By Matt Ankerson and Alan Wright
Photos by Bowman Gray IV
“Time to move on, time to get going
what lies ahead, I have no way of knowing
but under my feet, baby, grass is growing
It’s time to move on, it’s time to get going”
A near perfect North Carolina summer day; temperatures in the high 70’s, a slight breeze added an element of comfort, and from above a cloudless blue sky that was once a muse to the Allman Brothers. On a day like this, it’s quite easy to dismiss from the mind the week’s constant rainfall on our town.
Jurgen Melzer stood on Center Court holding the championship trophy for winning the men’s singles championship at the 3rd annual Winston-Salem Open. A player who had little to celebrate for much of the summer as wins came sparingly, finally had his day even if it were a little bittersweet.
Melzer took down the last remaining American in the tournament, Sam Querrey in three sets on Friday night to reach the finals. Riding a wave of confidence heading into the final against Gael Monfils, Melzer broke Monfils right off the bat and raced to a 3-0 lead in the opening set. He then held serve four straight times to take the opening set 6-3.
It was during his first service game of the second set when Monfils first showed signs of pain. Though he held serve, it was clear Monfils was hurting. Melzer won the next two games and during the changeover Monfils called the trainer. Five minutes later Monfils officially retired from the match, handing Melzer his first singles title of 2013 – the fifth ATP title of his career.
Melzer shared his thoughts about the retirement of Monfils.
“Nobody wants to win a final like that. You want to be out there competing, but at the end of the day you take the title. I was looking forward to it. It’s a pity it had to end like that.”
Melzer’s comments echoed the sentiments of those who packed Center Court on Saturday along with those watching at home on CBS.
From here both Melzer and Monfils will board a plane to New York City to join the top players in the world at next week’s final major of the tennis calendar, The US Open. Melzer will soon be preparing for his opening round match on Tuesday by practicing at the US Open facilities on Sunday and Monday. For Monfils, the first order of business is to see France’s Davis Cup team physician on Sunday and then assess whether or not he’s healthy enough to play. Different paths for the two players when the touch down at LaGuardia Saturday night. Here’s hoping for a quick recovery for Monfils and some early round wins for Melzer.
Both Monfils and Melzer entertained fans all week with their high quality play. During the post-match press conference Melzer and Monfils told the media they plan to be back next year. I think they both enjoyed their time down South even if it were for completely different reasons.
I am certain a year from now, when we read about the 2013 Winston-Salem Open, the print will be bombarded with words used to describe the week unfavorably. Words and phrases such as withdraw, retired, rain delays, top seeds heading home and abdomen injury, will not paint the most favorable of pictures. I would not disagree with anyone’s assessment that those incidents marred our ideal scenario of the week, but I would wager that for many fans and players who visited the Wake Forest Tennis Facility this past week, might recall things slightly different.
On the practice courts, kids off all ages could see players such as Monfils, James Blake, Sam Querrey, and other top players up close and personal. If lucky, maybe even an autograph to take home. From the practice courts to those used for tournament play gave fans excellent views of the action.
On opening day of the tournament Mardy Fish played his first round match and headed to the locker room with a win under his belt. Even though he lost his next match, a rare smile could be seen on his face after his opening round win. For all that Mardy Fish has experienced in the past year and half that smile gave him a little peace even if it were only for a night.
Sam Querrey found his confidence again thanks to some gritty play during the week. He dug down when his back was against the wall, coming back from behind on two matches paving a way to securing a trip to the semifinals.
Gael Monfils made a host of new friends in Winston-Salem during his eight days in town. He quickly won the hearts of local tennis fans each time he stepped out on the court.
My partner in crime, Alan, had his tennis fandom awakened for the first time since it lay dormant for so many years. Growing up in Virginia, Alan and his mother would watch tennis religiously throughout the 1980’s and early 90’s. Other interests pushed tennis to the side until he watched Monfils on Tuesday night. After a night of Monfils dancing during changeovers, cursing in French at the chair umpire, and playing a spectacular brand of tennis, Alan’s love for the sport was regenerated.
For me, it’s simple. If there an ATP tournament being played in my backyard I am happy.
It’s especially nice to have one run by such friendly staff in such a nice facility. Every player asked about the tournament had nothing but good things to say. Alex Botoman with Wake Forest and Steve Bumgarner from Capture were gracious hosts, as were everyone else working the event. We’d like to thank all the journalists and photographers working for the mediaoutlets, they answered our questions and helped point us in the right direction when we got lost. After talking to them and watching what they do every day, I appreciate the difficulty of their job and the amount of work they accomplish under pressure. We’d also like to thank Chad and Camel City Dispatch for putting us in the middle of all of this, we had a blast.
For those of you who didn’t make it out, we hope we gave you a taste of what it’s like and maybe convinced you to try the tournament next year, you won’t regret it.
All photos copyright 2013 Bowman Gray IV