2015 ATP London Queen’s and Halle Previews and Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The 2015 ATP grass court season continues with the traditional stops in London at Queen’s Club, and Halle. Fan favorites highlight both draws as these two well run, and popular tournaments have both been upgraded to 500 level events this year, after previously featuring as stars of the 250 level. It’s a needed upgrade, adding more point to the grass court portion of the season, and the tennis this would should be an excellent appetizer for Wimbledon, which is just around the corner.
ATP London Queen’s
ATP World Tour 500
June 15-June 21, 2015
Prize Money: €1,574,640
Top 4 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Andy Murray (3)
2: Stan Wawrinka (4)
3: Milos Raonic (8)
4: Marin Cilic (9)
The seed cutoff is the top 15 and a host of top 30 players are in action at this marquee grass event that was deservedly just boosted this year to a 500 level from a 250.
First round matchups to watch:
Fernando Verdasco vs. Roberto Bautista Agut
A matchup that could have taken place last week in Den Bosch, but did not as both Spaniards crashed out early. This time it will take place as both will look to ride their gifted forehands to victory, the h2h is split 1-1 but they have never met on a fast surface, I’m going with Verdasco in three, but it could go either way as both have been more cold than hot this year overall.
(4)Marin Cilic vs. Adrian Mannarino
Stuttgart semifinalist Cilic, one of the top 10 players in the draw, will be a deserved favorite in this one, but don’t count Mannarino, who reached the quarters in Den Bosch, out. Cilic has had success here before with a title and a final on his record, but since coming back from injury he hasn’t been the same reliable player he was last year, a rising Mannarino could sink his ship, though I don’t see it happening personally.
(7)Gilles Simon vs. David Goffin
Simon reached the second week at the French and is 6-4 on grass over the past two years, a record that is good enough for a player of his ranking. Goffin is 5-1 in his last six matches, and going for his first grass court title in Den Bosch on Sunday, both are undersized baseline ball strikers, and fatigue could play a factor for Goffin. This is a hard match to pick, but I see D Goff winning it if he’s fit as his form on grass seems to be good.
(2)Stan Wawrinka vs. Nick Kyrgios
The marquee matchup of the first round, this match would be center court and primetime worthy at any tournament, and surface, but especially on grass. The Roland Garros champion Wawrinka is making his return to the tour as he preps for Wimbledon, while Kyrgios, a Wimbledon quarterfinalist last year, is making his 2015 grass court debut as well.
Stan the man is the favorite and he’s 11-4 on grass since 2013, but Kyrgios seems underrated in this matchup that should feature a lot of power hitting. Presuming NK can get his serve to click, I actually have him pulling off an upset, as Wawrinka tends to be streaky, and struggle after posting huge results, a second slam win being his biggest of course. Distraction and the change of surface will be his challenge, and Kyrgios, who plays fearless tennis, is not the best opponent to start with.
Three time Queen’s champion Andy Murray has had an excellent season thus far (36-6 overall), and will look to ride the momentum of a 15-1 clay court season, that featured a run to the French Open semis, into the grass court season, a surface he feels right at home on, given he’s a British player. The British counterpuncher will face either Bautista Agut or Verdasco in round 2, after facing a qualifier round 1, if he faces Verdasco it’ll be a rematch of their 2013 Wimbledon 5 setter, but I doubt a rematch will be as competitive as Murray should cruise through to the quarterfinals without dropping a set.
Opposite Murray in the quarterfinals could be the defending champion Grigor Dimitrov. Grisha has struggled in 2015 and he has lost two straight matches, but he’s a good player on grass as the aptly nicknamed “baby Fed” is 11-3 since 2013 on the surface. The good record works in his favor, and he should snap that losing streak against Sam Querrey, the mediocre American, Gilles Muller could be a tough out in round 2 though. Muller comes off the semis in Den Bosch, and he should slide past the disastrous Mikhail Youzhny in round 1. Muller with his throwback serve and volley can be lethal on grass when on, but Dimitrov should feature a more versatile game that will give him an edge to reach the quarters. The h2h is 1-1 as Muller upset Dimitrov in Rotterdam this year, but Dimitrov has the grass court h2h win here in 2012.
