Eight Things To Watch In Winston-Salem
Andy Murray continues his comeback at the Winston-Salem Open, Tomas Berdych returns to action and a number of Next Gen ATP Finals contenders will go for their first ATP Tour title. ATPTour.com previews the week ahead.
1. More Murray: Former World No. 1 and three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray underwent a second hip surgery on 28 January, missing five months of play, but returned to doubles action at the Fever-Tree Championships, where he promptly won the title partnering Feliciano Lopez.
After four more doubles events, Murray returned to singles action last week at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, and now has received a wild card into the Winston-Salem Open singles draw. Murray joins Lleyton Hewitt and Andy Roddick as former World No. 1s who have played at Winston-Salem.
Due to recurring injuries, though, Berdych has played only one match since March – a first-round loss to Taylor Fritz at Wimbledon. Berdych will aim to rebound at an event where he has had previous success – he was the Winston-Salem runner-up in 2012.
3. Wild Ones: Two heavy contenders to qualify for the Next Gen ATP Finals received the remaining two wild cards: 20-year-old Denis Shapovalov and 21-year-old Frances Tiafoe, who are in fourth and sixth place respectively in the ATP Race To Milan.
Shapovalov had suffered a five-match losing streak before winning a match apiece at ATP Masters 1000 events in Montreal and Cincinnati. Tiafoe won his first ATP Tour main-draw match at Winston-Salem in 2015 as a qualifier.
4. #NextGenATP Presence: Shapovalov and Tiafoe are joined in Winston-Salem by other top contenders to qualify for the Next Gen ATP Finals: Casper Ruud, Miomir Kecmanovic and Ugo Humbert are all in the top eight of the ATP Race To Milan, while Corentin Moutet and Alexei Popyrin sit in ninth and 11th place respectively. All five of them seek a first ATP Tour singles title this week.
5. French Press: Benoit Paire claims the No. 1 seeding at the event. The Frenchman came into 2019 with just one ATP Tour singles title to his name, but Paire has tripled his career total during this season, picking up clay-court titles at Marrakech and Lyon. Paire climbed back into the Top 30 after Roland Garros, returning to that echelon for the first time since July 2016.
6. Sweet Success: Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta is the sole prior champion in the field: the former World No. 10 claimed the Winston-Salem title in 2016 over his compatriot Roberto Bautista Agut. Last year’s runner-up Steve Johnson and 2017 finalist Damir Dzumhur join Berdych in the draw as the other former finalists.
7. Home Team: No. 6 seed Sam Querrey is the highest-seeded American in the field. Querrey, who made his third Wimbledon quarter-final (or better) last month, reached the Winston-Salem semi-finals three years running between 2012 and 2014, but still seeks his first final at the event. Fellow Americans Tiafoe, Johnson, Denis Kudla, and Tennys Sandgren join Querrey in the main draw.
8. Double Dare: Another strong doubles draw during this hard-court season appears at Winston-Salem, as all of the seeded teams are composed of players inside the Top 30 of the ATP Doubles Rankings. Those teams include the No. 1-seeded team of Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo, who are each currently ranked in the Top 5, and No. 4 seeds Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies, the reigning Roland Garros champions.