ATP Winston-Salem Open Preview
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.
Planting The Seeds
250 level tournaments are usually full of upsets with regards to the seeds. 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 each year. 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
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. Tsonga looks boom or bust this week. I just have a hard time seeing him being engaged the entire week to make a title run.
#5 Guillermo Garcia-Lopez
A simple selection 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 record at this event. Lu made the semis in 2014 and the quarters in 2013, so he could surprise as an unseeded player. Whomever survives that opener is a legit upset candidate of what may be a rusty Garcia-Lopez.
#6 Thomaz Bellucci
Bellucci will be prone to an upset from a player more suited to the surface. He usually efforts well against similar players on hard courts, but it could be tough for him against either James Duckworth or a qualifier. The qualifying field is pretty strong, so monitor who wins those matches on Sunday. Bellucci lost his first match last year in Winston-Salem to Frank Dancevic.
#9 Benoit Paire
Benoit Paire is Benoit Paire. That means he has to be on this list because he’s got the Forrest Gump box of chocolates label every week. You never know what you are going to get. 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. Paire gets James Ward or the rising Hyeon Chung. Chung is could give Paire fits with his speed and defensive abilities that would really challenge the Frenchman’s ability to be consistency off the ground.
#10 Joao Sousa
Sousa’s win over Kohlschreiber last week in Cincinnati was his first on an outdoor hard court since Dubai early in the season. The win 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. Neither is at their best, but both certainly can challenge Sousa on this surface.
#13 Steve Johnson
Johnson has fallen apart since 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. He gets either Sam Groth or Jared Donaldson to open. Johnson runs hot and cold, so a win and he may be making a run this week. Still, nothing recently points to that happening.
#15 Temuraz Gabashvili
Gabashvili will come out swinging for the fences with his free swinging game again this week. He has not played since Washington, D.C. when he shocked Andy Murray. This is the type of smaller tournament that Gabashvili could thrive at without a lot of pressure. That is if he can get by his first opponent. He will play either 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 may his work cut out for him this week. He could face a finals rematch with Lukas Rosol right away 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. Whether it is Rosol or Gulbis, Janowicz should be on high alert.
I Feel The Need, The Need For Seed!
A look at how seeds do at the business end of this tournament. In the past, seeds have done well to make the quarterfinals and semifinals. At least five seeds have made the quarters each year since 2011. In the semis, last year was the first time that at least three seeds did not make that round. Only two seeds made the semifinals in 2014, but all four semifinal slots had been seeded the two previous years. An unseeded player has crashed the final twice in the four year history of the tournament. Once last year with Jerzy Janowicz and again in 2011 with Julien Benneteau also as a qualifier. Neither one was able to win the title. The last two years, players seeded 7th in Lukas Rosol and 9th in Jurgen Melzer were your winners.
Unseeded players to watch this week as potential party crashers: Lukas Rosol, Ernests Gulbis, Sam Groth, Yen-Hsun Lu, Robin Haase and Mikhail Kukushkin.