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Andy Roddick is the top seed at the Winston Salem Open – Around the corner

With only one week left before the start of the U.S. Open, the Winston Salem Open provides tennis players with one final opportunity to prepare themselves for the final Grand Slam of the year.

Usually the top players in the world like Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer take this week to rest-up before heading to New York, while the lower ranked players who are seeking a few more ranking points or preparation on their games can be found in the draw.

This is the first year of this event as it was previously held in New Haven, Connecticut. With Pilot Pen vacating their spot as tournament sponsor, the event could not find a suitable replacement and was forced to fold.

Let’s look at this week’s draw to see who might end up as the inaugural Winston Salem champ.

First Quarter:

Andy Roddick arrives here as the number one seed. Normally Andy would not be playing in the week leading up to the Open, but he is struggling to find his game this summer and needs all the help he can get. On Monday his ranking will drop out of the top-twenty, something that has not happened for him since August 2001. That was back when Roddick was on his way up in the rankings as a new tennis professional. He has done an amazing job at consistently being one of the top players in the world and will be very focused to get back there.

He opens with a first round bye and then is scheduled to face the winner of the match between Albert Ramos and Lukas Rosol. Either way this should be exactly the confidence boost that Roddick requires.

A tricky third round match could have him play against veteran Lleyton Hewitt, who is also trying to find his game after struggling with injuries this year. It’s sad in many ways to see these two former world number ones and Grand Slam champions having such difficulty with their games.

Second Quarter:

American John Isner is the 4th seed and will face either Dudi Sela or Filippo Volandri in the second round. This is a tournament that Isner should do quite well at and his only real competition could be in a quarter-final match against either Marcos Baghdatis or Dmitry Tursunov.

Isner defeated Baghdatis in Montreal this past week 6-3, 6-4 and the Cypriot has been quite mediocre of late. He has not advanced past the quarter-finals of any hard-court events this summer.

Third Quarter:

Enigmatic Alexandr Dolgopolov is seeded third and has also been playing under his talent-level for many stretches this year. After starting the 2011 season strongly by reaching the quarter-finals of the Australian Open, he has failed to really build on his potential on hard-courts. He did win the event in Umag a few weeks ago but that was on clay. He could face either Grigor Dimitrov or Donald Young in the third round, but otherwise should be able to navigate his way to the quarter-finals.

There he could meet big-serving Kevin Anderson, who is the 6th seed, and has had a solid summer that was highlighted by a victory over Andy Murray in Montreal. He will likely face wild-card Ryan Harrison in the second round. The up-and-coming American faces Victor Hanescu in his opening match. James Blake is also lurking in this section and could face Anderson in the third round.

Fourth Quarter:

Jurgen Melzer is the second seed and will have the toughest opening match of the top seeds as he will face either Bernard Tomic or Igor Andreev. Tomic is a fast rising star on the ATP World Tour who showed his promise at Wimbledon this year by making the quarter-finals. Andreev is never an easy opponent and has skills on all surfaces. I’d call an upset over Melzer here a distinct possibility.

Nikolay Davydenko is the 5th seed and should be able to navigate his way towards the quarter-finals, but after a brutal 6-0, 6-2 defeat at the hands of Mardy Fish in Cincinnati, I wonder if his confidence is able to handle anyone at the moment.

I’m going to go with Roddick or Isner prevailing in this one. They are both great hard-court players and with their serves they are incredibly dangerous. This tournament could do wonders for their confidence as their home-country Grand Slam approaches.

ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY: ANDY RODDICK STOPS “THE WORM”

From the book, ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.TennisHistoryBook.com), it was on February 24, 2008 when Andy Roddick stopped “The Worm.” The book excerpt from February 24 is featured below.

2008 – Andy Roddick beats Radek Stepanek 6-4, 7-5 to win the SAP Open in San Jose, Calif. Roddick celebrates the win by mimicking Stepanek, known for performing the belly-on-the-ground dance called “the worm” on court after big victories, by wiggling his right leg and left arm. Said Roddick, “Everybody’s asking me about the Worm. All I hear is the Worm. I wanted to find something as cheesy if not cheesier to go with, which was tough. I figured one bad leg kick and I’d be on par.” Said Stepanek of Roddick’s celebration, “I don’t know what that was. “

Also on this day, Roddick’s current coach, Larry Stefanki had perhaps his greatest day as a player, as documented below;

1985 – Twenty-seven-year-old tennis pro Larry Stefanki, ranked No. 143 in the world, caps off an incredible week of upsets, defeating David Pate 6-1, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 to win the Pilot Pen Classic in LaQuinta, Calif. Stefanki, the touring pro at the LaQuinta Resort, is given a last minute wild-card entry in the tournament when bigger name players – namely Mats Wilander and Stefan Edberg – decline opportunities to play in the event. Stefanki rides a string of upsets to win the second pro title of his career to go with a 1981 title in Lagos, Nigeria. Wrote the late Mike Penner of the Los Angeles Times, “In fact, the Larry Stefanki Story is almost too good, too sensational. This is the stuff of comic books, Steven Spielberg movies and prime-time TV drama.” “Unbelievable,” says Stefanki of his run. “I’ve never experienced anything like this. You dream about this.” Tournament Director Charlie Pasarell says, “I’m not sure the match would have been any better than this. If we could’ve written the script, we couldn’t have done it any better…I have a tremendous responsibility to this event and to the ticket buyers to bring in some big names. We wanted Wilander and Edberg, but after today’s match, I walked over to Larry, shook his hand and said the worst mistake I could’ve made was getting Wilander and Edberg.”