2017 AEGON Championships R16 Preview: Daniil Medvedev vs Thanasi Kokkinakis

MEDKOK17

It’s a rematch from last week at the Ricoh Open with a spot in the quarterfinals at the AEGON Championships ripe for the taking this week. Last week, it was Medvedev who edged Kokkiankis 6-3, 7-6 (3).

Daniil Medvedev vs Thanasi Kokkiankis

Medvedev may have been the more likelier of the two players to be in this spot, but he still needed to pull off a clutch win over grass master Nicolas Mahut to start this week. The Russian rallied after dropping the opening set in a tiebreak to edge Mahut 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-4. Medvedev was keyed by his serve, winning 79 percent off his first serve and 64 percent off his second. He was not broken on five break chances. He would tally eight aces against six double faults. The Russian did just enough against the Mahut serve to secure two key breaks on six chances. It was a nice follow-up for Medvedev who made his first grass quarterfinal at this level last week in ‘s-Hertogenbosch.

Kokkinakis scored the biggest win of his career in the opening round with a 7-6 (5), 7-6 (8) win over world number six Milos Raonic. It was the Aussie’s first career Top 10 win in his fifth try. It was also a remarkable win considering his long and winding recovery from shoulder surgery that sidelined him until mid-May. The win over the third seed Raonic was just his second win on tour in five matches since his return. Kokkinakis was resilient, saving all nine of his break points on serve and making clutch plays in the tiebreaks. Kokkinakis would win 78 percent of his first serve points and 61 percent of his second serve points. The Aussie slammed down 15 aces, but actually scored two less points than the Canadian for the match (92-90).

First Verse Yields Key Separating Factors

It’s always an intriguing matter when players square off on the same surface in consecutive tournaments. It gives you a nice insight into their psyches and also how they game plan. Last week’s Ricoh Open match showed Medvedev the better man on serve. Not by much mind you, but he secured the lone break of the match off of five break chances. He never gave Kokkinakis a single look at a break chance.

Overall, the stats say it was close to even on serve. Both players won over 80 percent on their first serve. A difference maker was the Russian’s second serve, where he won 71 percent compared to just 52 percent for the Aussie. Medvedev had eleven aces while Kokkinakis tallied eight. Overall, the Russian scored more points (70-57) indicating better work off the ground as well.

Factors, Etc.

Another factor to throw into the mix this week is how Kokkinakis responds from an emotional and career-best win. Often, it is difficult for younger players to gather themselves and carry that momentum into the next match. The 21-year-old Aussie has also admitted he is still struggling at-times with both shoulder and groin problems. All that considered, it was an amazing feat against Raonic, but now he gets the big hitting Russian again.

Medvedev put his mark on the season in week one, when he made the Chennai Final and lost in straights to Roberto Bautista Agut. He would have a couple of good results indoors with back-to-back quarterfinals in Montpellier and Marseille. A bout of mononucleosis knocked him down from there as he lost five straight opening round matches. He’s obviously feeling a bit more fit after his run through qualifying last week and into the quarterfinals at the Ricoh Open.

To the task at-hand, a repeat performance of last week’s encounter in the Netherlands. I tend to think Medvedev won’t be too shaken by the prospect of repeating his performance last week. After all, Kokkinakis did not show the ability to crack his serve and he was able to get some chances against the Aussie. For Kokkinakis, this will be about carrying the confidence over from the Raonic match. Even so, expecting him to continuously come up with big saves on break points over and over is a big ask for someone still recovering from shoulder problems.

Match Tactics

Grass has shown to be conducive to both players games, despite their lack of experience on the surface. It’s been big serving and big hitting that has keyed them to wins on grass and that is something both excel at doing. Medvedev has even proclaimed that the green stuff is already his favorite surface, so he’s showing his mentality matches his comfortability level on grass.

Medvedev definitely deserves to hang out on the baseline and his volleying is still maybe average at best. That’s something Kokkinakis should look to test again by making the Russian come to net. Kokkinakis has played doubles enough that he’s a bit more skilled at the net and comfortable coming in when needed. Of course, Medvedev’s win over Mahut should also give him confidence if Kokkinakis does change things up, that he has enough to defend the serve and volley and have success against it. Kokkinakis will have to be crafty in his spots to possibly use that tactic.

