ATP Winston-Salem

by TennisPig on August 24, 2015

There is a delicate balance between form and fatigue that some may have to weigh as the week goes on. In Winston-Salem, the top four seeds this week are Gilles Simon, Kevin Anderson, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Viktor Troicki. For Simon, it is his first year playing here and he could use the match play. Simon is just 1-2 through the Montreal and Cincinnati swing. Anderson got a few wins under his belt last week in Cincinnati as he advanced to the third round with wins over Leonardo Mayer and Jack Sock before losing to Roger Federer in the third round. Tsonga was strong in trying to defend his 2014 Rogers Cup title as he made the quarters in Montreal, but slumped with a first-up loss to Fernando Verdasco in Cincinnati. Troicki continued his poor form since blowing a two set lead in Davis Cup play in July. He is 0-3 on the North American hard court swing with losses to Sam Groth, Mikhail Youzhny and Mardy Fish.

There are 16 seeds in this 48 player field with all seeds getting a first round bye. Having a top seed here means very little with the highest seed to win the tournament in its brief history being John Isner as a three seed in 2012. The top two seeds have never made the final, so that is bad news for Simon and Anderson. Of the remaining 12 seeds outside the top four, Sam Querrey is the one who has played here the most. He is 10-3 with semifinal showings the last three years. Querrey is seeded seventh this year. 16th seeded Jerzy Janowicz is the only seeded player to have made a Final at this event, doing so last year as an unseeded player. Last year’s Champion, Lukas Rosol, is here to defend the title as an unseeded player.

Seeded Upset Alert

250 level tournaments are usually full of upheaval amongst the seeds and that means you can expect some seeds to fall in their first matches of the week. In the four year history of the Winston-Salem Open, at least four seeds have lost their first matches every year. That means one quarter of the seeds are likely to be gone early. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the seeds most likely to fall into that category this week.

#3 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
I list Tsonga because there is just no telling what he is hoping to accomplish this week. This is his first year playing Winston-Salem and normally, he is resting for the U.S. Open at this stage. His first match comes against Denis Istomin or Donald Young. Tsonga is 4-0 against Istomin, but has never faced Young. This is just a cautionary warning because Tsonga should beat either one of those guys, but Young or Istomin is likely to have much more motivation this week to do well.

#5 Guillermo Garcia-Lopez
An easy inclusion here as he has been out with injury since Hamburg. He also will be facing a tough first-up match against either Robin Haase or Yen-Hsun Lu. Haase has played Winston-Salem every year and has a 7-4 mark here. Lu has made the semis in 2014 and the quarters in 2013 at this event. A fantastic opener between those two should yield a legitimate upset candidate to take down GGL in the second round.

#6 Thomaz Bellucci
Overseeded because of the lighter field, Bellucci will be prone to an upset from a player more suited to the surface. Bellucci usually efforts well against similar players on hard court, but it should be tough for him against either James Duckworth or a qualifier. Bellucci lost his first match last year in Winston-Salem to Frank Dancevic.

#9 Benoit Paire
Paire is on this list well, because he is Benoit Paire. An enigma of inconsistency. He challenged Novak Djokovic very well in the first set of their second round match in Cincinnati, but then predictably fell apart in the second set. His hard court record at the ATP level has been poor in the last year. His win over Gilles Muller in the opening round in Cincy was his first main draw win on the surface since last year’s U.S. Open. He is 1-3 at this event in three years. He gets James Ward or the rising Hyeon Chung. Chung is the up and comer who has played well on this surface at the Challenger level. He could give Paire fits with his speed and defensive abilities.

#10 Joao Sousa
Sousa did score a win over Kohlschreiber last week in Cincinnati, but that was his first win on a hard court since Dubai. That broke a four match losing streak. Sousa has played this tournament two straight years, but failed to win in the main draw. He will get the winner of Pablo Carreno-Busta and Tommy Haas. The Spaniard is playing his first hard court match since Miami and has lost four straight on the surface. Haas is still struggling with consistency from lack of match play as he played the Aptos Challenger last week and lost to Matthew Ebden. Regardless of the winner, they should challenge Sousa.

