Winston Salem Open Preview: Isner to defend his crown

Will John Isner make it four winning weeks in a row for Sean?

In form Sean Calvert is looking for his fourth winning week in succession, and he believes that defending champion John Isner is the man to be on at the Winston Salem Open...

"I’m happy to take Isner as my main wager this week and despite his awful efforts in Toronto and Cincy I wouldn’t count out Dolgopolov at a price that could look very big if – and it’s a big if – he can be bothered this week."

Roger Federer's title success in Cincinnati was the third winning selection in a row for this column and with the US Open a little over a week away there's one final chance for the players to get some hard court match play under their belts.

This week's tournament is the Winston Salem Open, an ATP 250 event that took over last year from New Haven, which became a WTA tournament to cut a long story short.

John Isner won the inaugural event last year and is back to defend his title in a field that looks a little stronger than usual and that has benefited from the 2012 London Olympics.

Usually this event attracts mainly lower ranked players and the odd top-20 or top-10 player, but this year we've got three top-10 stars plus the likes of Andy Roddick, Alex Dolgopolov, David Nalbandian, Sam Querrey and Feliciano Lopez.

So it's a very strong field for a 250 event and it's headed by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Tomas Berdych and Isner.

These guys are looking for hard court match practice after squeezing the Olympics into their schedules and Tsonga in particular has played just one match on a hard court since the spring.

The Frenchman, who missed Cincinnati citing a knee injury caused by him running into a fire hydrant, is in the top half of the draw and tournament favourite at around 4.3310/3.

Joining the world number six in the top half are Marcos Baghdatis, Kevin Anderson, Ryan Harrison, Marcel Granollers, Isner, Jurgen Melzer, Viktor Troicki and Julien Benneteau to name a few.

The opposite half of the draw sees Berdych, Roddick, Querrey, Nalbandian, Dolgopolov, Lopez, Nikolay Davydenko, Denis Istomin and Jarkko Nieminen as the leading lights.

Tsonga and Isner both missed Cincy with injury, as did Roddick, and Dolgopolov may as well have done, as he has been little short of a disgrace in the two matches he's turned up for since winning Washington. That said, he'll probably go and win the tournament this week - he's that kind of player.

I'm not at all convinced that the big names are overly fussed about actually winning this event, but Isner may be the exception as an American at home and with a title to defend.

He's been drawn in a quarter with Benneteau, who played nine matches here in 2011 reaching the final as a qualifier, before losing in that final to Isner.

The big man's main obstacle could come in the quarter finals in the form of Jurgen Melzer, who has beaten him on both occasions that they've played.

The Austrian's form has tailed off alarmingly this year though and since winning Memphis in the spring he's compiled a 5-14 record and he's won just a single match on outdoor hard in 2012.

So, Isner should emerge from that section to face most likely Tsonga, who has a tricky first round clash with either Baghdatis or Thomaz Bellucci and then has perhaps the out of form Anderson to get past first.

The bottom half is the place to look for value, with Querrey at around 19.018/1, Lopez at 50.049/1, Nalbandian at 34.033/1, Dolgopolov at 20.019/1 all in the same quarter and in with chances of making at least the semis.

The final quarter should see Berdych prevail over Roddick, Blake, Istomin, Nieminen and Bogomolov Jr, but he's not a bet for me at the moment with confidence low and with only seven titles to his name in his career so far - a poor return for someone of his ability.

I'm happy to take Isner as my main wager this week and despite his awful efforts in Toronto and Cincy I wouldn't count out Dolgopolov at a price that could look very big if - and it's a big if - he can be bothered this week.

Recommended Bets

Back Isner at 5.59/2
Back Dolgopolov at 20.019/1

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