You know both want to hammer their serves and then hit as many forehands as possible. The key for Kokkinakis is going to be consistently landing his serve for easy points. When he finds his rhythm, he smokes aces and can use his big serve to set up some quick 1-2 punches against the Russian. Medvedev won’t be looking to alter his game plan much, unless things don’t work. Serve big. Hit big. Repeat. If he’s hitting his spots on serve, I don’t think he’ll have a problem controlling points much like he did last week.

The Pig’s Bottom Line

I think consistency is a key word for this match and it’s something I am still a bit worried about for Kokkinakis at this stage of his comeback. He’s getting more match play and working his way through the pains he has to deal with, but it’s tough to repeat those great performances against good players. Medvedev may not be on par with Raonic, but “The Bear” is a dangerous player on this surface with his weaponry. Kokkinakis’ best chances might come by getting to tiebreaks and hoping to steal a few key points to take a set or two. He’s obviously fully capable of doing that as the Raonic result shows.

Bottom line though, I think Medvedev is growing in confidence and comfort level on this surface and he could be in line for bigger and better things on grass very soon. I think he takes it again, but I’ll give Kokkinakis a set this time.

Prediction: Medvedev wins in three sets

2017 AEGON Championships Preview

AEGON17

Queen’s Club is Dandy for Andy

Queen’s Club in London is one of the big stops this week as players sneak in more grass court preparation ahead of Wimbledon. The AEGON Championships have belonged to Andy Murray. This year’s top seed is a five-time champion at this event, including winning each of the last two seasons. He is 30-5 during his career at this tournament and has followed up two of his last three title wins at Queens’ Club with the title at Wimbledon.

Stan Wawrinka, Milos Raonic and Marin Cilic round out this week’s top four seeds. Cilic is the best among that group, winning the title in 2012 and racking up a 20-8 career mark at Queen’s Club. Raonic did however make the final here last year, losing to Murray. The rest of the seeded field includes Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Grigor Dimitrov, Tomas Berdych and Nick Kyrgios. Tsonga made the final in 2011, while Dimitrov won his lone title on grass here in 2014. Both Tsonga and Kyrgios will be making their debuts on grass this season. Both will be looking to get positive results this week after early exits at Roland Garros in their last action.

Early Bird Specials

For purposes of this week’s tournament, I’ll only focus on the last two years at Queen’s Club. That is when the field of competitors was reduced from 56 to 32. With just 32 players in the field, there are no byes for the seeds in the opening round. Last year, three seeds were one and done at the AEGON Championships. In 2015, just one seed lost in round one during Queen’s Club’s first year with just 32 players.

With the quick transition from clay to grass, there is definitely room for seeded upsets every year. Let’s focus on the ones who should be on upset alert early on this week in London.

2. Stan Wawrinka
No favors done for the Swiss as he lands Spaniard Feliciano Lopez in round one. Lopez has a superb record on grass at 67-37. He will come in off a tough three set loss in the Mercedes Cup final on Sunday. Lopez is 15-11 all-time at Queen’s Club and is a one-time finalist in 2014. Even his losses are usually very tough on his opponents. Wawrinka has found the going tough at this tournament outside of a semifinal in 2014. In 2015, he lost in round two to Kevin Anderson.

Last year, he was upset by Fernando Verdasco in the opening round. The second seed is 4-2 against Lopez lifetime and he did win on grass against him at Wimbledon in 2014. That was their last meeting and it was settled 7-6, 7-6, 6-3 with only one break of serve. That could be a similar set-up to this time around. Lopez played four straight three set matches in Stuttgart, so there is a chance of fatigue helping Wawrinka out.

4. Marin Cilic
Cilic has a tough draw with John Isner as his opening opponent. Isner ended a six match losing streak to Cilic last year with a win at the Paris Masters. He followed that up with a three set win in Rome this Spring on clay. Cilic does have the match play advantage after making the Ricoh Open semifinals this past week. He lost to Ivo Karlovic in three, with Karlovic taking his two sets in tiebreaks. Could that be a similar scenario with Isner?

It’s possible. An overwhelming number of Isner’s sets on grass have been decided in tiebreaks. Of his seven matches on grass in 2016, 13 of 23 sets went to breakers and another of those sets was a 19-17 loss at Wimbledon to Tsonga. The lone grass court clash between Cilic and Isner went five sets at Wimbledon in 2015. Three of those sets went to tiebreaks and the deciding set ended 12-10 in favor of Cilic. Isner won two of the three tiebreak sets.

5. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Tsongs opens against fellow Frenchie, Adrian Mannarino. Mannarino got in a few grass court matches last week at the Ricoh Open and that makes him a bit dangerous here. Tsonga comes in off a very disappointing first round loss at the French Open. Grass traditionally has been good for Tsonga, but he’s coming back to Queen’s Club for the first time since 2014. Mannarino has been serviceable on this surface and does own a win on clay against Tsonga this year at Monte Carlo. The surface should suit Tsonga better, but there’s definitely a chance for him to get caught cold in this spot.

Outsider’s Edge

Even before the reduction in the number of players who head to Queen’s Club each year, outsiders did not have much success has far as bringing home the title. They have however played a role late in the tournament fairly routinely. Last year, you had three unseeded players in the quarterfinals and one (Bernard Tomic) in the semifinals. In 2015, five unseeded players made the quarters with two advancing to the semis. Kevin Anderson would be the first unseeded player to get into the final in 2015 since Mardy Fish did the trick in 2010.

With that to chew on, who has a shot to make some late noise in London this week? Here’s a look at a few players with the draws to be around at the end of the week.

Nicolas Mahut
It’s a tall task for the grass assassin who had traditionally has done much better at the Ricoh Open, where he was a three time champion. Still, he’s a good serve and volley sort suited to this surface. He is stuck in Milos Raonic’s quarter though with a tough young Russian Daniil Medvedev to open. Raonic was tremendous on grass last year with back-to-back finals at Queen’s Club and Wimbledon. Still, he’s not been consistent this year, so perhaps Mahut could have a shot to upset the apple cart.

Feliciano Lopez
A big fat duh here based on his career numbers and how well he played in Stuttgart. The Spaniard is obviously boom or bust with second seed Stan Wawrinka in his way to start. A win though and Lopez might only have Berdych (7) standing in his way to the semifinals. The same Berdych he just beat in Stuttgart.

John Isner
Isner easily could go out in round one to Cilic, but he’s in a quarter with a lot of similar players who like to serve big and rely on that to move them along on grass. Cilic and Kyrgios are the seeds in his way to a semifinal surprise. An upset over Cilic in round one and he’s likely to see Steve Johnson who has beaten him three straight times, including twice in 2017. Speaking of Stevie J ….

Steve Johnson
He’s got an interesting opener against 19-year-old American qualifier Stefan Kozlov. Kozlov is one of the young talents in the US has quite a bit of grass court experience and isn’t overwhelmed by the surface. He beat Johnson at the Ricoh Open in 2016 on grass. Johnson ripped him apart at Delray Beach earlier this year in straights to repay that favor. Johnson lost a tough match to Philipp Kohlschreiber in Stuttgart last week that he might still be thinking about after blowing a late lead. If he’s able to focus this week, he’s got that big serve and forehand combo that works on grass.

Draw Preview

Quarter #1 Seeds
Andy Murray (1)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (5)

Breakdown
This is a tricky quarter with some big servers here opposite of Murray. Starting with Murray’s half of the quarter, he opens against Aljaz Bedene who has played decently on grass. Murray did win their only career meeting last year at this tournament 6-3, 6-4. With increased confidence from a solid run at Roland Garros, I don’t think Murray will start slow here although Bedene should play him tough. A win for Murray and it’s either Sam Querrey or British wildcard Cameron Norrie. Querrey is going to be a tough out regardless of when and whom he might lose; remember he made his first Slam quarterfinal on grass at Wimbledon last year with the now famous win over Novak Djokovic in round three. Murray has handled Querrey seven out of eight career meetings, including twice on grass.

Newly minted Ricoh Open champion Gilles Muller is one to watch in the opposite half. He opens against Nikoloz Basilashvili. Muller’s big serve propelled him through the Dutch grass court tournament, where he was only broken twice in four matches. If he wins to open, he could see Tsonga in round two. Tsonga is 3-1 against the big lefty, but their Wimbledon meeting in 2015 went five. This part of the quarter could be the one with some upsets with Tsonga still up and down in form this year. If Tsonga falters, Muller would be the guy who might take advantage.

