By Mike McIntyre
With Wimbledon now a couple of weeks behind us and the humidity levels rising here in North America it must be time for the ATP World Tour to officially kick-off its summer hard court swing. Five weeks of grinding tennis will build in intensity and eventually lead-up to the final Grand Slam of the year at the U.S. Open. The results we see over the next month will go a long way in terms of indicating who has the best U.S. Open tennis odds for 2013 in New York.
Other than good preparation for America's Slam, the U.S. Open series of tournaments offers players a bonus of $1 million if they finish first in ATP points earned over these five weeks and manage to win the Open as well.
This week we begin with a level 250 tournament in Atlanta, the BB&T Atlanta Open which is guaranteed to have a new champion in 2013 as the now retired Andy Roddick won the event last summer. Roddick is now doing some broadcasting for Fox Sports but will make an appearance at the Rogers Cup WTA event in Toronto in two weeks to play some exhibition tennis with Pete Sampras, John McEnroe and Jim Courier.
The number one seed this year and a two time finalist in Atlanta (2010, 2011) is John Isner who recently made some headlines by appearing nude in the annual ESPN Body Issue. Isner's biggest threat other than the ribbing he is sure to receive from his fellow pros is veteran Lleyton Hewitt who is also in the top half of the draw and is capable of still stringing together a few good matches. Hewitt lacks the physical durability perhaps to hoist another trophy as it has been three years since he last won an ATP event. Hewitt did make the semi-finals a week ago at the Hall of Fame championships in Newport before falling to champion and feel-good story Nicolas Mahut.
Ivan Dodig is the third seed and also found in Hewitt's quarter of the draw, while American tennis vet James Blake is in the top section of the draw as well.
The bottom half of the draw has Kevin Anderson as the second seed and while this might seem surprising it is a testament to the consistent tennis the South African has been playing this year. The 27 year old Anderson just fell to Ivo Karlovic in the semi-finals of a hard court tournament in Bogota and has wins in 2013 over David Ferrer, Milos Raonic, Fernando Verdasco and Marin Cilic. Anderson could face Karlovic again here in Atlanta as they are on course for a second round encounter.
Tennis fans will be happy to welcome Mardy Fish back to the tour at this event. Fish, who won in Atlanta in 2010 and 2011, has only played in two tournaments since last years U.S. Open due to a heart condition. Here's hoping he can compete again at the highest level. Young Americans Jack Sock and Ryan Harrison are also in the bottom half of the draw.
While Atlanta offers a lighter playing field it does show us which players are serious about improving their chances on the hard courts by gaining a head start on some other pros who are either still playing clay court events in Europe or taking this time to rest their bodies or put in more time on the practice courts.
Next week we head to Washington D.C. for the level 500 Citi Open event.
Keep checking back with us at ProTennisFan for all your hardcourt updates and follow us on Twitter as well throughout the summer swing.