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4:40PM

Imagine 'Fastest Woman' Gail Devers as a Ball Kid

by JAMES HENRY

ATLANTA – Incredibly gracious, one of the first things Gail Devers did was thank the volunteers at the BB&T Atlanta Open exhibit.

The tennis tournament’s display, featuring pins, uniforms, a torch and more, celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Olympic Games in Atlanta.

Devers praised the event’s 400 volunteers and joked about being a ball kid, having to quickly run across the tennis court and retrieve the yellow balls. 

“I’d have to use (starting) blocks,” she laughed.

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1:45PM

Meet Young American Reilly Opelka

by JAMES HENRY

ATLANTA – Almost everyone looks up to Reilly Opelka. The 18-year-old American tennis player is an astonishing 6 feet and 11 inches tall.

That’s an inch bigger than John Isner, the three-time defending champion of the BB&T Atlanta Open. 

But Opelka said he, at least figuratively, still looks up to Isner, who has been at the top of the U.S. men’s tennis squad for the past four years.

“John has the best serve in the world. He takes the racket out of your hand,” Opelka said. “He’s one of the best competitors, which is the thing I admire most about him. The guy competes so hard.”

As a wild card, the young phenomenon earned his first ATP World Tour singles win in Atlanta. And he hasn’t stopped. 

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9:52AM

Getting to Know Japan's Yoshihito Nishioka

by JAMES HENRY

ATLANTA – Just 20 years old, Yoshihito Nishioka is maturing quickly.

The Japanese tennis player used to be temperamental on the tennis court, even smashing his rackets.

But that changed at this year’s Wimbledon Championships.

Defeating Andrey Golubev of Kazakhstan, Frederico Ferreira Silva of Portugal and Quentin Halys of France, Nishioka fought his way through qualifying to the main draw.

He lost in the first round to Ukrainian Sergiy Stakhovsky, but the experience had a profound effect.

“Before, I was very emotional, throwing rackets and getting frustrated. But I’ve been more calm since Wimbledon,” he said. 

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9:46PM

Can Swimming Make John Isner Better at Tennis?

by JAMES HENRY

ATLANTA – Mind your body – and your body won’t mind.

That is how many tennis players and other professional athletes now are extending their careers.

“We’re just taking care of our bodies better, and science is showing us and technology is giving us better ways of seeing where the body is being broken down and how can we fix it,” said three-time Olympic champion Brooke Bennett. “We’re just a lot smarter, in all sports.”

The distance swimming icon attended the BB&T Atlanta Open, greeting tennis fans at an exhibit commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Olympic Games in Atlanta.

She also met top-ranked American men’s tennis player John Isner. All 6 feet and 10 inches of him.

“I just felt so short,” she laughed after the pair posed for a photograph.

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9:30AM

Kyrgios Rekindling Passion for Tennis 

by JAMES HENRY

ATLANTA – Nick Kyrgios just wants to have fun.

Making his debut at the BB&T Atlanta Open, the young Australian, as notorious as he is talented, is seeking his second ATP World Tour title.

But he also is looking for something else: the joy that originally inspired him to pick up a tennis racket.

“I’m just really trying to get back to the basics, just trying to enjoy it, just find the reason I started playing, just to go out there and compete,” Kyrgios said.

“I’m just trying to get better,” he said. “I’m trying to find myself. And, hopefully, I can continue to have good results.”

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5:34PM

Fernandez Inspires Next Generation of Tennis Players

by JAMES HENRY

ATLANTA – Nervous and a bit shy, the little girl didn’t know what to do. This was her very first time holding a tennis racket.

But one day she could be a 17-time Grand Slam doubles champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist – just like Gigi Fernández.

Fernández saw the girl was struggling. So she walked around the net, reached down to the youth’s hand and showed her how to swing and hit the tennis ball.

After a few attempts, the girl succeeded, sending the ball over the net and to the other side of the tennis court.

A big smile lit her face. Fernández raised her arm, the girl reached up, giggling, and the pair shared a high-five celebration.

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9:11AM

John Isner Getting His Groove Back

 

by JAMES HENRY

ATLANTA – John Isner never expected he’d become the flagbearer for American men’s tennis.

The winner of 10 ATP World Tour singles titles, he’s now vying for his fourth consecutive BB&T Atlanta Open trophy.

“I did not know I wanted to play pro tennis until my junior year at Georgia,” he said. “I told myself that if I ever at any point got in the top 50 in the world, I’d be really proud of that. I’ve far surpassed that. I’ve surprised myself. 

“I’ve been ranked pretty high for a long time now. I know I can, at the very least, maintain that. And I still believe I can get better, even at 31 now.”

While growing up and early on as a student at the University of Georgia, Isner wanted to be a sportscaster.

“Then I realized I was pretty good at tennis,” he smiled. “It worked out.”

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