The build-up to the US Open begins in earnest in the third week of July with the Atlanta Open. An ATP 250 tournament, it celebrated its 25th edition in 2012.
Although currently held in the Georgia state capital, the Atlanta Open was first played in Indianapolis. In 1988, the US Men’s Clay Court Championships changed locations from Indianapolis to Charleston, and the former venue duly switched court surface from clay to hard. Thereafter known as the US Men’s Hard Court Championships, and with a date closer to the start of the US Open, the tournament gained prestige as a key warm-up event for the final Grand Slam of the year.
As a sponsor couldn’t be found for the 2007 and 2008 editions of the event, the ATP decided to sell the tournament’s licence, resulting in a move to Atlanta in 2010. It marked the return of a major tennis competition to the city that hosted the clay court Verizon Tennis Challenge from 1992 - 2001.
Unusually, the tournament has had no fixed arena since its move to Atlanta: it was staged at the Atlanta Athletic Club, the Racquet Club of the South and Atlantic Station from 2010 - 2012. Temporary courts were constructed for the latter venue, with the main stadium seating up to 4000 spectators.
The tournament attracted the biggest stars of the day when it first came to Indianapolis. Boris Becker was the inaugural winner, and triumphed again in 1990. Among the other Grand Slam champions to lift the trophy were John McEnroe, Jim Courier, Gustavo Kuerten and Patrick Rafter.
However, two players feature on the roll of honour more than anyone else. Pete Sampras won a hat-trick of titles in the 1990s, and Andy Roddick was also a three-time winner, twice in Indianapolis and once in Atlanta. His defeat of Gilles Muller in the 2012 final marked the final tournament victory of his career.
Fish def. Isner, 2010 final:
The tournament’s debut in Atlanta culminated in a dream final between two of the USA’s best players, Mardy Fish and John Isner. Fish had earned his spot in the showpiece match courtesy of a gutsy win against top seed Andy Roddick in the semi-finals, while second seeded Isner was aiming for the second title of his career.
The big-serving Isner made the more positive start, breaking his opponent on the way to taking the opening set 6-4. Amid incredibly demanding conditions that saw on-court temperatures reach 50 degrees, Fish managed to break the Isner serve late in the second set, and held on to push the match to a decider.
The 28-year-old Fish, who had won the title in Newport just two weeks before the Atlanta final, looked set to cement his advantage when he broke again early in the third set. But Isner responded immediately with a break of his own, and came close to moving ahead in the ninth game of the set. Yet Fish held firm during some extremely tense baseline exchanges, and was the steadier player in the closing stages, as the draining effect of playing for 165 minutes in intense heat finally took its toll on Isner. Fish won the decisive tie-break by seven points to four to clinch the fifth title of his career.
- Juan Martin Del Potro won the first - and so far only - doubles title of his career at the 2007 tournament. His partner was American Travis Parrott.
- Mardy Fish and John Isner played a rematch of their 2010 final the following year. Fish saved two match points on his way to a second straight title in Atlanta.
- Gustavo Kuerten’s win at the 2000 tournament brought him his first ever hard court title.