ATP Aegon Championships Preview

AEGON

Aegon Championships at Queen’s Club
With Wimbledon closing in, the ATP World Tour makes its yearly stop at Queen’s Club for the Aegon Championships. The tournament is comprised of a 32 player field for the second straight year after being a 64 player field for years. Andy Murray is the defending champion and top seed this week. He has won the title at Queen’s Club four times. Stan Wawrinka, Milos Raonic and Richard Gasquet round out the top four seeds. Former champions Grigor Dimitrov (2014), Marin Cilic (2012) and Sam Querrey (2010) are also in this week’s field of 32.

Last year’s event saw just one seed get knocked out in the opening round, but seeds were in peril for the majority of the tournament. By the business end, just two seeds made the semifinals along with a pair of unseeded players. Only three seeded players were in the quarterfinals. It would be top seed Andy Murray beating unseeded Kevin Anderson in the final. This year’s field is absolutely loaded with talent for a smaller field and looks to have the possibility of several early upsets.

Let’s take a look at this week’s Seed Report to see which seeded players might be prone to an upset this year.

Seed Report
1. Andy Murray
The Scot has been fantastic at this tournament over the years to the tune of a 25-5 record. Interestingly, even numbered years since 2010 have been unkind to Murray at Queen’s Club. He crashed out in the round of 16 twice and the round of 32 once in those even numbered years. In 2011, 2013 and 2015, he won the title. He’s got a massively tough opener against Nicolas Mahut who has beaten him in one of their two previous meetings at Queen’s Club back in 2012.

2. Stan Wawrinka
Wawrinka has only played this tournament three times. A semifinal run in 2014 was his best showing. Last year, he lost in the second round to eventual finalist Kevin Anderson. He’s improved on grass the last few years, but remains a tough one to predict when it’s Non-Slam Stan time. A first round match-up against Fernando Verdasco makes it interesting early, although he did beat the Spaniard last year at Wimbledon in straight sets.

3. Milos Raonic
So it finally happened that John McEnroe pushed his way into a coaching position and it will be with Raonic for the grass court swing. This is the first chance to see what McEnroe is trying to help instill into the Canadian, who is coming off a listless loss at the French Open. He’s got an awfully tough opener against Nick Kyrgios. The two have split two previous meetings at Wimbledon with Kyrgios winning the last in 2015. The McEnroe effect might not have a chance to gain much traction this week. Raonic made the quarters here last year, but went three sets in all his matches.

4. Richard Gasquet
Last year’s Wimbledon semifinalist comes to Queen’s Club in good form after making the Roland Garros quarters. Grass has long been a good surface for the Frenchman who is 53-24 on the surface all-time. At Queen’s Club though, Gasquet has not found a ton of success. He is 8-6 and never advanced past the quarterfinals. Last year, he lost in round two to Raonic. He opens against Steve Johnson who can be dangerous on grass if his serve holds up, but generally lacks enough consistency off the ground to challenge the best.

5. Marin Cilic
Cilic will look to bounce back from a loss in Stuttgart last week in his opener to Radek Stepanek. Cilic didn’t play poorly, but was outdone on serve by the Czech by a hair. This had been a good stop for the Croat with a 17-7 record and the one title in 2012. In recent years though, he has struggled here. Last year, Cilic was upset in he second round by Viktor Troicki and lost his opener in 2014. In this loaded field, he’s up against it in round one against Felciano Lopez. Cilic won their only grass court encounter at this event in 2013; 4-6, 7-6 (5), 7-5.

6. Roberto Bautista Agut
The upset alarm should have sounded already for the Spaniard. He goes up against former champion Sam Querrey. The American already started well on grass with a semifinal run at the Ricoh Open this past week. The Spaniard has only played here once and is 0-1. He has proven capable at-times of winning on this surface, but faces a harsh wake-up call to start this swing against Querrey.

7. John Isner
The American made the quarterfinals here last year, just his second appearance at the tournament. His is 3-2 all-time here. His grass resume is littered with mediocre results with a record of 30-17. He did win a pair of big Davis Cup matches on the surface earlier this year. He could benefit from Juan Martin Del Potro’s long week in Stuttgart. He faces the Argentine to open with Delpo holding a 4-1 record against him.

8. Gilles Simon
The 2015 semifinalist is 4-4 all-time at the Aegon Championships. Prior to last year’s run, Simon had dropped his opener in both 2010 and 2011. Simon looked about done last week in Stuttgart when he got bageled in a third set by Juan Martin Del Potro in the quarterfinals. He faces wild card Kyle Edmund to open. Edmund has had a tough time winning on grass at 1-7. His matches have usually been tight though, including a 2013 loss in two tiebreaks to Simon on grass in Eastbourne.

