Which way in Winston-Salem?
Our Andy Schooler is backing Kevin Anderson and two outsiders in this week's ATP event, the Winston-Salem Open.
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This week’s Winston-Salem Open in North Carolina is the last chance for ATP players to get in some match practice ahead of the US Open.
As is usual for the week before a Grand Slam tournament, the big guns are resting up in anticipation of a full fortnight ahead. However, that means there’s opportunity for a decent-priced winner.
I’m going to take a split approach to my betting on the event, siding with one of the favourites and also a couple of outsiders.
Recent history suggests it’s a sensible policy.
Look back at the equivalent week prior to this season’s other Slams and you will find several players who won from the top, of close to the top, of the market – John Isner in Auckland, Juan Martin Del Potro in Sydney and Ernests Gulbis – who this column tipped up – in Nice.
However, both Feliciano Lopez in Eastbourne and Roberto Bautista Agut in Den Bosch both struck a double-figure odds prior to Wimbledon.
This week it is local hero Isner who starts as the favourite.
He’s won here on both his previous visits but despite a 10-0 win-loss record at the event I’m prepared to take him on.
The big-serving American has not been firing as many, including myself, expected in recent weeks.
He did win in Atlanta but has since disappointed in Washington, Toronto and Cincinnati, winning a combined total of just two matches in that three-week period.
The field here is more like that Isner beat in Atlanta and so it would not be a big surprise for him to notch another title but at the a price of around 9/4 I’m happy to swerve, particularly with last week’s surprise package Tommy Robredo lurking in his half of the draw.
The man from the top of the market I’ll look to oppose Isner with is second seed Kevin Anderson.
The opposite half of the draw looks the easier yet Anderson is almost three times the price of fellow big server Isner. Essentially the prices are based on history, not current form.
While I’ve already explained Isner’s poor run, Anderson will look back on recent weeks with a smile on his face.
The South African made the last eight in both Washington and Toronto – the latter event seeing Anderson beat Stan Wawrinka before narrowly losing to Grigor Dimitrov.
A less-positive result was the first-round loss to Isner in Cincinnati – not encouraging for any rematch in the final here. However, the price makes Anderson backable each way and he looks the class of the bottom half.
There’s always a slight worry in weeks like these that one of the star names will not want a full week of tennis in their legs, but the fact is Anderson is here having asked for a wild card so it would seem he wants a shot at continuing his encouraging form.
One of my biggest concerns when it comes to that Anderson bet is the threat of Steve Johnson, a potential last-16 opponent.
The American is in the form of his life and he will start this week at a career high in the ATP rankings after a run to the last 16 in Cincinnati where he beat Gulbis and only went down 7-6 in the third to Milos Raonic.
It also took Raonic to stop Johnson in his previous tournament, Washington, where Johnson beat Isner and Ivo Karlovic before his run was halted in the quarter-finals.
Serving well, Johnson certainly has a potential to be a threat this week and while I’d expect Anderson’s class to prevail if they meet, I can’t resist a saver on the outsider given he’s offered at 25/1.
My long shot in the top half of the draw is ninth seed Yen-Hsun Lu.
Again, he’s a player who’s enjoyed some encouraging results of late. The field gathered here is not of the greatest quality and if the leading names do stumble – I’ve made such a case for Isner, while 32-year-old Robredo could be tired physically and mentally after his Cincy run which included victory over Novak Djokovic.
Lu is worth siding with to take advantage of any such scenario.
Since Wimbledon, he’s won a Challenger title on hardcourts before beating decent-sort Marcel Granollers in Toronto ahead of falling to top-10er Tomas Berdych.
That defeat was avenged in Cincinnati last week en route to the last 16.
It’s also interesting to note that Lu’s only ATP final of his career so far came the week before a Slam, for it was he who lost to Isner in Auckland back in January.
A play to minimum stakes is advised.
- The action started with a handful of first-round matches on Sunday. However, the seeds and all the leading contenders do not start until Monday at the earliest, hence our decision to publish, as usual, on a Sunday.