With Wimbledon just around the corner (July 3-16), players are making the most of the extended break after Roland Garros by playing grass tournaments. Halle and Queens both boast strong fields and the winners of these tournaments will score a valuable confidence boost ahead of this season’s third Grand Slam.
Wimbledon Seeding Implications:
These tournaments will play a huge role in determining the seeds for this year’s Wimbledon Championships. The top two seeds are already set (Murray and Djokovic), but the 3-5 positions are still up in the air. Federer is the most likely to cause shifts in the seeding; he can go as high as third if he were to win at Halle. Nadal withdrew from Queen’s for a well-deserved rest after another incredible French Open performance. Wawrinka is not likely to help himself considering his past performances on grass and a pretty tough draw to say the least. If you’re still confused about the seeding, here’s a link to the live standings.
Let’s take a look at the tournaments now:
Halle is practically home to Roger Federer. He has won the tournament eight times and has made the final on ten occasions, signing a lifetime contract with the tournament. His presence is one of the most enticing things about the Gerry Weber Open. Seeded number one, Federer will be hoping to make a deeper run in this tournament than last week in Stuttgart where he lost to the veteran German, Tommy Haas, despite holding match points in his opening match. Luckily for the Swiss, Haas is on the other side of the draw, so barring a final encounter, Federer will not face his German friend.
His potential opponents include a second round with Mischa Zverev, a difficult serve-volleyer, a quarter-final against either Benoit Paire or Lucas Pouille who are both dangerous players on their day and a semi-final against Kei Nishikori or Ivo Karlovic. While Halle may not be as prominent as its partner tournament, it’s safe to say that they have a pretty good pool of competitors as well.
Meanwhile, number two seed and world number eight, Dominic Thiem, should have no real trouble navigating his half of the draw, the only real danger coming in the semi-final where he could meet Alexander Zverev. Zverev beat Federer last year in the semi-finals and has been on fire this year, shooting up the rankings and causing trouble for many of the top ten. A Federer versus Thiem final would be a difficult one to call given Federer’s lack of recent matchplay and Thiem’s current form which led him to the Roland Garros semi-finals. One has to back Federer given his pedigree on this surface and, particularly, at this tournament.
Player to Watch: Dustin Brown
The Jamaican-German vanquished Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon in 2015 and his explosive style which includes frequent forays to the net will trouble players on the grass.
Opening Match to Watch: Gael Monfils vs Richard Gasquet
These countrymen will display contrasting styles in what is sure to be a fire-cracker of a match. Gasquet is a former Wimbledon semi-finalist on two occasions who loves the grass because it allows him to use his shot-making to great effect whilst Monfils is a classic grinder who loves to defend.
Prediction: Roger Federer takes home his ninth in Halle.
World number one Andy Murray, will be hoping to do what he has done five times before at this tournament — win. It’s been a difficult season for the Brit as he’s battled injuries which have included a recurrent elbow issue, shingles and the flu. Furthermore, having been the chaser for the majority of his career, he is now the man to beat, and he will certainly be the man to beat here as well. As early as the quarter-finals, he could face Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, the powerful French player who has made the Wimbledon semi-finals twice and a Queens final where he lost to the Scotsman himself. In the semis Murray could meet Marin Cilic, a former champion at Queens or the fiery Australian, Nick Kyrgios who has the weapons to trouble a player like Murray or anyone for that matter.
On the other side of the draw the Roland Garros finalist, Stanislas Wawrinka, will be hoping to continue his recent run of good form. He has an extremely tough first round against Feliciano Lopez who is playing the Stuttgart final this week. The left-hander with a big serve and excellent volleys excels on the grass which will be a tough assignment for Wawrinka with his extreme grips. Should he get through his first round, two former Wimbledon finalists loom large, Tomas Berdych in the quarters and Milos Raonic in the semi-finals. To my mind, any one of these players will most certainly take out Wawrinka who has never excelled on the grass as he has never made it beyond the quarters at Wimbledon.
Player to Watch: Nicholas Mahut
He has the game to do well on grass. He made the final at Queens in 2007 where he narrowly missed out on the title, and he’s won four titles on the surface in his career.
Opening Match to Watch: Stanislas Wawrinka vs Feliciano Lopez
Easily the most exciting of the opening round matchups, the always dangerous Lopez will look to take out Wawrinka in the first round. Wawrinka has never been proficient on this surface, and an upset wouldn’t come as a surprise to many.
Prediction: Andy Murray takes the trophy home for the sixth time.
Whatever happens, it should be a fun week of tennis as the best players compete on the grass courts of Germany and England. Here’s to an excellent grass court season!