Tournament of the Year in 2016. “Every year Wake Forest and the community have really tried to make this event better. The goal is to continue to improve each and every year.”

Thanks to an extended partnership with DecoTurf, the Wake Forest Tennis Complex courts will remain almost identical to the hard courts at the US Open, the year’s grand finale of grand slams. Oakes believes the surface similarities and the supportive community make this event unique, “Winston-Salem is a small community, but a vibrant one. It’s our hope to make our hometown proud and continue to raise the bar when it comes to world class and worldwide events.”

Tickets for the Winston-Salem Open will be on sale beginning June 4th with special discounted early pricing discounts.