By Wayne Bryan/Special to BB&T Atlanta Open
Two hit songs come to mind today as we are all getting fired up for the 2015 edition of the BB&T Atlanta Open - the pop rock band, the Bangles’ Manic Monday, a smash written by Prince that topped the charts in 1986, and the Lovin’ Spoonful’s frontman John Sebastian’s #1 song, Welcome Back.
Today will, indeed, be manic. And wonderful. And fun. Lots of exciting matches are on tap and a very special event tonight at 8:00 p.m.
What a spectacular start to the tournament with the Celebration of American Tennis exhibition presented by PowerShares. This sensational inter-generational showdown will showcase two Americans out there under the bright lights on Center Court. Former world No. 1 Andy Roddick will take on the hot and fast rising teen star Frances Tiafoe.
The popular and iconic A-Rod won his first title right here in Atlanta in 2001 and he also won his last and 32nd championship here in 2012 before retiring two months later at the US Open.
Andy is, no doubt, headed straight for the International Hall of Fame in Newport. His credentials are well known. Winner of the 2003 US Open, he reached finals of Wimbledon three times and the US Open another year, he also led our American Davis Cup team to victory in 2007, beating Russia in the finals.
Andy had 33 Davis Cup singles wins for the USA and Mike & Bob always had so much confidence when Andy was out there on the court in a crucial match for the red, white and blue and they always called him The Closer. He was undefeated in that year when our American team had that magical run to the title.
I will always remember that day when they clinched the title with 12,000 people going crazy in Portland and the team in that circle on court and jumping for joy with the confetti and colorful ribbons coming down from the ceiling. I had tears streaming down my face.
Maybe someday young Mr. Tiafoe will have the same joyful experience and lead our USA squad to the Davis Cup championship. He sure has the weapons. Big. Strong. Quick. Athletic. Huge off the forehand, backhand and with the serve.
He has great junior credentials being the youngster winner of the Orange Bowl at 15 and the youngest play in the French Open since Michael Chang. And you will recall that he beat Benjamin Becker of Germany here in the first round at this tournament last year.
Like Andy, he is tough and competitive, with lotsa charisma and a million-dollar smile.
Can Frances win titles? Grand Slams? The Davis Cup? Can he become No. 1? Can he win this Atlanta title this week?
Only time will tell.
We are sure he is just focused on his looming battle with the hard serving and dangerous Aussie Sam Groth, who won the crucial fifth rubber and led Australia to an epic come-from-behind Davis Cup win over Kazakhstan just last week.
And the kid is also sure looking forward to his matchup with his idol Andy tonight. What a dreamy and fun filled contest for all of us to enjoy.
A Manic Monday for sure.
So now what about that Welcome Back song? How does that apply?
Easy. We are saying welcome back to Andy. And to his pal, Mardy Fish. Mardy has also won this championship twice and the two of them will team up once again to play doubles here this week. Mardy, who has a career high ranking of No. 7 and has won six titles, is planning on retiring at the US Open and he wanted one more run here in Atlanta, one of his favorite cities and tournaments.
We also say welcome back to the rockin’ Bryan brothers. They were slated to play in 2013, but a shoulder injury to Bob kept them out. They have great memories here in Georgia, having won the NCAA team, singles and doubles at nearby UGA in Athens.
They will be doing lots of special events this week to the winningest and most entertaining doubles team of all time.
And we say welcome back to the wonderful field of American players that hard working Tournament Director Eddie Gonzalez has lined up. Big John Isner, former University of Georgia star and our No. 1 ranking American and No. 1 seed this week; former Wimbledon doubles champ and red hot Jack Sock is here and ready to have a good run like he did at Roland Garros just a few weeks ago. Former two-time NCAA champ from the University of Southern California Stevie Johnson is also enjoying a fantastic season, while Ryan Harrison and Donnie Young are rising up the rankings once again.
And welcome back to me! Besides Austin, Texas and Carmel, California, Atlanta is my favorite city! Great food. Great music. The nicest and warmest people on planet earth and the absolute #1 tennis city in America.
I am so happy to be here and hope to see you at my show each day in the Food Court Pavilion at 4:00 p.m. I’ll have great guests each day, including most all of the players mentioned above, and it will be lotsa fun and I’ll look forward to seeing you there and be sure to come up and say hello.
Like me, I’ll be you have those two songs stuck in your head all day . . .