Winston-Salem Open Returns

by Daniel Schere

Not everyone in the Triad may be aware, but Winston-Salem plays host to one of the largest tennis competitions in the country outside of the US Open.

The Winston-Salem Open, which takes place at the Wake Forest University Tennis Center, draws 48 of the top 100 male tennis players in the world every year for a single elimination competition that lasts one week. They have had players as well-known as superstar Andy Roddick, and this year’s top pick is Greensboro’s own John Isner. The single-elimination tournament begins August 16 with the qualifying round and wraps up August 23 with a championship game that will be internationally televised on CBS. Altogether, the prize package is $600,000.

The origin of the tournament dates back to 1990 when it was held on Long Island, New York before it moved to New Haven, Connecticut and later Winston-Salem in 2011.

Tournament Director Bill Oaks, who is also the Associate Athletic Director at Wake Forest, said the event typically draws 40,000 people from 28 different states and six countries””something he attributes to the timing of the event right before the US Open. He said the tournament, which is in its fourth year, provides an economic boost of between $4 million and $5 million to the city.

“Since we have kept Winston-Salem in the title we are not actually up selling title sponsorship,” Oaks said. “Our sponsors have wanted us to develop a tournament that kept Winston-Salem in the name with the purpose helping to promote Winston-Salem and the Triad. But if you sold just the international exposure that we get, it’s valued by independent sources as somewhere between $7 million and $8 million worth of free advertising a year.”

He added that the tournament provides jobs for 12 season workers and four permanent employees.

Ticket prices range from $10 for the qualifying round to $100 for the championship game.

Oaks said he is optimistic about the event and thinks there will be a large turnout due to the number of tickets that have already been sold.

“We’ve sold 25 percent more tickets this year than last year so we’re very excited about a strong event this year,” he said.