The craziest 250 event on the calendar! 48 players! The last tournament before the US Open! The last non-Slam event in North America until the Sunshine Double! A Saturday final! Seven different champs in the last seven years!
Strap in for a weird and wild seven days.
Weird and wild? That means upsets. Upsets everywhere, in every round. This draw is unique in that it is a 250 event with a whopping 48 players — The only 250 like this on the calendar. That means 16 players get first round draws; and their performance is all over the map. The best performance in their first round, as a group, was 9–7 with one walkover in 2016. Most years, as a group, they go 8–8 or 7–9 or even 6–10. So, get the dogs barking right away. The only round last year where at least half the matches didn’t go to the dog was round 3 (even the final, the dog won). So, weird and wild.
One thing to note about players with byes; while it’s almost impossible to tell which one will be motivated to care… the winner will almost certainly be one of the 16 players with a bye. You just have to choose the right one. Medvedev, last year, was the first Winston-Salem champ to have not had a bye in the first round.
Benoit Paire is the only top 30 seed in attendance (a great example of how bad these draws can be). And he is hardly a guy to count on for motivation. Only eleven top 20 players have attended this event in the last four years combined and they are a great example of the dichotomy of results from players with a bye. Gilles Simon at #11 in 2015, Pablo Carreno Busta #17 in 2017 both went out in their first match; Jo-Willy Tsonga #19 in 2015, Pablo Cuevas #20 in 2016, and Isner #19 in 2017 all lost in their second match; while conversely, Kevin Anderson at #15 in 2015, #17 Bautista Agut in 2016, and #14 Bautista Agut in 2017 all made the final. So, roll the dice and pick the right guy with a bye!
This tournament throws one more unique curve at us this year; the bottom half of the draw is way tougher than the top half!
The top quarter has the aforementioned Benoit Paire, Lorenzo Sonego, Ugo Humbert, and Pablo Carreno Busta as the seeded players with a draw. Paire is hard to gauge at any given time, Humbert is still a little green (he’s 21 but with zero finals on tour) and Sonego is better on clay, gaining all his ranking points this year on non-hard court surfaces. That leaves PCB, the first and best outright option of the week. PCB won this event in 2016, made the semis here last year, has the bye, has a relatively easier draw than some of the people in the bottom half of the draw, and PCB is also great on hard courts. He is holding serve 83% of the time this year on hards and breaking serve over 20% of the time. That puts him in the upper echelon of players on tour. At 14/1 he is a great option.
The second quarter is what contributes to PCB being such a solid option. It might be the worst quarter in the draw. Sousa, Haase, Cecchinato, Casper Ruud, and Jaume Munar would all consider something other than hards their best surface. Daniel Evans might be the best option here but, he has played four straight weeks now and he has had very uneven results this year — a final in Delray Beach, a bunch of finals on the Challenger tour but, a glut of first and second round exits this summer. At 12/1 the price seems low.
The bottom half is loaded. The third quarter has a bunch of good options in it — Filip Krajinovic, Tomas Berdych, Jeremy Chardy, France Tiafoe, Nic Jarry, and Hubert Hurkacz. Berdych has spent much of the year injured, Krajinovic has also struggled with injury and Chardy has passed 30 and not made any hard court finals in a decade. Tiafoe is a great option but, like Dan Evans his performance is all over the map and at 14/1 his path looks much harder than PCB’s. Hurkacz is a guy who should be winning these types of events in the near future. A price in 20/1 range would have been gracy but, he’s listed in the teens, he’s played four straight weeks and he’s in an, as just mentioned, tough quarter. The guy with an outlandish price is Nic Jarry. He’s listed at 25/1 and he’s in a tough quarter and he doesn’t have a bye. But, if you are looking for a longshot, this is the best option in the quarter. He has a similar set-up to Kevin Anderson when he won here in 2015; a big serve, an improving return game and a 6″6 frame.
The fourth quarter has the tournament favorite and a senitmental long shot. Sam Querrey is only 5/1, it’s not a great price. Let’s get that out of the way right off the top. But, he has all the other requisite factors in his fvaour. He gets a bye, he excels on hard courts, he excels at 250 level events (18 of his 19 finals on tour have been in 250’s!!!), he has done well here in the past (11–4 record in Winston-Salem) and maybe most importantly Querrey has no illusions of winning next week at the US Open. His entire focus should be on this event.
Again, if you are looking for a longshot, don’t skip past Andy Murray. Like Jarry he doesn’t get a bye and his path is pretty tough. But, if he is healthy, if his fitness is up to the task, he could easily run through this. Winston-Salem is not the kind of event Murray would usually have played in the past. He is here precisely because he is NOT playing next week in New York. The level of player in this event is the level he used to steamroll over. And most importantly, his price is 20/1.
Sam Querrey 5/1, x1
Carreno Busta 14/1, x0.5
Andy Murray 20/1, x0.25
Nic Jarry 25/1, x0.25