After two semi-final losers last week, our Andy Schooler has 28/1 and 66/1 tips in this week's Winston-Salem Open.
It was quite a week in Cincinnati where again a lot of things were called right in my preview only for everything to go awry at the last minute.
My two tips, John Isner at 33/1 and David Ferrer at 100/1, both made it to the semi-finals only to lose. To make things even more frustrating, both went down 7-6 7-6 without losing their serve, indeed Isner was not broken all week.
Still, I was glad to hear on Twitter (I’m @NetTalkTennis by the way) that some of you did trade out to secure a profit which Is always nice to hear.
It’s a case of dusting myself down and going again this week – one with further potential for big-priced contenders.
Recommended bets: ATP Winston-Salem Open
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Winston-Salem Open, Winston-Salem, outdoor hard
With just a week to go until the US Open begins, the usual pre-Grand Slam rules apply when it comes to looking for a winner.
Be wary of those with the potential to contend in the forthcoming bigger event – the slightest niggle could result in a withdrawal. Some may even head into the week happy to get just a couple of matches under their belt. Is a full week of tennis really the best preparation for a Slam?
The man who falls into this category best is John Isner.
He’s playing in his home tournament, is a two-time winner of the six-year-old event and has been a good form during the summer hardcourt season, winning in Atlanta and, as already highlighted, reaching the semis in Cincinnati last week.
With the US Open field already shorn of several leading names, including Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka, Isner will be one of many players thinking they have a real chance of doing some damage in New York and the big-serving American’s form certainly suggests he could go further than ever before at Flushing Meadows.
However, he’s also got form for pulling out here – he’s done so before mid- and pre-tournament in years gone by. I would not be at all surprised were it to happen again given the tennis in his legs over the last five weeks (he also won on grass in Newport during this period).
The top two seeds are last year’s finalists – winner Pablo Carreno Busta is in the bottom half of the draw and runner-up Roberto Bautista Agut fills line one in the opposite section.
Both showed last year they are capable of taking this tournament seriously but as already stated, this year’s US Open potentially offers greater rewards than 2016’s and RBA is certainly a player capable of taking advantage of absences – remember as well as the confirmed withdrawals, injury doubts hang over the likes of Andy Murray, Roger Federer, Milos Raonic and Marin Cilic.
In the top half, the man I like the look of at a decent price is 10th seed Yuichi Sugita.
The Japanese is turning into something of a late bloomer. At the age of 28, he recently cracked the top 50 for the first time in his career and will hit another new career-high on Monday.
He's done so courtesy of some really good recent form which started on the clay, was transferred to the grass and has continued on the hardcourts.
Sugita came to the fore in Barcelona in the spring when he beat both Carreno Busta and Richard Gasquet en route to the quarter-finals.
Moving onto the grass, he made the last eight in Halle where it took Federer to stop him, and then won what was an admittedly weak event in Antalya, although notably that success did come the week before the last Grand Slam (Wimbledon).
Having earned direct entry into the recent Masters tournaments in Montreal and Cincinnati, he pushed David Goffin to 6-4 in the third at the former before making the quarter-finals at the latter where he defeated both Jack Sock and Karen Khachanov before losing to eventual champion Grigor Dimitrov.
He looks well drawn here with Paolo Lorenzi due to be first his seeded foe – little to fear there – and Bautista Agut slated to follow in the last eight.
Isner could await in the semis but as already stated there’s every chance he won’t make it that far.
At 28/1 each-way (Sky Bet, sportingbet), Sugita is my best bet this week.
I’ll supplement it with a real long shot in the bottom half I the shape of another Asian player, namely Yen-Hsun Lu.
This is one of those bets based largely on his tournament history – the Winston-Salem Open has been one of the Taiwanese’s best on the tour over the years.
It’s easy to highlight his poor main-tour level record in 2017 (won 4, lost 10) but what is interesting is that Lu arrives here on the back of 10 straight victories on the Challenger Tour, wins which have brought him two second-tier titles.
Clearly the level of opponent during that run was not of the calibre he’ll face this week but bringing a high level of confidence into a tournament at which you have performed well in the past is significant.
Details of that record are that he made the last four here in 2014 (I remember it well, that was another SF loser for this column!) and was also a quarter-finalist in 2016. 2015 and 2013.
Essentially, Lu usually performs well in North Carolina and it is also noteworthy that his best-ever ATP result came the week before a Grand Slam – he finished runner-up in Auckland in 2014.
In terms of the draw, things look pretty good too.
Dmitry Tursunov is his opening foe, one who has struggled for any sort of result since returning from injury at Wimbledon. In fact he’s won just the one match – against the world number 223 in a Challenger event.
Sixth seed Steve Johnson could follow but the American has not been in the best of form, something which can at least in part be attributed to the death of his father a few months back.
Viktor Troicki, another seed in Lu’s section, will do well to reach any third-round date having won just one match since the French Open. And Kevin Anderson has already withdrawn from Lu’s quarter – another boost.
It could be a big danger in the section turns out to be Daniil Medvedev, undoubtedly a rising star of the tour and the player who caught my eye in the bottom half when I first looked at the draw on Friday.
The young Russian showed what he is capable of by defeating Stan Wawrinka at Wimbledon and he’s since added the scalp of Dimitrov in Washington, one which has added sheen since the Bulgarian’s title run in Cincinnati.
However, he remains inconsistent, failing to win a match in Montreal or Cincinnati – losing to Adrian Mannarino and Fabio Fognini in those events hardly fills me with confidence.
In addition, he’s already been well backed having been tipped up elsewhere meaning his price has come in to 25/1 which looks short enough to me.
I’ll instead take a punt on Lu and hope for the best. It almost worked last week with Ferrer, who had shown similar improving form ahead of last week’s impressive run.
He’s 66/1 with Paddy Power and Betfair.
Where to watch on TV: Eurosport (quarter-finals onwards)
Posted at 0720 BST on 21/08/17.