By Steve Pratt/BB&T Atlanta Open
A college-aged tennis fan wearing a Georgia Bulldogs shirt joined several others in holding up two fingers and yelled, "Need two!" 10 minutes before Andy Roddick and John Isner took the court on Saturday night before the semifinals of the BB&T Open being played at Atlantic Station.
As the sellout crowd of close to 4,000 fans anxiously made their entrance into Stadium Court, the fan was hoping to get lucky and secure two tickets to the evening’s marquee All-American match-up.
The fact that the semifinal match-up was one of the toughest tickets in town, all put a big smile on the face of BB&T Atlanta Open Tournament Director Bob Bryant, who took five minutes of his time late Saturday night to reflect on the eventful and memorable week that was coming to a close.
"It’s gone remarkably well," the second-year tournament director said. "It was a sell-out tonight with just a great crowd. It really was as good a match as you could hope for – Roddick and Isner, the two big servers who were really at the top of their game. There were some great points that really got some good crowd reaction."
Sunday’s Roddick-Gilles Muller final was another sellout and Bryant announced on Saturday that the event passed the $1 million mark in ticket sales.
Bryant added: "There continues to be good word coming from the players and fans and the weather has cooperated for a change and we got everything finished within a reasonable time."
The reviews will continue to pour in for days following the BB&T Open. But by all accounts, as the tear-down began to take place following the final on Sunday, the new Atlantic Station venue got the big thumbs-up for all those who experienced it.
Players said they resoundingly agreed that site was very enjoyable and unique. Andy Roddick said he turned down transportation to the on-site hotel because it was such a short stroll along Atlantic Station's movie theaters, shops and restaurants.
Finalist Gilles Muller said, "Everything is in walking distance." Commenting on the music coming from facility’s hidden speakers, he mentioned. "It’s a lot like Disneyland."
"This really is a great set-up," said Cumming resident Bryon Bonafede, who brought his daughter’s birthday party over to Atlantic Station so the girls could run around the Publix Family Zone in Central Park and take in some 10 and Under Tennis. "I heard (the tennis) was going on so we decided to come over and get some ice cream and let the girls see what it’s all about."
"It’s really cool here," said the birthday girl and newly turned 8-year-old Eva Bonafede. "I’m glad I got to spend my birthday here. My friends and I all play tennis."
Fourteen-year-old Sandy Springs junior tennis player Michael Gad couldn’t wait to get in and see two of his favorite players, Isner and Roddick. "I had never heard of this tournament before this year," said Gad, on a break from training at the Macci Tennis Academy in Florida. "I’ll go to anything that involves tennis. This is such a great place to have a tournament."
Mary Hatfield, the USTA Southern Section Jr. Team Tennis Coordinator, couldn’t have agreed more. By midday on Saturday she said the section had signed up more than 600 kids to a free USTA junior membership.
"The exposure has been just tremendous," Hatfield said. "Just the diversity of people we’ve seen. We’re used to seeing just tennis people, but here you get people from all over."
Bryant said there will be an extensive post-event wrap-up to see what can be done better. "We can improve on things," he said. "When it’s been the home run that it is has been, it really let’s you hone in on what you can enhance and how you can make things even better. Usually, the post-event recap has to do with flow, be it vehicle or pedestrian and the distance between spaces."
Bryant did have one funny occurrence during the week that was unprecedented. "On Thursday, I took the Tour supervisor to the side and I pointed to the court and told him I think we need to call the match because it was snowing," Bryant recalled. "I had to actually radio up and get the Coke Swelter Stopper to have them turn off their snow machine. I think that would have been the first time in the history of tennis that a match was called for snow in July.
"That’s when I thought we’ve done it all because we even made it snow in July."