First thing's first: bet on a pre-major tournament at your own peril. The Winston-Salem Open, and all Grand Slam tune-up events for that matter, are notoriously difficult to predict. There is no way of knowing a players’ mindset at an ATP 250 less than a week before the tour’s biggest payday of the year at the US Open. Do they want to exert valuable energy and earn confidence-boosting victories? Or will they want to hit a few balls, shake off some rust, and pack up their bags and head to New York City? Impossible to tell.

That said, for those of you just itching to get in on the action...

Slowly but surely, Andy Murray’s body is allowing him to play some elite tennis. He isn't a Grand Slam title contender anymore, but his serve is starting to click and his recovery time needed between matches seems to be shrinking. After some time back on tour, his movement has clearly improved, and after beating Richard Gasquet in straight sets in Cincinnati, Murray gave Hubert Hurkacz—one of the hottest players in the world—all he could handle in his 7-6 (4), 6-3 loss.

Scheduled to play Nick Kyrgios Sunday in Winston-Salem, Murray ended up playing exhausted lucky-loser Noah Rubin, who had just lost to Lucas Pouille in three tight sets. It was the perfect body-saving warmup match for Murray, who will test his true level against Frances Tiafoe on Tuesday night in front of what’s sure to be a jam-packed stadium.

We're in for plenty of thrilling, cat-and-mouse points, as Murray and Tiafoe own some of the best improvisation skills in the world.

Advertising

Here, Murray pulls off a vintage defensive lob that Tiafoe was not prepared for. It’s not often a player hits a defensive running crosscourt forehand lob for a winner. 

Expect Tiafoe, who will be outmatched in terms of in-point strategy and patterns, to test Murray’s movement early and often.

While there’s little to no predictability in Tiafoe’s results, you can count on him to hit several jaw-dropping shots per match.

Advertising

If you are betting on any Winston-Salem matches, please keep the wagers on the minimal side, but I believe that Murray’s easy warm-up against Rubin was exactly what he needed to make a dent in this tournament. He’s racked up 36 aces in his last three matches, and is moving better than he has in years. His +120 underdog price is probably worth a play against an up and down player like Tiafoe.

The Pick: Andy Murray