On And Off The Court At The Winston-Salem Open

On And Off The Court At The Winston-Salem Open

4:52pm Aug 23, 2013
Jeff Soriano

David Ford has played tennis since he was 7 years old, and he's been a fan ever since. So, the arrival of an Association of Tennis Professionals (or ATP) tour event in his hometown was a dream-come-true. And, as David quickly found out, it was also an opportunity to learn more about the sport he loves. It turns out that the tour has changed a lot since the Open Era began back in 1968. It allowed amateurs and pros to enter tournaments and actually make a living off their earnings. 

At the Winston-Salem Open, Ford caught up with American tennis star and world number 29 Sam Querrey shortly after his three-set, 3rd round win over Jarkko Nieminen. The 25 year old’s career earnings are fast approaching the $5 million dollar mark. Querrey says being a pro on the ATP tour today is a lot more than just walking out on the court and playing a match at noon:
"You know, I wake up at 8am, make sure I have a healthy breakfast, come over to the courts, stretch, warm-up the body, practice, come back, cool down, go out and play the match, and afterwards, I travel with Casey Cordial who is a chiropractor, and we'll get on the table and do massage, acupuncture...There's a lot of work that goes on making your body feel good."
According to Querrey, the increased physical training and demands of today’s game make the need for treatment off the court stronger than ever. Querrey says, "It's a big part of the game now; a lot of guys do it.  And you see guys now that are having great results in their thirties, so I hope that's me, I hope I've got another ten years out here."
 

The 6’ 6” Californian is known for his powerful forehands, and booming serves that routinely clock in at over 120mph. That’s a stat not lost on today’s ball boys.  Jay Gregg is a Winston-Salem Open ball boy, and he says, "I've been hit right in the side, and it was by Berdych last year, [the ball was going] over 111 mph."
Gregg says dodging balls is just one challenge the modern game presents him and his colleagues. For the players he serves, securing endorsement deals, and the potential for million dollar annual earnings on tour can lead to some dicey on-court situations for ball boys. "When they're mad, you want to give them their space, and that's a little tough to do when they want their towel...you've just got to know that they're not mad at you, and that's kind of mental to deal with."
 
The professional tennis players visiting Winston-Salem are once again giving the Open high marks. Sam Querrey called it the best ATP 250 event all season, complimenting the staff, facilities, locker rooms, and food provided to the players. 
 
Pulling off a tour event of this size truly does take a village. This year’s event utilized more than 700 volunteers. For Winston-Salem Open Board member Dr. Harold Pollard, it’s a year round commitment building community support and laying the groundwork for the tournament. For the week of the Winston-Salem Open, the OBGYN is essentially on call for tennis 24/7. David Ford flagged him down, and he had a wet towel draped around his neck. He’d been busy drying off tennis courts.
 
Pollard says, "Most of us are out here by 7, 8 o'clock in the morning, and we're here until they finish play. The other night it was 1:30am. And we do whatever we need to do.  We do greeting at front gate, we just had a rain delay, so we spent the last 30 minutes getting the court dry with squeegees and blow-dryers.  If fans or sponsors need anything, we try to meet their needs; players we try to support in any way we can.  Mostly it's do everything on site with a smile."
 
Pollard enjoys the energy and enthusiasm that the Open brings to the community. As a board member he also appreciates the economic impact of the tournament, and the exposure it provides to Winston-Salem. This year’s event is expected to bring in nearly $5 million, and television coverage by ESPN, the Tennis Channel and CBS extends to 120 countries. 
 
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