In the final tournament before the US Open, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Tomas Berdych headline a strong Winston Salem Open event with 250 points on offer for the winner and more importantly, much needed confidence for next week. Last years finalists Julien Benneteau and John Isner also compete here.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will face either Marcos Baghdatis or Thomaz Bellucci in the second round. Tsonga edged a tight three set encounter aginst Bellucci at the Olympics but is much more at home on clay for the most part and it looks likely Baghdatis will extend his record to 3-0 against his Brazilian opponent. Gilles Muller takes on a qualifier for the opportunity to face Spain’s Pablo Andujar. Andujar is definitely improving on hard courts and was leading 6-4 4-1 against Janko Tipsarevic before his opponent withdrew through injury. Muller has not played since the Olympics but showed he is still a threat on hard courts making the final of Atlanta where he was defeated by Andy Roddick.
Having departed in the first match of his last two tournaments Kevin Anderson will be hoping to do better here and he takes on either a qualifier or Carlos Berlocq. Berlocq has never excelled on hard courts but impressively defeated Santiago Giraldo in Cincinnati. Young American Ryan Harrison will be hoping to end his four match losing streak when he takes on Go Soeda. Soeda took impressive scalps in Xavier Malisse and Kei Nishikori in his last outing in America hard but much of his play on hard courts has been on the challenger circuit. The winner will face sixth seed Marcel Granollers who has a fairly average record on this surface for the most part but did make the quarter finals of Toronto last week.
2011 winner John Isner begins his title defence against either Martin Klizan or Benoit Paire. Klizan is in good form, albeit on the Challenger Tour, having taken the title in San Marino Challenger. He is yet to play on a hard court this year and should struggle against Paire, although the Frenchman has been disappointing in America too with recent defeats to Tobias Kamke and Michael Russell. Whoever wins should pose no real threat to Isner at all on the tall American’s favoured surface. Alejandro Falla will face a qualifier for the chance to take on Austrian Jurgen Melzer. Melzer has defeated Falla in both of their previous meetings, most recently last year at Wimbledon. Melzer will be confident in a potential tie with Isner should he make it that far – he has defeated him on both previous occasions and copes well with big serving players for the most part.
First up for losing 2011 finalist Julien Benneteau is the winner of Lukasz Kubot vs Tommy Robredo. Robredo has recently comeback from injury and picked up two challenger titles earlier in the year but was most recently knocked out in the quarter final of Pozoblanco challenger. It will be a tough match to call as Kubot took just three games in a tame defeat to Yen-Hsun Lu in Cincinnati. Viktor Troicki completes the seeds in the top half of the draw and will face either David Goffin or Nicolas Mahut. After a few impressive performances at the Slams recently, Goffin appeared to be gaining somewhat of a reputation as the next top prospect in the men’s game. He has struggled a little since Wimbledon with first round exits at Newport and the Olympics as well as a tame defeat to Ivan Dodig in Cincinnati. Mahut has also looked poor though and most recently was sent packing by Ricardas Berankis in consecutive tournaments.
Sam Querrey can continue his recent good form in North America here where he will take on either Santiago Giraldo or Eduardo Roger-Vasselin. Having been defeated by Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic in his last two tournaments he will pleased to be facing easier opposition. Although seen as the superior player on hard courts, Giraldo appears not to be in great form after being defeated by Carlos Berlocq in straight sets in Cincinnati. Meanwhile Roger-Vasselin has won just two times on this surface all year on the main tour, none since the Australian Open and one being by retirement. One of the recurring themes over this part of the year has been whether Donald Young will finally end his losing streak. The American will hope to be EIGTEENTH time lucky as he takes on Leonardo Mayer of Argentina. Though not his preferred surface Mayer has been improving on it and has defeated Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and Flavio Cipolla in recent weeks. Feliciano Lopez will be confident of defeating either opponent in the second round regardless.
Since his controversial actions at Queens, fourteenth seed David Nalbandian has not won a match, being defeated by Janko Tipsarevic and Tommy Haas twice each. Fortunately for Nalbandian neither are here this week and a first round match against either Nikolay Davydenko or Robin Haase looks a bit kinder for the Argentinian. Having retired in Cincinnati, there may be question marks over whether Davydenko will play though. Haase made the semi finals here last year but has won just once on hard courts all year. An out of form Lukas Lacko will be confident of ending a four match losing streak when he takes on Yen-Hsun Lu. Lacko holds a 2-0 record over the Chinese Taipei player who has had most of his success on the Challenger circuit although he did perform admirably in a 6-4 6-3 defeat to Tomas Berdych. The winner will face Citi Open winner Alexandr Dolgopolov. The Ukranian has been in questionable form since picking up the title in Washington D.C. with tame first round exits that may be down to the health problems he is suffering.
After a poor start to the season, Andy Roddick had begun to show some form and with it, regained his spot in the top 20. Unfortunately he appeared to be suffering from injury in his poor defeat to Jeremy Chardy and so may not compete here but is yet to withdraw. Roddick made the semi finals here and as fifth seed, will be expected to go close once more. He should be able to deal with potential second round opponents James Blake and Albert Ramos. Although much more suited to the clay, Ramos most notably defeated Richard Gasquet in Indian Wells this year. Blake has a disappointing 4-9 record on the year but most recently defeated big serving Kevin Anderson. Belgians Steve Darcis and Xavier Malisse face off for the opportunity to play Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin. Other than his surprise win over Tomas Berdych in London, Darcis has done little to impress on the main tour with a 3-5 record on hard courts this year. Malisse has been fairly average too but has made the quarter finals in his last two events, Los Angeles and Washington.
The final quarter of the draw is headed up by second seed Tomas Berdych and he will be fairly confident of going deep here as it seems there is little to threaten the Czech. His first match will either be against the slumping Alex Bogomolov (10-23 on the year) or Malek Jaziri who has played just once on hard courts on the main tour this year. Sixteenth seed Jarkko Niemenen has done little on hard courts since making the final in Sydney while his potential second round opponent Tatsuma Ito’s hard court experience has been mostly on the Challenger Tour. Ito faces a qualifier for the opportunity to take on Niemenen and this could well be a spot for a qualifier to make a splash in the tournament.
Finals Prediction - John Isner defeats Tomas Berdych