2014 ATP Winston-Salem Preview
Tennis East Coast is happy to announce we will have live coverage from the early rounds of the Winston-Salem Open this year thanks to our on site correspondent Zephyr Logan. His reports will begin tomorrow from the grounds at Wake Forest University. Until then, here is a preview of the tournament, which serves as the end of the Emirates Airlines US Open Series, and the final tune-up before the US Open for all participants.
ATP World Tour 250
Winston-Salem NC, USA
August 17-August 23, 2014
Prize Money: $598,260
Top 8 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: John Isner (14)
2: Kevin Anderson (17)
3: Tommy Robredo (20)
4: Leonardo Mayer (26)
5: Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (32)
6: Joao Sousa (37)
7: Lukas Rosol (38)
8: Marcel Granollers (39)
The top 16 seeds get first round byes, and for a pre-slam 250, Winston-Salem has an excellent field.
First round matchups to watch:
Noah Rubin (Photo: Cynthia Lum / USTA)
Bradley Klahn vs. (WC)Noah Rubin
Klahn is taking part in his first tournament in quite some time after injuries further derailed his season. He will take on the Kalamazoo and Wimbledon junior champ Noah Rubin, who already has a US Open main draw wild card in his back pocket and will be playing this match in preparation for his grand slam debut.
It has been a miserable debut season on the ATP tour for Klahn, who has seen his one-dimensional game exposed by many an ATP opponent. His lone ATP win over Daniel Brands was back in January in Auckland and he has lost nine straight ATP level tilts since then. Overall, he is just 3-16 at the ATP level in his career since 2010.
Rubin, meanwhile, is making his ATP debut here in Winston-Salem and he is yet to win a match at the challenger or qualifying level (0-4 overall outside of junior play). With Klahn coming off of an injury he is, at best, a slight favorite, but Rubin has a great shot to get the win.
Robin Haase vs. Benoit Paire
Haase hasn’t been anything but a journeyman so far this season and will be playing his first hard court match since Miami. Paire was struggling and has fallen out of the top 100, but he has experienced a boost in form in the past two weeks, perhaps spurred on by the fact he was able to push Stan Wawrinka to a third set tiebreak in Toronto before coming up short. After having to go through qualies in both Toronto and Cincy, Paire is 5-2 in his last 7 matches and has beaten reasonable ATP level opponents like Alejandro Falla and Blaz Rola in that stretch. With everything to gain, Paire has a chance to excel this week but he first must dispatch Haase, who will likely play poorly.
Jerzy Janowicz vs. Carlos Berlocq
Another player who returned to form after a poor 2014 is Jerzy Janowicz. He upset Grigor Dimitrov en route to a third round showing in Cincy and he may finally have found a spark to kick-start his abysmal 2014 season.
Berlocq is returning from injury and has not played on a hard court in a while, so he should make easy fodder for the big hitting Janowicz, who defeated him once before indoors in 2012. Berlocq usually puts a lot of balls back in play though, and Janowicz must keep his errors down to grab the win.
John Isner has never lost in Winston-Salem, as he was the champion in both 2011 and 2012, while skipping the tournament last year. While he seems to love Winston-Salem, his form has been poor the past two weeks as he exited in the third round of Cincy and the first round of Toronto and Washington (overall 2-3 in his last five matches after winning in Atlanta).
Something appears to be up with Isner and his game right now, but it is unlikely he will have any trouble with Klahn/Rubin. His first test may come against Paire in the third round, assuming Paire beats Mikhail Kukushkin after beating Robin Haase. Kukushkin has proven to be a more formidable competitor at the challenger level than at the ATP level, and Isner against either Paire or Kukushkin is still likely to be safe from defeat.
Lukas Rosol will be playing his first tournament of the US Open Series in Winston-Salem. The Czech will take on Ryan Harrison or JL Struff for his first match, and he is likely to go through to face either Pablo Andujar or Igor Sijsling/Andrey Golubev in the third round. Harrison is struggling and Struff isn’t a top hard court performer, meanwhile Sijsling, Golubev and Andujar are playing on hard courts for the first time in a while. Rosol over Andujar is my pick to reach the quarterfinals.
Cincy quarterfinalist Tommy Robredo, who upset Novak Djokovic in Cincy in a week that has to be the highlight of his 2014 season, will take on Blaz Kavcic or Nicolas Mahut, and unless he tanks he should be through to face Andreas Seppi/Martin Klizan/Federico Delbonis in round 3. With Seppi being primarily a clay courter who has not been in top form all season, Klizan has a chance to sneak into the third round or perhaps do even better than that, given his streaky talent. Seppi has a 2-0 h2h with Klizan and both players come off early losses in Cincy. Given this is not a difficult section, Robredo should extend his record of 5-2 in his last 7 matches to 7-2 in his last 9 matches and reach the quarterfinals.
