Pig-pourri: ATP Queen’s Club Preview

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Murray Looks to Start Strong on Grass



It’s glamour week for the quick build-up to Wimbledon this week with the big stops in Halle, Germany and in London at Queen’s Club. Queen’s Club will feature favorite son of the U.K., Andy Murray, as the top seed. THe AEGON Championships are also scaling back this year to a 32 player field after going with 56 previously. As you would expect, Murray has been great at this tournament with a 20-5 mark and three tournament wins. French Open Champion Stan Wawrinka returns to the court this week as the #2 seed in London. He has only played here five matches with his best performance last year as he made the semis. Rounding out the top four seeds are Milos Raonic, who makes his Queen’s Club debut, and Marin Cilic. Cilic found some decent form in Stuttgart this past week, losing a tough three set match to Viktor Troicki in the semis on Saturday. Cilic has fared well here in the past with a 16-6 record and a title in 2012. The back end of the seeds look very tough this week as well. Rafael Nadal is slated as the 5th seed, assuming he does not pull out after a long and successful run in Stuttgart that ended with a title on Sunday over Troicki in straights. The 6th seed is last year’s Champion, Grigor Dimitrov with Gilles Simon and Feliciano Lopez rounding out the seeds.

There hasn’t been a repeat Champion at Queen’s Club since Andy Roddick pulled off the three-peat from 2003-2005. So even if you had fancied Grigor Dimitrov to find some form this week, it’s pretty unlikely that we will see the Bulgarian holding the trophy next weekend. Dimitrov looked perhaps to be on the uptick after making the semifinals in Madrid, but he has looked progressively back to the subpar Dimitrov of 2015 since with perhaps one of his poorest efforts of the season in losing to Jack Sock in straight sets in the opening round at the French Open. The only plus for Dimitrov is that the grass court season was phenomenal for him last year, so perhaps it will spark something. For me though, I’ve seen nothing to suggest that Dimitrov is going to figure it out any time soon.

Although we’re looking at a smaller field, let’s focus on how those top eight seeds fare in London for this tournament historically. Last year, the semifinalists featured two of the top four seeds. In both 2013 & 2011, three of the four semifinalists were seeded in the top five. 2013 was the last time there were major surprises at the business end of this tournament with the 6th seed Cilic winning and two non-seeds making the semis. Generally speaking though, the end of this tournament is going to feature the guys who know how to play on grass. So let’s take a look at the quarters and see who might be making reservations for the semis next weekend.

Murray Quarter
Murray won’t have the easiest of times in this quarter, even though he looks to be the form and class of the quarter. 6th seed Grigor Dimitrov inhabits the bottom of the quarter and there are some intriguing floaters in this quarter. Murray opens with Yen Hsun-Lu who worked through qualifying this week. Assuming he wins there, Murray will await one of those potentially troublesome floaters with Spaniards Fernando Verdasco & Roberto Bautista-Agut facing off in the 1st round. Both lost early last week in s-Hertogenbosh at the Topshelf Open and will be looking to rebound. Verdasco has the better grass pedigree, winning 62% of his last 50 matches on the surface. RBA got the majority of his experience and wins at last year’s Topshelf Open. It’s still a toss-up, but either likely will be fodder for Murray in R2.

Dimitrov opens with American Sam Querrey. Querrey shouldn’t be overlooked here. He made the quarters at Queen’s Club last year and nearly beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at Wimbledon in 2014. He lost in an epic 14-12 5th set. Dimitrov better bring his A-game or he’s going home early. The winner there gets Gilles Muller or Mikhail Youhny. Muller had a nice week at the Topshelf Open, making the semifinals. Youzhny has lost the 1st match in three of his last four tournaments entered. Definite edge to Muller.

This look’s like Murray’s quarter unless Dimitrov finds some magic in London that has been missing this season for him. Seems unlikely at this time.

Cilic Quarter
This could be a fantastically topsy turvy quarter. Cilic up top as the 4th seed and Feliciano Lopez on bottom as the 8th seed. There are some strong non-seeds here with Adrian Mannarino likely to test Cilic right out of the gate in the opening round. Mannarino scored a couple wins last week at the Topshelf Open and made the Round of 16 at Queen’s Club last year. He lost two tights to Tomas Berdych in that round. While Cilic did find some form and wins in Stuttgart last week, he also worked extremely hard to get to the semis. He went three sets in his last two matches there and played tie breaks in five of eight sets. Cilic has made the Final two of the last three years he has played Queen’s Club, but last year he lost his 1st up to Marinko Matosevic. Mannarino will have him on upset alert early. The winner gets Troicki or a qualifier. Troicki may also be prone to an upset as he played a long week in Stuttgart and may suffer the dreaded Finals’ loser’s hangover. He gets Paul-Henri Mathieu 1st-up and that could spell a quick exit for the Serb.

