A final chance for the players of the ATP World Tour to hone their hard court skills ahead of the US Open presents itself in week 34 at the Winston-Salem Open.
This ATP 250 event held on the grounds of Wake Forest University sees a switch to the kind of conditions expected in New York next week, with an outdoor hard Decoturf surface and Wilson US Open balls in operation here.
John Isner has used this event as his own personal pre-US Open warm up in recent times, winning here in 2011 and 2012 and he’s never lost a match here, where conditions suit his game.
The courts are quick and the balls are light, which combined with the high bounce must make it very tough indeed to return the Isner serve.
The American is the number one seed this week in a field also containing Kevin Anderson, Tommy Robredo and Leonardo Mayer from the top-30 in the world, but Monday’s play features 12 matches with little in the way of star quality.
There are a few entertainers on show though with Dustin Brown, Jerzy Janowicz and Thomaz Bellucci on the card for today and we start at 17:00 UK time today.
Martin Klizan looks a likely early winner over Federico Delbonis, but he’s a bit too short for me at around 1.45, while Janowicz is also too short at 1.40 against Carlos Berlocq.
It’ll be a while before I back JJ again after his display against Julien Benneteau last week, but Berlocq’s record against big servers away from clay isn’t great and that one could be a real up and down affair.
Igor Sijsling vs Andrey Golubev looks a really trappy one, with Golubev not having won a main draw match on a hard court at tour level since a win over the now retired Rik de Voest at Indian Wells in 2012.
Sijsling is in a real slump right now and that looks a real toss-up and I prefer another of the 17:00 UK time starts.
David Goffin vs Jurgen Melzer
On paper this should be a win for the in-form Belgian, who’s won 22 straight matches in all competitions now, but that run has made him too short today in my view.
Pretty much all of those victories came in clay Challengers and his hard court stats don’t make for great reading and today he faces the defending Winston-Salem champion who holds a 3-0 career series lead over the baby-faced Belgian.
Melzer has been struggling with injury again this summer, but he’s been back on court for a few matches now and he’ll be sure to be motivated for this with points to defend ahead of the US Open.
Goffin might well come away with the win today, but his price is poor in the circumstance of facing this particular opponent, who he’s never beaten and who should be more than up for the fight.
It could be tight and the + 2.5 games could swing it in Melzer’s favour at 2.04, with the over 22.5 total games also appealing here at 1.76.
The other underdogs that made my shortlist today include the mercurial talents of Dustin Brown, who probably isn’t the kind of opponent that Guillermo Garcia Lopez will want to play given his current slump, Robby Ginepri and Damir Dzumhur.
Robby Ginepri vs Paul Henri-Mathieu
Ginepri always plays better at home on US hard courts than anywhere else and after failing to get a US Open wild card he should be looking to do well here to show the tournament what it’s missing.
He’s got a wild card here this week and today faces Mathieu, who must be lacking in confidence after producing another terrible choke against James Ward last week.
The pair have met five times in the past, but there’s little to be gleaned from their prior meetings and this should be about desire and as an underdog I like Robby’s chances here against an opponent seemingly playing out the latter stages of his career.
At a bigger price Dzuhmur has been playing well this year and I wouldn’t be relying on the flaky Adrian Mannarino to lands odds of 1.40 against him.
It’s always tough at the start of the week knowing who’s at it and who isn’t, but the pair of Melzer and Ginepri should be and look the best value on Monday.
Back Melzer +2.5 games to beat Goffin at 2.04
Back Ginepri to beat Mathieu at 1.91