By John Delong
History was made at the Winston-Salem Open on Saturday as not one but two Wake Forest players won matches in qualifying.
Rising junior Jonathan Ho defeated Quinton Vega 7-5, 6-1 before losing to Jason Jung in the second round. And departed senior Adam Lee knocked off David Marrero 6-4, 6-3 before falling to top-seeded David Goffin 6-2, 6-0 in the second round.
It marked the first time in the WSO’s four-year history that a Wake Forest player has won a singles match of any kind here.
There were four Wake players in Saturday’s qualifying rounds, plus incoming freshman Noah Rubin has received a wild card to the Main Draw and will make his ATP World Tour debut on Sunday night.
“I think it’s awesome for our program that five guys can play a tournament at this level,” said Ho, a rising junior from Wexford, Pa. who was playing in his first ATP World Tour event. “It’s only going to make us better for the upcoming season. All the guys were excited to play, so it’s great stuff for our program.”
“It was a lot of fun and it was a great experience,” said Lee, an Auckland, New Zealand native who holds the Wake Forest school record for victories in a season with 38. “To be out there and have a little crowd behind me was a lot of fun, and then to be able to play a player the stature of Goffin, it’s all good. That’s what I wanted to do.”
Wake Forest’s other two players in qualifying, Anthony Delcore and Maksim Kan, were ousted in the first round.
Ho got the added bonus of playing on Center Court in his win over Vega. That proved to be nerve-wracking at first, but Ho eventually settled down, came from a break down to win the first set, then breezed in the second.
“I got off to a slow start,” Ho said. “It was a big stadium. I wasn’t used to it. The first thing going through my mind was it’s a lot more intimidating than I thought it would be. So I missed some shots early and it took a little bit of time to get used to it. But I tried to stay composed and I fought my way back into the match and started playing better.”
Ho was not, he said, intimidated by the level of competition.
“I feel like my level, I can compete with a lot of guys in qualifying, so I just had to prove it,” he said.
Lee was making his second appearance in the WSO after losing in the first round of qualifying last year.
He accomplished his first goal with a straight-set win over Marrero in the first round, but then ran into one of the ATP World Tour’s hottest players in Goffin. Goffin has now won 21 straight matches, and won a 250-level event in Kitzbuhel, Austria in his last tournament.
“I lost in three sets in the first round last year, so I came here wanting to do better than I did last year and win at least one match,” Lee said. “So to be able to go two rounds this year, hopefully next year maybe I can qualify.”
Delcore, a rising junior from Omaha, Neb., lost to former UCLA player Nicolas Meister 6-4, 6-1 in his first-round match. He was up a break at 4-1 in the first set, but Meister took control and dominated the rest of the way.
“I started off really well,” Delcore said. “Didn’t have too many nerves early and got up an early break. But then he settled in and took over from there.”
Delcore said the experience would be beneficial not only for him but for all his Wake teammates.
“It’s always great to get experience in tournaments like this,” Delcore said. “I think it really motivates the guys for the season, watching all these pros play and seeing how they train and everything,” Delcore said. “It’s a great learning experience for us to see their habits and stuff like that, so hopefully it’ll help us.”
Kan, a rising sophomore from Uzbekistan via Cleveland, lost to Nicholas Monroe 6-1, 7-6 (5).
“It’s my first time playing in a tournament like this and I was obviously nervous in the beginning, but then I got used to it,” Kan said. “I’m disappointed with the outcome, but it was a great experience and it was great to represent the university and the Wake Forest tennis team.”
Remaining in qualifying and playing for four spots in the Main Draw are Goffin, Jung, Simone Bolelli, Wayne Odesnik, Damir Dzumhur, Marcos Giron, Mate Pavic and Philipp Oswald.
Besides Goffin’s and Jung’s victories, Bolelli beat Eric Quigley 7-6 (7), 6-4; Odesnik beat Nicholas Monroe 6-3, 6-1; Dzumhur beat Sekou Bangoura 6-3, 5-7, 6-3; Giron beat Meister 6-1, 2-6, 6-4; Pavic beat Sam Groth 7-6 (5), 6-4; and Oswald beat Takanyi Garanganga 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.
Bolelli will face Odesnik, Pavic will face Giron, Dzumhur will face Oswald, and Goffin will take on Jung, all in Sunday afternoon matches.