Dimitrov beat Murray last year Wimbledon without dropping a set, but Murray won their meeting this year at the AO and is 5-2 in the overall h2h, given how their results have diverged this season, Murray is the superior player at the moment and it’s hard to see him suffering another defeat to the Bulgarian on grass at Queens. Look for Murray to star in the semifinals in front of the home crowd.
Cilic/Mannarino will face Viktor Troicki/Qualifier in round 2, Cilic just lost to Troicki in the Stuttgart semis but fatigue should play a factor as Troicki will face Rafael Nadal in that Stuttgart Sunday final, given Cilic’s previous triumph here if he can get out of round 1 he should reach the quarters with his game improving.
Feliciano Lopez, last years finalist, has a slightly better draw than he had in Stuttgart where big serving Sam Groth slipped past him. Flopez has not been playing great as of late but he’s very comfortable on grass with his slice serve and volley and he should be able to defeat Joao Sousa in round 1. A round 2 match with John Isner, presuming the American #1 beats a qualifier, should be worth watching, and poses a similar problem matchup wise as Groth did, as Isner will hold nearly all of his service games, that said Isner is actually not at his best on grass, and Lopez won their Wimbledon 2014 meeting in 4 sets, overall winning the last two meetings. Isner winning isn’t out of the question at all, but I have Lopez into the quarterfinals in my own bracket against Cilic.
Cilic has never lost to Lopez on a fast surface (3-0), and he has a grass court h2h win (Queens 2013 3 sets), given Cilic’s recent form has also been slightly better, I’m going with a Murray vs. Cilic semifinal in the top half.
Wawrinka/Kyrgios is almost certain to decide the quarterfinalist at the bottom of the draw, as either player should defeat Lleyton Hewitt/Kevin Anderson in round 2. Hewitt is historically a great grass court player but he looked atrocious in Den Bosch, and it’s clear his career is just about done, Anderson is 7-3 on grass since 2013, and I actually have him pulling off a minor upset and getting past Hewitt before falling to Kyrgios in round 2.
How Rafael Nadal, a current finalist in Stuttgart, does in Queens will also be a topic of interest. Nadal opens with streaky shotmaker Alexandr Dolgopolov in round 1, it is their first meeting since Dolgopolov shocked Nadal at Indian Wells in 2014, but overall Nadal is 5-1 in the h2h, and given the Ukrainian is in the midst of a poor three match losing streak, Nadal should advance. Rafa has improved on grass with every match in Stuttgart, and perhaps the surface switch has revitalized his season. He’s a previous winner of this tournament (2008), and he should also beat his countryman, either Pablo Andujar, or more likely Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in round 2 to reach the quarters.
From that we should get either Nadal vs. Wawrinka, or Nadal vs. Kyrgios, a pair of titantic matchups. Kyrgios shocked Rafa at Wimbledon last year in an upset I was one of the few writers to call, it’s a tough ask to expect him to do that again, but I have a feeling fatigue may play a factor on Rafa, and I have Kyrgios as my semifinalist. For what it’s worth, I’d also pick Wawrinka over Nadal on grass right now, if he reaches the quarters he should be motivated and his form should be good. Still Nadal should have a good record going into Wimbledon and feel comfortable with his game.
Milos Raonic returns to the ATP tour, and to grass court tennis against the perpetual British wild card James Ward, a gutsy 28 year old underdog. Ward hasn’t posted a positive tour level record on grass in a few years, but he always puts his heart into UK matches, and if Raonic is unfit after an injury he could find Ward to be a meddlesome matchup. Raonic’s record on grass has been disappointing given his aggressive, serve centered style of play (14-11 since 2011), but he was 5-2 last year and he’s looking to improve on the momentum of reaching the Wimbledon semifinals in 2014. I’d presume Raonic to win his first match. Richard Gasquet, presuming he beats a qualifier, should be a tougher opponent in round 2, Gasquet hasn’t posted a below .500 record on grass in nearly a decade and he’s 8-5 over the past two seasons, he also has a prior h2h win over Raonic (2013 US Open). Given Raonic is coming off an injury, I have Gasquet pulling off a slight upset after reaching the second week in Paris, and making the quarterfinals here.
