Verdasco value at 14/1
Our Andy Schooler fancies Fernando Verdasco to go well at this week's ATP Winston-Salem Open in North Carolina.
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With the US Open looming, this week's Winston-Salem Open is the final chance for ATP players to prepare with competitive matches.
The number of big names who have opted to do so is limited and, as ever in the week before a Grand Slam, I'm wary of backing any of them knowing that the smallest of niggles could see them withdraw, get treatment and then head to New York.
The two standout names in the draw are top seed Tomas Berdych, who has taken a wild card, and the in-form American, John Isner. The pair played in last year's final.
Were I being forced to pick between the two, Isner would be the man for me at more than twice Berdych's 7/4 price.
Berdych has to consider himself a serious contender at Flushing Meadows so how much he wants a long week in Winston-Salem has to be open to question. It also means any niggles will be felt more by the Czech than perhaps they normally would.
Isner, however, has more reason to win here for this is his home tournament. Born in North Carolina, the tour doesn't come nearer for him and it's no surprise to see he has won both stagings of the tournament in its brief history.
The 6ft 10in star is also clearly in good nick. At time of writing he's due to compete in the Cincinnati final.
A run to that Masters 1000 title match comes after a strong month on the hardcourts which has included victory in Atlanta and a runner-up finish in Washington.
Three finals in four weeks is a record not to be sniffed at, yet it also raises the concern I hold - that Isner may be feeling the amount of tennis in his legs.
With Berdych in his half too, I can't bring myself to back the local hero.
With the leading two in the betting both in the top half, it makes sense to head to the opposite side of the draw and look for some each-way value.
On paper, the bottom half is certainly a lot weaker with Andreas Seppi the man seeded to reach the final.
Long-term followers will know I've been keen to back the Italian in the past but his form has dipped during the recent hardcourt swing.
Instead the man I'm turning to is seventh seed Fernando Verdasco.
He looked rejuvenated at Wimbledon where he reached the quarter-finals and pushed eventual champion Andy Murray all the way.
Results since have been decent on the clay - reaching the final in Bastad and the last eight in both Hamburg and Kitzbuhel.
Due to something of a quirk, Verdasco has good reason to do well this week for he is short on match practice.
His ranking wasn't high enough prior to the cut-off points to get into the Masters 1000 tournaments in Montreal and Cincinnati so he's spent the last week practising in Madrid.
He'll be raring to go now and having landed in a good part of the draw, he should fancy his chances.
The left-hander will open against one of two Americans, Michael Russell or Tim Smyczek. He's then seeded to face the inconsistent Lukas Rosol and fellow Spaniard Tommy Robredo - against whom he's won four of five hardcourt meetings - before the semis.
This is a man who has hardcourt pedigree. Remember he made the Australian Open semi-finals in his heyday and two of his five ATP titles have come on this surface. Significantly one of them came this very week in 2009 in New Haven.
All in all, the 14/1 chalked up by bet365 about Verdasco's chances is too big.
It's half the odds for a place in the final so I'm more than happy to back him each way, even if in this most awkward of weeks I'll be keeping the stakes small.