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Two-time champion Isner, 2016 winner Carreno Busta headline Winston-Salem draw


By Ricky Dimon


The U.S. Open is just one week away, so the Winston-Salem Open provides players with a final chance to fine-tune their games for the season’s final major.


Last year’s two finalists–runner-up Roberto Bautista Agut and champion Pablo Carreno Busta–are the respective No. 1 and No. 2 seeds this summer. They are followed by two-time champion John Isner, Kevin Anderson, Pablo Cuevas, Steve Johnson, Paolo Lorenzi, and Fernando Verdasco.


“I really feel good about this year’s tournament,” director Bill Oakes said. “The worst-ranked player in the main draw (minus the qualifiers) is ranked 100. That means just about everybody playing here will be in the U.S. Open next week. This is a very, very strong field.”


“Having John back is the most important signing for this year’s tournament,” Oakes continued. “John hasn’t played here for a few years. John has been a big supporter of this tournament, and I spent a lot of time encouraging him to come back. Getting John back here is a big deal.”


Oakes won’t be disappointed by Saturday’s semifinal results in Cincinnati, because they almost certainly mean that Isner will come back for what is basically his hometown event. The Greensboro, N.C. native to Grigor Dimitrov, so he will have two full days off before playing in Winston-Salem on Tuesday evening as opposed to having the Cincinnati title match on his Sunday schedule.


Isner, who lifted the trophy in each of this event’s first two years (2011 and 2012), awaits either Andrey Kuznetsov or Nicolas Kicker in his opener. The world No. 19 appears to have a friendly draw until a possible date with Bautista Agut in the semifinals.


On the bottom half of the draw, Carreno Busta will kick off his title defense against one of two Frenchmen: Pierrer-Hugues Herbert or Julien Benneteau. Benneteau finished runner-up against Isner in 2011. Johnson, Verdasco, and Chung could also contend for a final spot this year.“I think John has to be the favorite,” Benneteau said while helping with the draw ceremony. “He lives 30 minutes from here, he feels at home here…. It was an amazing run for me (in 2011). It was surprising. The first match was okay in the main draw and then I won some very tough matches and got myself into the final. It was unexpected but it was a great week for me.”


The veteran Frenchman is still in search of his first career ATP title.


Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.