Marcel Granollers could have trouble against Paul-Henri Mathieu/Robby Ginepri in his first match. The Spaniard is 3-1 against Mathieu but he has lost three straight matches. These three players are all unpredictable and fragile veterans and though Ginepri upset Dominic Thiem as I predicted he might in Cincy, he was crushed by Milos Raonic in the next round. Ginepri has a slight h2h edge over Mathieu though Mathieu won their last meeting in Indian Wells this year, and Ginepri also has a 2009 win over Granollers indoors, so I have Ginepri through to the third round in my own bracket as a bit of a surprise. I’d expect Ginepri to be sent home by Rendy Lu in the third round, though. Lu beat Berdych in Cincy and is 2-2 in his last four matches, a good mark for the Taiwanese ball striker who does his best on hard courts. Lu is likely to face Blaz Rola in his first match unless Rola falls to a qualifier. Rola was a lucky loser in Cincy and lost in the first round to eventual semifinalist Julien Benneteau in a nail-biting third set tiebreak. Also, David Goffin is in the qualifying draw and is one to watch out for if he qualifies and is placed in a section such as this.
A hugely anticipated third round clash could occur between Kevin Anderson and Steve Johnson. Anderson lost to Isner in Cincy and may still be mentally struggling while Johnson had good runs in both DC and Cincy, losing to Milos Raonic both times after wins over top names Isner and Ernests Gulbis. Anderson must defeat Adrian Mannarino/qualifier to reach round 3, and Johnson must defeat Pere Riba/Sam Querrey to do the same. I don’t see Querrey spoiling things and I favor Johnson reaching the quarterfinals over Anderson.
Garcia-Lopez, who has lost his last five, could very well have trouble with Dustin Brown in round 2, assuming the big serving German can defeat Alejandro Gonzalez. Brown hasn’t played on hard courts in a while and he is on a three match losing streak, while Gonzalez is a competent hard court competitor. That one is a hard match to call, but I have GGL falling to the winner simply because he’s a streaky player and right now his form is way down.
Donald Young (Photo: Chris Levy @Tennis_Shots for TennisEastCoast.com)
Donald Young has a great chance in this section, as his first match will be against Frank Dancevic/Thomaz Bellucci, neither of whom are likely to be a threat. Young, who played well in DC, and lost in the second round of Toronto, just beat Dancevic on home soil in Canada and I have him through to the quarterfinals against Johnson in an all-American battle.
Breakthrough veteran Leo Mayer will open with Jurgen Melzer, the defending champion, or a qualifier. Given he much prefers clay, even an out of form Melzer or the qualifier, should reach the third round. Melzer/qualifier could meet Jarkko Nieminen or Benjamin Becker/Pablo Carreno Busta at that stage. Becker, who made the second round in Cincy as a qualifier, has been in far superior form compared to any other player in this section but he has lost his four meetings with Nieminen, who is playing for the first time since Kitzbuhel. I see a qualifier/Melzer falling to Becker, who is the most likely quarterfinalist in this section once the dust settles.
Last but not least, Joao Sousa will take on the winner of Janowicz/Berlocq, and Janowicz is probably a small favorite to reach the third round. Sousa has been struggling for a while and is unlikely to capitalize on his seeding. Look for a Janowicz vs. Edouard-Roger-Vasselin or Aleksandr Nedovyesov/qualifier third round meeting. ERV is also struggling, having lost three straight, including a third set tiebreak loss to Fabio Fognini in Cincy. This is another section where a qualifier like Goffin could capitalize and make a deep run. As it stands, Janowicz is the most likely quarterfinalist.
Dark Horse: Jerzy Janowicz
The Pole has a favorable draw that should allow him to get past Berlocq, Sousa, and ERV/qualifier, then dispatch Becker in the quarterfinals to reach the semis. With his likely opponents Johnson/Young/Anderson, I’d have him, if he’s in form, favored in any of those semifinal matchups. I have JJ as a finalist this week and a potential champion.
Isner d. Lu
Janowicz d. Johnson
It’s hard to pick against Isner in W-S when the draw gives me no reason to do so. Rosol may resist, but I don’t think he has the game to win that matchup on an outdoor hard court. Likewise, Lu will probably be overpowered like he has been in all three previous meetings, including two this season, with the American number one. All of those matches took place on outdoor hard courts. As for how Lu got the semis, Robredo is formidable but he is likely to want to conserve his energy for the US Open. By the time he is slated to play Lu, he is unlikely to give the match all his passion.
I’m favoring Janowicz to make the final as previously stated, and Johnson should have a form edge over Young after defeating Anderson. Johnson is also a possible finalist though.
Isner d. Janowicz
They have never met before, but Isner’s higher ranking and home-cooking should make him the favorite to win a third W-S title and stay undefeated at the Wake Forest venue.
Chris De Waard’s Picks
Isner d. Robredo
Johnson d. Roger-Vasselin
Isner d. Johnson