#13 Steve Johnson
Johnson has gone downhill this summer after making the semifinals of the Citi Open. He was sporting some leg strapping the following week in Montreal where he was crushed by David Goffin 6-2, 6-2. Last week, he failed to get out of qualifying in Cincinnati with a second round loss to Nicolas Mahut. He gets either Sam Groth or Jared Donaldson. Both players have similar styles to Johnson which make that match-up a toss up. Groth you would think would have a better shot than the youngster.

#15 Temuraz Gabashvili
As we saw with the Russian earlier this summer in his upset of Andy Murray in Washington, D.C., he is your prototypical home run hitter on this surface. He swings freely and hard, so when his shots are landing on lines, he can be difficult to beat. Consistency though is not a strong trait for Gabashvili as shown in the match after he beat Murray. He lost to Ricardas Berankis in straight sets. This is the type of smaller tournament that Gabashvili could thrive at without a lot of pressure. Yet, his first match comes against Cincinnati surprise semifinalist Alexandr Dolgopolov or Thanasi Kokkinakis. Both players are very capable of beating him.

#16 Jerzy Janowicz
A finalist in Winston-Salem last year, Janowicz will have his work cut out for him this week. That is because he could face a finals rematch with Lukas Rosol or Rogers Cup surprise package Ernests Gulbis. Janowicz scored a couple of wins in Cincinnati last week, but they came against Gael Monfils who didn’t appear to put forth a full effort and inconsistent youngster Jared Donaldson. Predicting a winner between Rosol and Gulbis is difficult. Predicting between that winner and Janowicz is more difficult. This is an upset possibility.

Quarters Breakdown

Quarter One: Gilles Simon (1)

Gilles SimonThe top half of the quarter will see Simon open against Aljaz Bedene or a qualifier. The field of qualifiers is U.S. heavy and features some interesting names. The likes of Frances Tiafoe, Ryan Harrison, Martin Klizan and Pierre Hugues-Herbert are all in the mix. That could make for a tricky out for someone in the draw. Marcos Baghdatis is the seed opposite of Simon in this half as the fourteenth seed. Baggy opens with Sergiy Stakhovsky or a qualifier. The Cypriot flashed some good form in Atlanta before he got injured in the final against John Isner where he lost 6-3, 6-3. A good spell of rest could have him as the one to watch for a quarterfinal spot in this draw if Simon isn’t interested. Baghdatis is 3-2 against Simon lifetime.

The bottom half of the quarter is led by seventh seeded Sam Querrey and tenth seed Joao Sousa. Querrey certainly should be the favorite to move through to the quarterfinals here. He has played well at Winston-Salem and should be better than Federico Delbonis or Simone Bolelli in the second round. Sousa could have more trouble advancing with Pablo Carreno-Busta or Tommy Haas waiting for him after the bye. If Querrey is taken out earlier than expected, I’m looking squarely at a motivated Tommy Haas to do it.

Quarter Two: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (3)

Jo-Wilfried TsongaTsonga is boom or bust for me here. If he gets by Denis Istomin or Donald Young to open, he could be in the mood to make a run this week. That will be the question that only seeing him in a match will answer. Even if motivated properly, Tsonga has some landmines in this part of the quarter with hard hitters like Sam Groth and 13th seed Steve Johnson in his way to the quarters. The gut says Tsonga is more bust than boom. Watch Groth in this section. He did well in D.C. and a smaller tournament like this suits reserved expectations that the Aussie might have.

In the bottom of the quarter, it’s fifth seeded Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and ninth seeded Benoit Paire. This quarter could go any which way and lends you more to think the seeding might be blown up early. The most dangerous floater will likely be Robin Haase or Yen-Hsun Lu, whomever survives their opening round match. Both have played well here and should have the form edge on Garcia-Lopez. With Paire’s lack of consistency perhaps awaiting in the third round, watch Haase or Lu squeeze into the quarterfinals.

