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.

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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.

Pig-pourri: ATP Queen’s Club Preview

andy

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.