Capital gains for Isner
Our Andy Schooler is backing John Isner for ATP success in Washington this week, while Andreas Seppi is his pick in Austria.
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A quality field has gathered in Washington DC for this week's Citi Open, including three of the world's top 10 and seven of the top 20.
Tomas Berdych, Milos Raonic, Grigor Dimitrov and Kei Nishikori fall into the latter category and all four are priced at 5/1 or shorter in what is a congested head of the market.
However, all four are playing for the first time since Wimbledon and must also make the transition to the North American hardcourts as their attention turns towards next month's US Open.
While Raonic, Dimitrov and Nishikori are three players still very much on the rise in the game, they've not yet convinced me that they are reliable enough to be backing at a short price on a week like this.
- 1pt e.w. John Isner to win the Citi Open at 12/1 (Betfred, totesport 1/2 1,2) - strong at this time of year as he's shown here previously
- 1pt e.w. Feliciano Lopez to win the Citi Open at 33/1 (General 1/2 1,2) - favs worth opposing in his half and confidence high
- 1pt e.w. Andreas Seppi to win the Bet at Home Cup-Kitzbuhel at 12/1 (General 1/2 1,2) - in weaker half and can go well at the price
As for Berydch, reliable is never a word that's been associated with the Czech and he's let me down too many times to warrant support here at 9/2.
Instead I'd prefer to side with a player who's already bedded in on the surface, one who is at his best at this time of year.
That man is John Isner, whose track record here is also strong.
Isner, who at time of writing is due to contest the final in Atlanta after a strong week in Georgia, has yet to win in Washington but he's gone mightily close.
He was runner-up in his breakthrough year of 2007 and also again 12 months ago.
The big-serving American was also a semi-finalist in 2009 and 2011 and made the last eight in 2008.
In short, he's happy here and usually contends.
The DecoTurf courts play pretty fast - always to Isner's liking - and it's worth noting that the temperature and humidity, which often hit pretty high levels, aren't predicted to be too bad this year. That should also suit.
Isner is in what looks to be the tougher bottom half of the draw and he's seeded to face fellow gun-slingers Ivo Karlovic and Raonic.
Both matches would likely boil down to the outcome of a few points here and there but Isner would fancy his chances against either and the fact he leads Raonic 2-0 on their head-to-head record should be taken into account.
I just feel that he makes plenty of appeal at 12/1 and am happy to back him each-way.
In the top half, I'm going to side with a 33/1 outsider in the shape of Feliciano Lopez.
There appears to be less depth in this section where Berdych and Nishikori are the seeds to beat.
Lopez is seeded to meet Berdych in the last eight and holds a 5-4 winning record over the Czech (2-2 on hard).
The reason I'm keen on Lopez is he arrives with confidence high after a strong grasscourt season which saw him finish runner-up at Queen's, win in Eastbourne and make the last 16 at Wimbledon.
Yes, he's better on the grass than the hardcourts, but as a player who likes to attack, the DecoTurf makes this a much better time of year to be playing in North America than earlier in the year when a different type of hardcourt is in use.
There doesn't seem to be much standing between Lopez and his meeting with Berdych, who himself has an awkward clash with Vasek Pospisil potentially in his path, so he looks worth a play at the price.
The week's other tournament is in Kitzbuhel - the final claycourt event of the season.
Unsurprisingly, plenty of good dirtballers are in Austria to squeeze those precious ranking points out of the red clay.
A player in good form with a strong tournament history is always a good combination to seek out when looking for a potential winner and both Juan Monaco and Robin Haase fit the bill on this score. They should certainly be considered.
Having struggled for consistency this season, Monaco was the beaten finalist in Gstaad this past week. The Argentine is also a former champion here (in 2007) and finished runner-up in 2013.
However, the layers appear to have over-reacted to his run in Switzerland and making him an 11/2 second-favourite puts me off.
Haase is a bigger price at 14/1 and some will be attracted to that given the Dutchman won in Kitzbuhel in 2011 and 2012 before reaching the semis 12 months ago.
Last week he made the last four in Gstaad so should arrive with confidence brimming.
However, is the 14/1 still good value? He's got a tough draw with Gstaad champion Pablo Andujar a potential second-round foe, while top seed Philipp Kohlschreiber could then follow in the last eight.
For a player who doesn't have the best reputation mentally, that's enough to send me looking elsewhere.
Instead I'll head back to the bottom half where I'll oppose Monaco with Andreas Seppi.
The Italian hasn't been as good this season as he was last but his claycourt results have hardly been disastrous and he looks to have a good draw in what is a fairly weak field this week.
Seppi is in Monaco's quarter but he's beaten the Argentine twice in the last couple of months - recently winning a tight encounter in Hamburg (where David Ferrer eventually beat him in a tight three-setter) having previously recorded a more convincing victory at Roland Garros.
Before then, Seppi enjoyed impressive wins over Mikhail Youzhny and the aforementioned Andujar in Monte Carlo before running into Rafael Nadal, while he also made the quarters in Munich.
As fourth seed, he also gets a first-round bye and I'm quite happy to take the 12/1 about him winning four matches here - three victories will be enough to make a profit if you follow my recommendation and back him each way.