Lopez is one of those surprising players who is simply solid on grass. He did lose his 1st match this year as he fell to in-form Sam Groth to open in Stuttgart in a third set tie break. Still, his track record is great on grass with a 61-31 record. At Queen’s Club, he is 16-9. Last year, he lost in a third set tie break to Dimitrov in the Final. That was his best showing in a while at this tournament though as he had not made it further than the semis since 2009. He opens with Joao Sousa. Sousa has never played this tournament and really only had success on grass at the 2014 Topshelf Open. Lopez should get off on the good foot. A win would pit him against either John Isner or qualifier Jared Donaldson. Isner has not played a grass court tournament outside of Wimbledon or Newport since the London Olympics in 2012, so this will be a challenge for him. Donaldson is still learning the ropes on grass, but having gotten that court time already plus the way we know Isner plays to a lot of tie breaks, Donaldson isn’t without a chance of scoring an upset.

I think this quarter has some room for upheaval in it depending on how Cilic reacts to last week’s tests and if Lopez can find his grass court form this week. One of those guys could definitely take this quarter, but I do think there’s going to be a non-seed in position to take that semifinal spot from one of those two.

Wawrinka Quarter
This could be a great quarter or turn into a total turd. You’ve got 2nd seed Stan Wawrinka leading the way and 5th seed Rafael Nadal scheduled as the 5th seed opposite of him. It’s supposed to be a big to-do as Nadal has not played here since 2011, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to play if he feels Stuttgart did him enough good form-wise. It would be hard to argue with him pulling out after winning that title, but I tend to think he’ll give it a go. He faces Alexandr Dolgopolov to open. Dog broke a five match losing streak to Rafa last year at Indian Wells, but has been mostly lost in 2015. He is 13-13 on grass. There’s just never an easy way to tell which Dog shows up, but this might be a spot for him to score a win or two against a potentially tired Nadal. The winner of that match should be on his way to the quarters with one of the Spaniards Pablo Andujar or Guillermo Garcia-Lopez up after that.

Wawrinka got a horrid draw with Aussie Nick Kyrgios up first. We all know that Kyrgios loves playing big names players and scoring scalps. Although still green on the green surface, Kyrgios of course proved he could beat anyone with a quarter final run at Wimbledon last year. Wawrinka slipped above .500 on grass with a semiinal run at Queen’s Club and quarter final run at Wimbledon last year. Prior to that, grass and Stan rarely mixed for success. There’s certainly still the potential for a hangover from winning his second Grand Slam and playing Kyrgios is tough regardless. Kyrgios has been excited since the draw came out and he saw Stan’s name. An upset is very possible there.

The winner gets either Kevin Anderson or Lleyton Hewitt. Hewitt looked rusty in returning to the court last week at the Topshelf Open against Mahut. Anderson has been okay on grass and has a 12-6 record at Queen’s Club. Hewitt has played an amazing 45 matches in his career at this event with a 37-9 mark. It’s still tough to feel totally comfortable saying Hewitt is going to have a shot to win despite his great grass pedigree. One thing will be certain, the crowd will be behind him.
Nadal could have a shot to continue his run to start the grass court reason if he chooses to come to London looking for more. For me though, this looks like a quarter where the young gun Kyrgios could do some things and someone like Dolgopolov might have one of those “unexpected” good weeks.

Raonic Quarter
There is obviously a big question mark for Raonic as he returns to the court after missing the French Open due to foot surgery. That makes his participation here tricky. He’ll be happy to get some practice and court time in on grass ahead of Wimbledon, but may not necessarily care if he wins or loses. He’ll have a tough match to open with British wild card James Ward sure to be fired up with the crowd on his side. Ward hasn’t been in great form with a 2-2 mark on grass in a couple of Challenger events the last two weeks. Still, he seems to effort well at this event. He made the semis in 2011 and rarely gets whipped when he loses. With Raonic working off some rust likely, Ward might have a shot to test him in the opening round. The winner gets Richard Gasquet or Simone Bolelli. Gasquet has some skill on grass, but may be tight playing this tournament for the first time since 2010.

Gilles Simon is on the other side of the quarter as the 7th seed and has a tough draw with Topshelf Open Finalist David Goffin up first. Simon has never been much more than average on grass and often doesn’t do much in the first tournament up on the surface. Given Goffin’s surge in form this past week, he could have a shot to keep that run going here. Thanaski Kokkinakis and Jeremy Chardy play opposite of them in what looks to be a very good potential match-up. The Aussie will be making his debut at this level in a main draw with just a pair of Challenger matches on the surface in the past. Chardy has the experience edge and will be glad not to see Sam Querrey on the other side of the net. In two career matches at Queen’s Club, he’s played and lost to Querrey twice. It’s a tough match to call without knowing how Kokkinakis will react this week. He’s growing as a player every week on all surfaces, so it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that he can get the win.

There are a lot of questions in this quarter. If Raonic is healthy and gets his footing quickly on the surface, this could easily be his quarter for the taking. If not, I think Goffin or one of the Frenchman will be the ones to watch.

AND THAT’S THE BOTTOM LINE BECAUSE THE PIG SAID SO….
Andy Murray of course will have all eyes on him with the season switching to grass and expectations ramping up for Wimbledon. He does have probably the tougher half of the draw to work through, but he’s also the player with the best form at this time. He has won in alternating years since 2009, so this would be a potentially winning year at Queen’s Club. The intrigue could come more from the bottom of the draw where you may see dueling Champions from last week in Nadal and Goffin vying for a Finals spot.

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