Quarter #2 Seeds
Marin Cilic (4)
Nick Kyrgios (9)

Breakdown
There is a whole lot of electric serving to be had in this quarter with Cilic, Kyrgios, Isner and Steve Johnson. In Cilic’s half, he’s up against it to start against Isner. The survivor gets either Johnson or Kozlov. Legitimately, I think Cilic, Isner or Johnson could make it to the quarters out of that part of the draw. In the bottom half, Kyrgios has Donald Young to open and that’s a good match-up for the Aussie. Kyrgios beat Young earlier this year on hard courts at Acapulco and grass won’t negate the power advantage he has over Young. The big question with Kyrgios is health. He’s been battling shoulder and hip issues off and on for months, but is reporting to be pain free heading into the week.

The under-the-radar first round match opposite of Kyrgios-Young is Janko Tipsarevic against Viktor Troicki. They have split four career meetings with Troicki winning on grass last time they met in 2013 at Wimbledon. Troicki was a quick exit in Stuttgart last week to Benoit Paire, while Tipsarevic lost in three sets in his second match at the Ricoh Open to Marin Cilic. The winner could pose a significant threat to Kyrgios or Young if he manages an upset.

Something in my gut tells me that this is a quarter where an unseeded player will get through. Isner or Johnson would be the favorite to do that, but don’t discount that Troicki-Tipsarevic winner. The wildcard would be a healthy Kyrgios, but I’m not putting my money on board that boat just yet.

Quarter #3 Seeds
Milos Raonic (3)
Grigor Dimitrov (6)

Breakdown
A lot will be expected of Raonic after his run on grass last season. His increased success with volleying paid off large during this stretch in 2016. In his half of the quarter, he goes against Thanasi Kokkinakis to start. The 21-year-old Aussie is still getting his legs back under him after missing the first five months of the season due to injury. He does have some grass play under his belt from the Ricoh Open last week, beating Mikhail Youzhny and then losing to Medvedev. If he wasn’t still working his way back, I might fancy him to push Raonic some. In this spot, I think he’ll have a tough time matching Raonic’s serve. A win gets Raonic Mahut or Medvedev. That will be the tougher test for the third seed.

In the other half, Dimitrov will look to shake off his early exit from Stuttgart last week. The Bulgarian gets Ryan Harrison to open. On this surface, that’s advantage Dimitrov. A win gets him a date against Julien Benneteau or James Ward. Much like Raonic, that will be the tougher test likely for Dimitrov. Benneteau made it through qualis and took out Mahut in ‘s-Hertogenbosch last week. He’s got a good grass court game and has split four meetings with Dimitrov. None of those have come since 2014 however. Dimitrov still doesn’t inspire confidence, so I would not be totally shocked if he was out in round two.

This should be Raonic’s quarter to take as long as he gets into a rhythm early.

Quarter #4 Seeds
Stan Wawrinka (2)
Tomas Berdych (7)

Breakdown
This is the toughest quarter to me. Wawrinka has Feliciano Lopez to get his grass campaign started. That’s tough. A win gets him either Pierre Hugues-Herbert or Jeremy Chardy. That’s likely much easier for the Swiss, especially Chardy who he is 5-0 against in their careers. In the other half, Berdych starts with Steve Darcis. The Shark does own two wins against Berdych, including one on grass in the 2012 London Olympics. Darcis has exactly one win on grass in a main draw since then.

Berdych should get through which means either Kyle Edmund or Denis Shapovalov in round two. Edmund gets on grass for the first time this season. He was a quarterfinalist at the AEGON Championships a year ago, taking a set off of Murray in a loss. Edmund is still very green on the green. Shapovalov made it through qualifying and has the big game to contend against Edmund in round one.

This could wind up going to the seeds if Lopez is fatigued from Stuttgart. If it comes down to Wawrinka vs Berdych, the Swiss owns the head-to-head 11-5. Wawrinka has won six straight over the Czech.

AND THAT’S THE BOTTOM LINE BECAUSE THE PIG SAID SO …

Some might be a bit reserved to look to the top seed after Roger Federer flamed out in Stuttgart last week. This is a different set-up though. Murray hasn’t been off for multiple months and really looked like the best version of Andy Murray we’ve seen in a while in Paris. This tournament is comfortable for him and his top half fo the draw looks conducive to at least a 6th trip to the Queen’s Club final.

The othe half seems more of a crap shoot with Raonic probably the expected finalist. I’m not so sure that I am sold on that. Wawrinka needs to get past Lopez first, but I think if he’s able to do so, watch out for the Swiss. Grass isn’t his best surface, but he can slug it out over most of this field if he’s on his game.

