Thirty-nine days from the opening matches of the BB&T Atlanta Open, tournament director Eddie Gonzalez revealed the players who will take to the courts at Atlantic Station beginning July 21.
John Isner, the reigning singles champion and a former Georgia Bulldog, will return to try to defend his title, but the task won’t be an easy one as Nick Kyrgios, the 2016 winner, also is returning to Atlanta after missing last year’s tournament because of injury.
Among other notable names such as Jack Sock and defending doubles champions the Bryan Brothers, the tournament also will feature Emil Reinberg, a rising senior at the University of Georgia. Reinberg was selected as a main-draw singles wild card after receiving the same honor as part of a doubles pair last year. The Atlanta Open is the only tournament in the world that includes a “College Night” where a student-athlete has the opportunity to play in a feature evening match.
“This is what I’ve wanted to do for so long,” Reinberg said. “I’ve been watching this tournament for quite a while, so coming back here every July — I’m so excited. I’m going to have so many people who come out here. It’s already overwhelming to see how many people are texting me, asking if I can get them a ticket. It’s a big deal, but it’s going to be fun.”
The Atlanta native will return to his old stomping grounds after building an impressive resume during his last three seasons in Athens. Reinberg was the SEC Tournament MVP his sophomore year and helped the Bulldogs to their fifth consecutive regular-season conference championship as well as a 10th tournament title.
“I bleed red and black,” he said when asked how it felt to represent UGA on a big stage. “I think UGA has given me so many opportunities, including things being a wild card into the BB&T, and I’ve only progressed as a tennis player. … Representing the Dogs is something that I’m definitely going to be blessed to do. I wouldn’t represent anything else.”
Though Reinberg will face some tough competition, he has one of the more decorated collegiate tennis coaches on his side. UGA coach Manny Diaz views the Atlanta Open as “a fantastic opportunity” and “a blessing” for up-and-coming tennis players such as Reinberg who have aspirations of going pro.
“(Emil) has been working extremely hard. He’s going to be ready,” Diaz said before noting that the biggest challenge for college players coming into the Atlanta Open would be staying focused while trying to keep nerves in check.
“If you’re Emil, you’re playing someone with a lot of experience,” Diaz continued. You’re playing somebody that’s very physically prepared. These guys make a life out of playing events like this, so they are very well-trained and very well-prepared. For Emil, also, a big benefit is to see how these other professionals, to which he aspires to be one, go about their business, how they go about preparing and how they go about handling situations on the court. … All of this is a big learning experience for him.”
Reinberg already has one appearance at the Atlanta Open under his belt, as he teamed up with former Georgia Gwinnett College player Jordan Cox last year. The two lost a tiebreaker to Wesley Koolhof and Artem Sitak, who went on to advance to the finals.
This year, Reinberg hopes to notch some wins on the court, but is looking forward to enjoying the experience without feeling too much pressure. In addition to practicing every day, he has a few tournaments on his schedule to “get some good matches in” in the weeks leading to the Atlanta Open.
Before Reinberg takes to the court for “College Night” on July 24, defending U.S. Open Champion Sloane Stephens will face off against Madison Keys in an exhibition match. Stephens defeated Keys in the final match of the U.S. Open and the semifinals of the French Open, and the rivalry will continue at 7 p.m. July 22.