Opening Day Sells Out

August 20, 2022 08:20 PM

The Piedmont Triad showed up for its home tournament to sell out on the opening Saturday.

For only the second time since the Winston-Salem Open began in 2011, the tournament released grounds passes to accommodate fans.

“We could not be more pleased with the community support we received for our first day,” says Tournament Director Jeff Ryan.

“Our goal is to make everyone feel like a part of this event, and even though it’s an international one, it’s also a local one.”

In fact, top players say it’s the local atmosphere that helps draw them to Winston-Salem and the Wake Forest University Tennis Complex.
Former world no. 1 and three-time grand slam champion Andy Murray chose to spend a few days in the area to prepare for his U.S. Open campaign.

“It’s very easy. Everything is very close by. It’s so easy to get around. Obviously once you get to New York, everything is hectic there. Here, it’s quiet. It’s not an issue to get practice courts,” Murray said after a Saturday afternoon practice session.

The 35-year-old is back inside the top 50, working his way up the rankings after a long layoff due to a hip surgery. 

“The conditions here are pretty challenging. It’s hot and super humid. It’s similar to the conditions we get in New York, so for me to get a few days here training was perfect for that.”

Murray has twice played in the Winston-Salem Open and says the atmosphere is a great perk.

“It’s great to come to a place where there’s so much support and the crowd is really knowledgeable about tennis,” he added.

Crowd support is something Steve Johnson knows a lot about. The 32-year-old was a semifinalist in 2015 and 2019 and a finalist in 2018 when he lost to the current world no. 1, Daniil Medvedev.

“I looked at the old resume, and a hard court title is the one thing I’m missing. It would be so nice to go one step further and win this thing,” Johnson reflected.

Johnson says he isn’t just in it for the titles anymore. 

“I feel like it’s our job to leave the sport in a better place for the younger generation of players. Especially playing here in the states, any chance you get to do a kids’ day – do something to inspire the kids to have fun and enjoy tennis for life – is just so cool. Tennis has let me create so many great friendships and memories. I am forever grateful for the sport, and I just want to give back as much as possible.” 

Johnson, a nine-time competitor, also says he’s enjoyed watching the tournament and the city change.

“It’s great to see how much the tournament has grown as the years go by. I have some local favorite spots, but I love all the new places to visit and eat.”

Dominic Thiem is also a repeat competitor. He made his Winston-Salem Open debut as a qualifier in 2012, when he was in town serving as a hitting partner to Ernest Gulbis.

That August Thiem was ranked 153. In March of 2020, Thiem hit no. 3 in the world rankings, and in September he won the U.S. Open. 

The Winston-Salem Open is his first hard court tournament since a serious wrist injury sidelined him in June of 2021.

“I’m pumped to be back. I’ve had great success on the hard courts,” says Thiem.

The 28-year-old Austrian has been on site since Tuesday to prepare for the tournament and says he’s looking forward to the atmosphere.

“Fans have done their job by getting tickets, so now I have to do my job and give them a good match. I’m ready for that. I’m ready to fight. I’m ready to give the fans great memories.”

Thiem faces American J.J. Wolf in his opening round match, and the winner will face top seed and current world no. 18 Grigor Dimitrov.

Surely, memories will not be in short supply this week.