ATP Winston Salem is the last tournament in the schedule in advance of the US Open, which starts a week on Monday. Dan Weston looks at the week ahead...
"Carreno-Busta's clay numbers and overall ranking (hint: market perception) took a hit with fitness issues earlier in the year, but last week in Cincinnati showed he's getting back towards his best."
No top 20 players in weak Winston Salem event
The week prior to a Grand Slam is always pretty tricky, with players often struggling for motivation and protecting fitness prior to the big tournament, and the Winston Salem Open is likely to be similar. There's a 48 man draw although with a number of players choosing to try and qualify for the US Open, field quality isn't particularly strong.
In fact, there are no top 20 entrants, with Benoit Paire - barely inside the top 30 - taking top seed billing. The top 16 have byes, so each first round winner will face a seed in round two.
History hints at fairly slow conditions
Conditions at the Wake Forest University complex are likely to be a touch on the slow side for hard court. Mean aces per game, service points won and service hold percentages are all down on the ATP mean across the last three years, so I don't anticipate servers to derive nearly as much benefit from conditions as they did last week in Cincinnati.
A look through the winners list doesn't also give much evidence of noted big servers being successful, with only John Isner and Kevin Anderson being noted for this having won in this decade. Certainly the last three players to lift the trophy - Daniil Medvedev, Roberto Bautista-Agut and Pablo Carreno-Busta - don't fit into this playing style particularly.
Player analysis illustrates field quality
Prior to looking at the draw, I wanted to highlight some data for players at the top of the market. The following table illustates the service and return points won for these players on hard court in 2019:-
First of all, we can see there's that lack of quality in the field that I mentioned earlier, with just nine players having 100% combined service/return points won percentage on hard court this year.
Fitness doubts over top two
Interestingly, the top two rated players here - Filip Krajinovic and Tomas Berdych - meet in round two after Berdych won his Sunday round one match against Andreas Seppi. Fitness would also be a concern for both players, with Berdych having only played twice since the start of March, while Krajinovic skipped the two North American Masters events in the last two weeks.
Carreno-Busta and Evans capable of coming through top half
Looking at the draw, a few players stand out. Pablo Carreno-Busta (a previous winner here) has a nice draw in the top quarter with Benoit Paire, who has underwhelmed on hard court for years, Ugo Humbert and Lorenzo Sonego the seeds in that bracket. Carreno-Busta's clay numbers and overall ranking (hint: market perception) took a hit with fitness issues earlier in the year, but last week in Cincinnati showed he's getting back towards his best. He's certainly one to consider at around [15.0] in a weak field.
In quarter two, Dan Evans and John Millman look best placed to come through and Evans has a nice statistical advantage over his rivals in that bracket - he's similarly priced to Carreno-Busta and it wouldn't surprise me to see either one come through the top half of the draw.
Querrey vulnerable in bottom quarter
Sam Querrey is the tournament favourite at [7.40] but his numbers have showed his struggles on hard court this season. He had an excellent grass campaign statistically, but these slower conditions aren't particularly similar to grass, and I'm not at all sure I'd have him this short.
Denis Shapovalov and Miomir Kecmanovic look clear rivals in Querrey's quarter, while we also see the continued comeback of Andy Murray as well.
The Scotsman's stats so far on hard court this year - albeit from a tiny sample - indicate he's yet to get nearly back to his best, and neither did his return data in his loss to Richard Gasquet in Cincinnati either. He's certainly one to have a watching brief on as his sample size develops in the coming weeks and months.
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Back Pablo Carreno-Busta and Dan Evans (both around [15.0]) to win ATP Winston Salem