Quarter Three: Viktor Troicki (4)

Viktor TroickiTroicki could certainly use a change in form with an 0-3 record on the North American hard court swing this summer. The losses culminated with a thrash job courtest of Mardy Fish last week in Cincinnati 6-2, 6-2. Troicki looked poor and needs to gain some form or he’s toast at the U.S. Open in round one. He should have a chance to start well against either Joao Souza or Malek Jaziri, although both can be tricky at times on this surface. Opposite of him in this half is 15th seeded Temuraz Gabashvili who will be pressed from the jump as he gets either Alexandr Dolgopolov or Thanasi Kokkinakis to open the second round. If Troicki can find some traction early, this could be his quarter. If not, look for the Dolgopolov-Kokkinakis vs. Gabashvili second round match winner to have a great shot to get to the quarterfinals.

The other half of this quarter also looks open with sixth seeded Thomaz Bellucci and eleventh seeded Jiri Vesely as the two seeded players. Bellucci has a poor record on hard courts at 38-78 for his career, but he is rarely blown out by players of a similar skill set. Vesely is the one to watch. He lost his transitional match back to hard courts in Cincinatti to Bellucci, but has shown the ability for success with his big serve showing well when he finds the consistency. Vesely won his only career ATP title early this season in Auckland on an outdoor hard surface. James Duckworth is an interesting floater in this part of the quarter. He has shown some ability to harness his game on hard courts, but as with many, his lack of consistency off the ground often gets him in trouble. Vesely might be the better shot this week, but also take a look at the qualifiers who get slotted here against James Duckworth and Marsel Ilhan. They could make some noise.

Quarter Four: Kevin Anderson (2)

Kevin AndersonKevin Anderson is just 1-2 all-time at Winston-Salem and he has never advanced past the third round. He took a wild card into the event this week. Anderson will need to be on point as he opens his campaign against a crafty veteran in either Nicolas Mahut or Mikhail Kukushkin. This tournament is one of the rare places that Mahut has found success outdoors on hard courts. He made the third round last year Kukushkin is 1-2 at this event. Kukushkin would be the trickier out and he has beaten Anderson before at last year’s Shanghai Masters. The other part of this quarter is loaded with 2014 finalist Jerzy Janowicz as the 16th seed and defending Winston-Salem champion Lukas Rosol as an unseeded player. Oh yes, there is also this fellow named Ernests Gulbis who draws Rosol to open. This part of the draw could be hell on the seeded players. Expect an unseeded surprise to work through to the quarters, likely the Rosol-Gulbis winner.

In the opposite half of this quarter, rising star Borna Coric is seeded eighth with Pablo Andujar in as the 12th seed. Coric is still gaining experience on hard courts with this as his first full year playing these hard court tournaments at the ATP level. He showed well in Cincinnati as he took a set off Stan Wawrinka before losing in three. He beat another promising young player in Alexander Zverev in the opening round of that event. Coric will face a veteran first in Santiago Giraldo or Steve Darcis. While both are tough, it is a match that he needs to win if he is going to continue working up the rankings. Andujar is not suited to hard courts as evidenced with his 2-8 record in his last ten on the surface. Still, he gets either Daniel Gimeno-Traver or Diego Schwartzman in his first match. Gimeno-Traver is on an eight match losing streak. Schwartzman is just 2-5 in main draws on hard courts at this level in the last year. Coric is the clear talent in this part of the draw, but his inexperience will be put to the test by the veteran players he comes up against.

Futures Watch
Querrey 13.0 (+1200)
Coric 31.0 (+3000)
Gabashvili 6.50 (+5500)

This is definitely a week to invest lightly, but also to take some risks with big value long shots as it is usually an unlikely occurrence to see top seeds winning this week before a Grand Slam.

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