For the past dozen years, James Blake has been one of Winston-Salem’s favorite sons as a member of the U.S. Davis Cup team and a regular at the Winston-Salem Open.
The 33-year-old New Yorker will be back in the Twin City spotlight again today when he takes on fellow American Rhyne Williams in the featured afternoon match on Center Court.
It’s a setting that is sure to bring the best out in Blake, because the former World No. 4 enjoys playing in Winston-Salem every bit as much as Winston-Salem tennis fans enjoy watching him.
"It’s always fun coming back to Winston-Salem," Blake said. "It makes you feel good to know the fans are still interested, and of course it brings back so many good memories for me because I’ve had success and won a few matches – some pretty big matches, in fact. Winston-Salem has been good to me."
Blake comes to the WSO ranked No. 97 but scored one of his biggest wins of the year last week in Cincinnati, when he knocked off No. 14 Jerzy Janowicz in the first round. He reached the third round in Atlanta last month before losing to eventual champion and two-time defending WSO champ John Isner.
This will be his first career meeting with Williams, a 22-year-old former University of Tennessee star who is ranked No. 114. Williams was an NCAA singles finalist in 2011 before turning pro.
Seven other Americans highlight today’s slate, with Sam Querrey, Jack Sock, Mardy Fish, Steve Johnson, Michael Russell, Tim Smyczek and Bobby Reynolds all in action.
Querrey, the sixth seed in this tournament and No. 28 in the latest ATP World Tour rankings, will take on Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in the evening feature match on Center Court. Querrey won the only previous match between the two, back in 2008.
Sock, the 20-year-old face of the next generation of American tennis, will face David Goffin in a first-round match in the first match on Center Court this afternoon. This could be the most intriguing matchup of the day; Goffin had to go through qualifying because he didn’t meet the entry deadline, but he breezed through qualifying and poses a stern test for Sock.
Fish, coming off a win over Evgeny Donskoy on Sunday night, will be the third afternoon match on Center Court when he takes on 11th-seeded Jarkko Nieminen in a second-round match.
Johnson and Reynolds will face each other in a first-round match on Court 2, and Russell and Smyczek will meet later in the afternoon on Court 2.
The only other seed in action today is 12th-seeded Lukas Rosol, who will take on 2011 WSO semifinalist Robin Haase in the second night match on Center Court.
The remainder of the 16 seeded players will make their 2013 WSO debuts on Tuesday.