The North American hard court swing begins in Atlanta at the BB&T Atlanta Open. Part of the US Open series, the tournament signals the beginning of the build up to the US Open. The tournament itself is over 20 years old but has only been based in Atlanta for the past three years. Sixth seed Mardy Fish won the first two but last year’s winner Andy Roddick is now retired.
John Isner heads the field as top seed and will face either Bogota finalist Alejandro Falla or Christian Harrison, the younger brother of Ryan. Isner is popular with the locals due to his time spent at the nearby University of Georgia, where he was part of the team that won the NCAA Division 1 Championship in 2007. Having made the final in both 2010 and 2011, Isner will hope to go one better this time round and is well placed to do so. James Blake will play a qualifier which could include the likes of Chris Guccione, Donald Young and Mischa Zverev. Evgeny Donskoy plays Rajeev Ram in his first tour match since a first round exit at Wimbledon. The Russian took advantage of two retirements to make the quarter finals of Portoroz Challenger but was defeated by Martin Fischer. Meanwhile, Ram suffered a disappointing loss early in Newport to Michal Przysiesnz.
No.3 seed Ivan Dodig begins with either Ricardas Berankis or a qualifier. Berankis was a finalist in Los Angeles last year but was unable to defend the points due to the tournaments disappearance from the tour. With plenty of points needed to be picked back up to consolidate his ranking, it will be a tough ask especially with the Lithuanian’s current form. Berankis has lost his last five matches and was winless over the grass swing. One of two all-American matches, highly rated wildcards Denis Kudla and Rhyne Williams face each other in the opening round. Williams will be looking for his first main tour win on hard courts. Edouard Roger Vasselin looks to bounce back from a surprising defeat to Matteo Viola in Bogota but Lleyton Hewitt is far from the ideal opponent to do so against. Hewitt served for the title in Newport only to drop his serve twice in a row before eventually losing in three. They have met once before, although the 6-4 6-0 win in Tokyo 4 years ago bears little relevance on this match up.
Americans dominate the third quarter of the draw with four home players of seven in the section. Two times champion Mardy Fish is sixth seed here and kicks off against Michael Russell. Fish makes his long awaited return after numerous health issues and needs a good performance with plenty of points to defend while in North America. His defeat on the clay to Russell in Houston last year came as a huge shock but overall the head to head currently stands at 2-2. Jack Sock plays Santiago Giraldo and already has a title in North America, although at challenger level. He picked up the Winnetka title a few weeks ago before a disappointing loss to Jan Hernych in Newport. Igor Sijsling plays either Ryan Harrison or Marinko Matosevic in his opener. Harrison continues to fall down the rankings thanks to his awful year that has seen him go 6-15 to date.
Lukas Lacko comes into the tournament in decent former after making the final of Granby Challenger in Canada but will have his work cut out against an opponent in Denis Istomin who he is 1-4 against in his career, with the single victory coming by retirement. The winner will play Yen Hsun Lu or a qualifier. Lu picked up yet another Challenger title in Asia last time out, this time winning in Beijing. Ivo Karlovic gets a special exempt entry after being unable to play qualifiers due to his victory in Bogota Challenger. It is a great story for the Croatian to come back and win a title so soon after health problems put his career in question. He will face Kevin Anderson for the second week running. Karlovic won in three in his way to the title and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a repeat given that breaks will be at a premium between the pair.
Full Draw Here: ATP Atlanta 2013 Draw