With the French Open coming to a close, grass season is upon us. The first grass challenger has already started (Surbiton) and on Monday we’re looking at a total of 4 ATP and WTA grass tournaments starting, if the rain gods will allow it. Let’s attempt to make a recap of last year, a quick preview of this year and then specifically of next week’s tournaments.
2016 ATP recap and 2017 general preview
Last year’s grass season belonged to Andy Murray who won his 2nd Wimbledon title and also the trophy at Queen’s Club Championships. In both of these tournaments Milos Raonic, who also had an excellent season, was the runner-up. Other titles went to Dominic Thiem, Nicolas Mahut, Florian Mayer, Steve Johnson and Ivo Karlovic (all big servers except Thiem). This year, apart from Murray and Raonic, we’re of course waiting to see how Roger Federer will fare after his much-discussed absence from clay. As for other title contenders it’s anyone’s guess, since Djokovic and del Potro don’t seem to inspire the confidence they used to, Nadal has not performed very well on grass since 2011 and Wawrinka has never made it past the QF in Wimbledon. Big servers could always surprise though: Cilic, Isner and Karlovic should be a threat to everyone, especially in the early rounds.
This year we will have a brand new ATP 250 grass event in Antalya, Turkey. In total we will have 6 grass events in the 3 weeks before Wimbledon plus Newport afterwards. So grass tennis is now at 8 events & 4250 points, 1000 more points than it accounted for in 2014.
2016 WTA recap and 2017 general preview
Looking at the ladies, last year marked Serena’s 7th Wimbledon title but she won’t be able to defend it due to her pregnancy, so this grass season seems open to all. Pliskova, Vandeweghe, Keys, Garcia and Cibulkova won titles last year and could be strong candidates again for something good. Also Radwanska, Halep and Mladenovic seem like logical choices to go deep in the various tournaments. Personally I am eager to watch young Australian Ashleigh Barty who seems to have a natural talent on grass.
A handy tool in determining hot prospects could be WTA’s grass court power rankings, an attempt at a surface-specific player ranking formula. For more details check out http://www.wtatennis.com/content/wta-grass-court-power-rankings-0
ATP Stuttgart, Germany (Mercedes Cup) – ATP World Tour 250 series
Switching over from clay to grass only in 2015, the Mercedes Cup is one of the newest grass tournaments. Regardless of the surface though, there’s always an added incentive for ATP World Tour players to win the tournament: the champion takes home a new Mercedes-Benz.
As far as past champions are concerned, there’s not much data. We only have Rafael Nadal in 2015 and Dominic Thiem in 2016, since before that the tournament was held on clay.
Confirmed players, as of the moment of this article’s writing, include a much awaited Roger Federer, and also Tomas Berdych, Grigor Dimitrov, Tommy Haas, Steve Johnson, Philip Kohlschreiber, Mischa Zverev and Feliciano Lopez. Of course everybody’s eyes are on Federer, waiting to see if his skipping of the clay season has done him good. Obviously he is the big favourite but to give any insight as to who can threaten him we’ll have to wait for the draw and maybe some last-minute news.
Federer – M. Zverev
Berdych – F. Mayer
Johnson – Pouille
Troicki – Dimitrov
Risky straight winner pick (Bet365 odds): Johnson (17)
High value picks which could be traded out later (Bet365 odds): F. Mayer (67)
ATP ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands (Ricoh Open) – ATP World Tour 250 series
At first look, this event (one of the oldest grass court tournament in continental Europe) boasts a stronger and more diverse array of players. There’s no clear favourite like in Stuttgart, but with the confirmed entries of Marin Cilic, Alexander Zverev, Ivo Karlovic, Richard Gasquet (edit: withdrew), Gilles Muller, Juan Martin del Potro (edit: withdrew), Dustin Brown and Nicolas Mahut we seem to be in for some great matches.
It is perhaps a bit surprising to see that Nicolas Mahut has won the trophy 3 times in the last 4 years in 2013, 2015 and 2016 and he will surely be looking forward to repeating this feat. Other past winners include Roberto Bautista-Agut in 2014, David Ferrer in 2008 and 2012, Benjamin Becker in 2009 and Sergiy Stakhovsky in 2010. Of those, only Becker will try his luck this year by participating in the qualies.
Cilic – Pospisil
Karlovic – Kokkinakis
Chung – Muller
Mahut – A. Zverev
Risky straight winner pick (Bet365 odds): Mahut (12)
High value picks which could be traded out later (Bet365 odds): Chung (29), Kokkinakis (67)
WTA ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands (Ricoh Open) – WTA International series
The women’s edition of Ricoh Open will see two times champion Coco Vandeweghe (2014 and 2016) defend her title. Of note is the fact that Coco, who always excels on grass, has no other singles titles to her name. Other names that have confirmed their entry include Cibulkova, Radwanska (edit: withdrew), Mladenovic, Bertens, Konjuh, Ostapenko (edit: withdrew) and Kontaveit.
Besides Coco, past winners include Giorgi (starting from qualies this year) and Vinci and Halep (not participating).
Cibulkova – Konjuh
Bertens – Shvedova
Kontaveit – Vandeweghe
Mertens – Mladenovic
Risky straight winner pick (Bet365 odds): Kontaveit (11)
High value picks which could be traded out later (Bet365 odds): Mertens (29)
WTA Nottingham, UK (Aegon Open) – WTA International series
There’s some strange history in this. Originally established in 1971, it ran for three years and in 1974 it was discontinued. In 2011 it was re-established as an ITF event and in 2015 it was moved up a category. As a WTA International series event, Ana Konjuh won it in 2015 (but she has chosen the Ricoh Open this year) and Karolina Pliskova in 2016 (not confirmed for this year).
First eight seeds are Konta, Sevastova, Putintseva (edit: withdrew), Davis, Safarova, Riske, McHale and Osaka. Other names to look for include youngster Ashleigh Barty who seems to be an excellent prospect on grass and always dangerous on grass (but out-of-form), Tsvetana Pironkova.
Konta – Barty
Riske – Osaka
Safarova – Pironkova
Robson – McHale
Risky straight winner pick (Bet365 odds): Barty (13)
High value picks which could be traded out later (Bet365 odds): McHale (21)
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