For me, I think the title resides with one of the top three seeds this week. Murray the obvious favorite, but Wawrinka perhaps the surprise – if you can say that about a second seed and I think you can about Stan on grass – if things open up for him early. I’ll still go with Andy in the end, but in a season of surprises, it would not be totally shocking if he fails to repeat.

ATP Queen’s Club: John Isner vs Juan Martin Del Potro

ISDPCOMICZONE

Plenty of pop should be on display as 7th seed John Isner and Juan Martin Del Potro meet in opening round play at Queen’s Club. Isner seeks just his second win over the Argentine. It happened the last time they met at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati in 2013.

(7) John Isner vs Juan Martin Del Potro
Isner is set to make his return to grass after winning a pair of Davis Cup matches earlier in the year, while Del Potro hopes to follow up a solid showing in Stuttgart. Del Potro flashed a good serve and some solid ground strokes during his semifinal run last week at the Mercedes Cup. He would eventually lose to Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-4, 6-3. The results are good considering that Del Potro last played a competitive grass court match in June 2013. This week marks his first return to Queen’s Club since that same year. Del Potro made the quarterfinals that year before losing to Lleyton Hewitt.

Isner is back on court for the first time since his 4th round loss at the French Open to Andy Murray. The American is 30-17 on grass in his career. He made the quarters last year at Queen’s Club and lost a tough 12-10 fifth set to Marin Cilic at Wimbledon in the third round a few weeks later. Isner did score two massive wins for Team USA in March when they battled Australia in Davis Cup action. Isner was a one man wrecking crew in leading the U.S. to the quarterfinals. Isner would beat both Sam Groth and Bernard Tomic on their home soil with a blistering 69 aces in the seven sets played that weekend.

Del Potro and Isner first met back in 2008 during the summer hard court swing in the States. Delpo would beat Isner 6-4, 6-4 in Washington and then follow that with three more wins on hard courts over the 6’10” former UGA Bulldog at Indian Wells (2009), Memphis (2011) and Washington again in 2013. Isner had never won a set off of Del Potro until their 2013 meetings. He would take on set in Washington before falling 3-6, 6-1, 6-2. His breakthrough in Cincinnati saw Isner power past Delpo 6-7 (5), 7-6 (9), 6-3 on the fast courts in Cincy.

That takes us to the slick and quick courts at Queen’s Club this week for this battle. Through 12 completed matches, 12 tiebreaks have been played. With the serves these two possess, you figure they should add to that total. Isner played five tiebreaks in three matches here last year. Del Potro played just one last week in Stuttgart, but has gone 3-3 in tiebreaks this year. By comparison, Isner has played in 29 with a 15-14 record in 2016.

If there is anything to surprise in this match, The Pig isn’t seeing it. We’re going to see big serves. We’re going to likely see short, aggressive points. Big forehands and as few backhands as possible from these two. When this originally popped up on the radar for this week, my inclination was that Isner could have the bigger edge with the Argentine possibly pooped from the longer week in Stuttgart. The rain has negated that with Del Potro having had ample time now to travel, rest and get prepared.

What Del Potro may have trouble with is the velocity of Isner’s serve. The only “big” server that Del Potro has faced this year since his comeback was Sam Querrey back in Delray Beach during his first tournament back. He lost that match 7-5, 7-5. The quick grass in London figures to cause Del Potro some problems in trying to solve the Isner serve, but it should give him an opportunity to bring his own cannon of a serve to the proceedings. Delpo looked worn down against Kohlschreiber in the semifinals, but had not been broken in the three matches prior in Stuttgart with only two break chances in all.

That means you can expect power serve to match power serve most likely here. Despite this being Isner’s first match since the French Open, he’s shown a proclivity to starting fast on grass with his serve. For Del Potro, it should be a matter of repetition and not having to face a superior return man on the other side. Barring some travel fatigue or overall fatigue – which would be a bad sign for him to begin with – Del Potro should be matching Isner with the serve.

That leaves this one likely to join the tiebreak parade, possibly for multiple sets. While Isner’s overall tiebreak record is not great, he has been better in that category on grass. The American is 13-8 in grass court tiebreaks since 2014. It’s a tough call overall with this one. A healthy and confident Del Potro would be the choice most days, but the confidence level still seems to go up and down each week with the Argentine. Isner should be confidence on the surface where he scored his biggest wins of 2016 in Davis Cup play. It really could go either way, but The Pig’s chitlens side with Isner in a pair of tiebreaks.

Prediction
Isner wins in straight sets

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.