Quarters Preview
Quarter #1: Andy Murray (1)
Murray’s saving grace against Mahut is that the Frenchman will be coming off a long week at the Ricoh Open, so he may get a fatigued opponent. That likely is his toughest match of the quarter. A second rounder could pit him against Benoit Paire or Aljaz Bedene. Both have their moments, but are not consistent enough to take down Murray. In the bottom half, it’s Simon as the 8th seed. He faces Edmund to open with the winner battling Daniel Evans or Paul-Henri Mathieu. Evans is 3-2 in his last two trips to Queen’s Club, but has not looked great in two Challengers on grass in recent weeks. Mathieu should have the edge after beating Rajeev Ram in the Netherlands last week and stretching Mahut out to three sets before losing in the next round.

QF Prediction: Murray def. Mathieu

Quarter #2: Richard Gasquet (4)
This quarter is oozing with grass court danger. Gasquet is the highest seed up top with Cilic as the 5th seed in the bottom half. Gasquet opens with Steve Johnson. The winner is pitted against Guillermo Garcia-Lopez or Alexandr Dolgopolov in round two. GGL has won three of four from Dog, including last year at Queen’s Club. He already has a couple matches under his belt from last week and could continue his run against Dologpolov.

In the bottom half, Cilic is going to be challenged heavily by Lopez in his opener. Lopez didn’t have hardly any time to practice on the day turnaround from the men’s doubles final at Roland Garros to Stuttgart last week. It showed. This week, he’ll be hoping to show better as will Cilic. Lopez made the final here in 2014 and lost a tough three tiebreak match to Isner in the second round last year. It won’t be a shock if he beats Cilic.

The winner gets Grigor Dimitrov or Janko Tipsarevic. This might be rock bottom for Dimitrov. He got lit up by Del Potro last week in Stuttgart, but faces Tipsarevic who has not played on grass since Wimbledon last year. The Serb has not won a match on grass since the Olympics in 2012. If Dimitrov loses here, it’s time for some big changes.

QF Prediction: Gasquet def. Cilic

Quarter #3: Milos Raonic (3)
Raonic could be gone right off the bat with Nick Kyrgios as his opener. That is a tough one to call with neither man having gotten his feet wet on grass yet. Given that Kyrgios has won three straight against the third seed, including at Rome this season, the Aussie can definitely pull off the upset here. The winner gets Jeremy Chardy or a qualifier. The qualifying field has some talent like last year’s finalist Kevin Anderson, Sam Groth and Adrian Mannarino still alive in the final round. Monitor who gets thrown in here because they could upset the order of things.

In the bottom half, Bautista Agut is your lead seed. He’ll be on upset alert against Querrey to start. The winner will play the survivor in the battle of two qualifiers in round two. Querrey just might have a shot at making another deep run this week depending on who the qualifiers wind up being. I fancy this quarter to produce an unseeded semifinalist whether its Kyrgios, Querrey or one of the qualifiers.

QF Prediction: An unexpected semifinalist, Kyrgios or a qualifier

Quarter #4: Stan Wawrinka (2)
This quarter also looks ripe for the lead seed to be plucked out of the draw before the semifinals roll around. Wawrinka opens with Verdasco. The lefty from Spain is fully capable of winning against the Swiss depending on the fourth seed’s mindset. We’ve seen it a ton from him where Non-Slam Stan simply breezes through these outside events without a ton of focus. Should he survive, he has another tough match up next. Bernard Tomic or a qualifier are slotted in that spot for round two. Tomic is 2-3 all-time at Queen’s Club, but his last two losses here have involved four tiebreaks. The Aussie does own a Davis Cup win on grass over Wawrinka way back in 2011.

In the other half, the Isner-Del Potro winner battles Gilles Muller or James Ward. Muller is set to take part in the Ricoh Open final on Sunday and can contend with his big serve. Ward has always played hard at Queen’s Club, but the results have not followed. Still with Muller off a long week, the Brit could have a shot to get a win. I think Isner will take advantage of a weary Del Potro and set himself with a chance to advance to the quarters in this draw.

QF Prediction: Isner def. Tomic

AND THAT’S THE BOTTOM LINE BECAUSE THE PIG SAID SO …
Murray heads in with good form and history here and is a proper favorite as a result. If he can avoid that even year slump that has hit him here, then he’s got a shot to defend his title. His semifinal could be tougher than a potential finals match-up. The bottom of this draw looks the more open of the two with Milos Raonic and Stan Wawrinka questionable to produce in this spot. Keep your eyes on the big servers again this week with these courts usually playing fairly quick. That means Kyrgios, Isner or maybe Anderson in a sneaky spot out of qualifying could be dark horses.

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