That means we get some weaker draws too as most of the top names will look to wait until the big event in Canada begins later this month, while those that are playing this week are spread across the various events.
It does give the chance to players who might not usually get into a main draw of a ATP Tour event, but the quality of that event is clearly lessened at the same time.
Last week was a solid one keeping the picks totals moving in a positive direction after a tough start to the season. A third winning week will be most welcome as we move on to the first of the two Masters events being played on the hard courts in preparation for the US Open. The first of those begins on Monday in Canada which will be the sole event taking place next week, but first we have to get through plenty of tennis this week.
Mischa Zverev + 1.5 Games v Facundo Bagnis: It wasn't the best home tournament for Mischa Zverev last week in Hamburg as he was beaten in the First Round by a Qualifier, but that was a really close match. A similar performance would give him a chance to spring a surprise against Facundo Bagnis who reached the Quarter Final in Bastad, especially if his lefty serve gives the Argentinian as many problems as Fernando Verdasco's did last week.
My concern in backing Zverev has to be the fact he has won just one main Tour clay court match since 2011 and spends the majority of his time in Challenger level events these days. The German did win one of those Challenger events on this surface though and he is facing an opponent who generally plays at that level himself, although Bagnis has at least put together some wins at the main Tour level.
Bagnis has won three titles at the Challenger level on clay this season and he has shown he can win matches at the higher level on the red dirt as we only need to look at Bastad last week to see that.
This has all the hallmarks of being a very close match and this isn't a lot of games to be given, but I think they could be enough to keep the older player competitive. Zverev did beat Bagnis in a Challenger event just a couple of weeks ago in what was a match decided by a couple of points here and there. I expect this match to be similar and I am looking for Zverev to keep things close even if he does end up losing the match.
Alex Kuznetsov + 3.5 games v Bjorn Fratangelo: His best days are likely behind him and Alex Kuznetsov is Ranked outside the top 300 in the World Rankings, but I still feel he might be under-rated in this First Round match in Washington. Kuznetsov has come through two Qualifiers without dropping a set and he has a more wins in Challenger events/Qualifiers than he managed in the whole of 2015 already.
A couple of strong runs on the hard courts over the last month will have improved his confidence and I don't think Kuznetsov will be intimidated by Bjorn Fratangelo having played three competitive matches against him in 2015.
The younger American reached the top 100 in the World Rankings last month and he has been an improving player on the Tour. Anyone who can beat Novak Djokovic 62 in a set of tennis, as Fratangelo did in Indian Wells, has to be respected, but he does remain inconsistent on the hard courts and that is where Kuznetsov has to feel he will have his chances.
To me this looks a match where Fratangelo is being asked to cover too many games. It was only last week he was beaten outright by a player Ranked lower than Kuznetsov and the latter this week has already put together two wins in Washington to boost confidence. Their previous matches have generally been very competitive and I don't think there is a lot between them even if you consider the 200 places in the World Ranking. All in all I think Kuznetsov will keep this competitive and will take the games on offer.
MY PICKS: Mischa Zverev + 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Alex Kuznetsov + 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Season 2015: - 21.81 Units (1812 Units Staked, - 1% Yield)
Season 2014: + 45.05 Units (1586.5 Units Staked, + 2.84% Yield)