The ATP World Tour heads to its final stop ahead of the US Open this week. Winston-Salem hosts an ATP 250 event that usually has very similar conditions to those in New York. Today’s card is a very full one, with 15 first and second round matches on the schedule.
Many of the matches today look pretty competitive and it’s always tricky the week before a Slam to know who’s here to win, who’s here to tinker with their game and who’s here for a bit of match practice. Consequently there were nine odds-against winners in round one in Winston-Salem last year and caution is advised this week.
There are a couple of favourites who look a little short to me today. These include James Blake at 1.4 against Rhyne Williams and Mardy Fish at 1.62 against Jarkko Nieminen. And it’s always worth siding against Pablo Andujar on a fast hard court...
Pablo Andujar v Yen Hsun Lu
Andujar has a really poor record on hard courts and particularly quickish ones like the ones found in Winston-Salem. The Wilson US Open balls used here also tend to be a bit lighter than many others. The Spaniard has won just three matches in the main draw of hard court tournaments since this time last year, when he lost in the opening round in Sergiy Stakhovsky.
Andujar has lost his last 11 straight on hard courts against top 100-ranked players and 60th-ranked Lu is a tough performer in these conditions. The outright on Lu of 1.47 looks very solid and I like the -3.5 games on the player from Chinese Taipei at 2.02, because when Pablo loses on hard he doesn’t tend to lose tight ones - his last nine defeats on hard have been by more than today’s handicap mark.
Leonardo Mayer v Guido Pella
This is a very winnable match for the big-serving Mayer in an all-Argentine clash which kicks off at around 5pm UK time this afternoon. Pella has been inching his way back onto the tour after suffering a bad injury at Wimbledon and hasn’t won a match at tour level since beating Ivan Dodig 12-10 in the final set in round one of the French Open. He did play in the Aptos Challenger last week, but was beaten by Britain’s Dan Evans - the second time Evans has beaten Pella this summer. He is yet to record a single victory on a hard court on the ATP Tour that didn’t come by way of retirement, with his sole success being when Carlos Berlocq retired after three games against him in Miami this year.
Mayer is a decent performer on hard courts and my only concern here would be that this is his first match on hard for a while. He has been in good form on the dirt though: he beat Philipp Kohlschreiber in Kitzbuhel in a quarter-final run at altitude, and his game suits these conditions better than Pella’s. The outright win here at 1.60 looks decent to me, as I would make Mayer more like a sub 1.5 shot in this match.
Back Lu -3.5 games to beat Andujar at 2.02
Back Mayer to beat Pella at 1.60