by John Delong
After Friday’s draw ceremony at the beautiful new Harold Pollard Center, Murray and Shapovalov find themselves on a collision course early in the tournament.
Shapovalov drew a first-round bye as the second seed in the 48-player Main Draw field. In the second round, he’ll face the winner of the Murray-Tennys Sandgren first-round showdown.
Murray is the only player in the field whose number was not picked in the draw ceremony, and he was slotted into the final open spot in the draw in a bizarre stroke of chance.
Tournament director Bill Oakes said that he would announce details for when Murray’s first-round match will take place. The first round is scheduled for some matches on Sunday and the rest on Monday. The second round will be played on Tuesday.
Tomas Berdych, who represented the ATP players at the draw ceremony, has been watching Murray’s comeback from hip surgery, as Berdych is also coming back from a back injury.
“It’s nice to see him playing again,” Berdych said of Murray. “I don’t know all the particulars and he might be coming back a little early, but this just shows how much he loves to play and compete.”
Berdych and Murray are two of the four wild cards in the field, and what a bunch of wild cards it is. The two other wild cards are Frances Tiafoe and Shapovalov. Murray accepted his wild card on Thursday after making his singles comeback in Cincinnati. He lost to Richard Gasquet in the first round in his first singles appearance since the Australian Open.
The top seed is Benoit Paire, who has already won two tournaments this year and comes into the tournament ranked No. 29 in the latest ATP World Tour rankings. The 30-year-old Paire won earlier at Lyon and Marrakech. He moved up to the No. 1 seed after Kevin Anderson, Borna Coric and Nikoloz Basilashvili all withdrew before the draw.
The remaining seeds are: No. 2 Shapovalov; No. 3 Hubert Hurkacz; No. 4 Joao Sousa; No. 5 Daniel Evans; No. 6 Sam Querrey; No. 7 Lorenzo Sonego; No. 8 Filip Krajiinovic; No. 9 Albert Ramos Vinolas; No. 10 Tiafoe; No. 11 2016 WSO champion Pablo Carreno Busta; No. 12 Casper Ruud; No. 13 Miomir Kecmanovic; No. 14 John Millman; No. 15 Ugo Humbert; and No. 16 Feliciano Lopez.
All the seeds receive first-round byes. There were some intriguing first-round matchups beside the Murray-Sandgren match. Others include Berdych against Andreas Seppi; Steve Johnson against Corentin Moutet; Pablo Andujar against Nicolas Jarry; Andrey Rublev against Thomas Fabbiano; and Robin Haase against Marco Cecchinato.
Qualifying starts on Saturday at noon and there are several big names in the field, including 2013 WSO champion Jurgen Melzer and 2017 runner-up Damir Dzhumar. Also playing are two Wake Forest players, Petros Chrysochos and Borna Gojo.
Berdych, who was a finalist in 2012 before losing to John Isner in a third-set tie-break, said he was very impressed with the way the WSO has grown in recent years. He had particularly kind words for the Stadium Court and also the new Harold Pollard Center.
The $3.8 million facility overlooks Court 2 and truly is a marvelous facility for hospitality.
WSO chairman Don Flow participated in the ribbon-cutting ceremony along with Pollard’s widow Louise. Pollard, who was on the board of directors of Winston-Salem Professional Tennis and served as the tournament treasurer, died in the fall of 2017.
“We wanted to make sure we captured for many generations who Harold was and what he meant to the tournament and the community,” Flow said. “We did exactly what Harold would want us to do, and that’s to get together and enjoy being with each other.”