Simon/Goffin will face either Thanasi Kokkinakis or Jeremy Chardy in round 2. Chardy with his big forehand is a proven danger on grass (9-4 since 2013), while Kokkinakis is a bit of an unknown commodity, but being Australian with his versatile power game he should also be able to play well on the green stuff. I have Chardy sneaking into the quarters over Kokkinakis and Goffin, given his recent h2h win at the French over Goffin, but this is a hard section to predict overall, and all four players have a nearly even shot at the quarterfinals.
Look for Gasquet or Raonic to reach the semis with a win in the quarters, it’s not out of the question for any of the four others to make the semis, but I’d give them the best chance as experienced talents.
Dark Horse: Nick Kyrgios
This tournament could be quite memorable for Kyrgios, if he is healthy, and can defeat Wawrinka, Nadal and Gasquet/Raonic/Some other player to reach the final. I’m predicting it in my own bracket, a gusty move to pick a non-seed in such a strong field, but his game is really well suited for grass, and he has previous wins on the surface over both Nadal, and Gasquet, as he famously saved NINE match points against Gasquet at Wimbledon. A year wiser, presuming the confident Australian is fit, it’s his time to shine on grass, as the young gun should not be a slept on this year. Winning the title is a bit of a leap, but I’m picking him to reach his second ATP final after reaching his first in Estoril where he lost to Gasquet on clay.
Murray d. Cilic
Kyrgios d. Gasquet
It’s hard for me to see anyone stopping Murray this year, especially not Cilic who Murray has beaten three times previously on grass, including in the 2013 Queen’s club final. AM appears capable of losing only to Djokovic at the moment, and Djokovic isn’t in the field here.
I tend to favor the winner of Kyrgios/Wawrinka to decide the finalist from the bottom half, and we well could see two non-seeds in a tournament with a high caliber field in the semifinals. Gasquet has twice beaten Kyrgios on clay rather easily, including this year in Estoril, but Kyrgios was something else in their Wimbledon meeting that he saved all those match points in and eventually won 10-8 in the 5th. I look for the Aussie to conjure up that magic and win a slightly less important meeting this time to reach the final.
Murray d. Kyrgios
Murray is 3-0 in matches and 8-0 in sets against the young Australian, as this h2h has gotten lopsided quickly due to the fact the defensively sound and fleet footed Murray is a bad matchup for the often rashly aggressive Kyrgios. I’m sure NK will put up a fight if he make it this far, but I don’t see anyone capable of stopping Magic Murray from his 4th title at London Queens.
Gerry Weber Open
ATP World Tour 500
June 15-June 21, 2015
Prize Money: €1,574,640
Top 4 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Roger Federer (2)
2: Kei Nishikori (5)
3: Tomas Berdych (6)
4: Gael Monfils (16)
Three top 10 players are in Halle, and five top 20 players overall, the seed cutoff is top 30, and though no quite as strong as Queens, Halle is also a strong event that was just boosted to a 500 from the 250 it was previously.
First round matchups to watch:
(1)Roger Federer vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber
Federer, a Halle standout (7 titles, including the past 2 trophies) who has adopted the tournament as much as any local, can’t be happy with having to face a solid grass court player like Kohlschreiber in round 1. Four previous times he has vanquished the German on the surface, three of those came in Halle, including the 2008 final, and just once as Kohli taken a set (Wimbledon 09). That said, it gets harder every year for Federer to amp himself up for opening round matches, and Kohlschreiber on home soil should feel comfortable, given like Federer, he has found success in Halle. We’ll see if Peppo can give the grass maestro any trouble in round 1 as he comes off of a quarterfinal in Stuttgart.
(7)Bernard Tomic vs. Steve Johnson
Tomic comes off the quarterfinals in Stuttgart, and he’ll be a favorite against the 25 year old American Steve Johnson, that said Johnson, who is building his ATP experience on grass seems to be no slouch on the surface, with a 13-8 record on grass since 2013. Johnson has shown signs of improvement this year, as has Bernie, who appears more focused than he has been in previous years, and this should be a high quality contest. I have Tomic advancing in my bracket.
(8)Ivo Karlovic vs. Santiago Giraldo
An interesting form test going into Wimbledon for the aging Karlovic, now 36, his serve still is a huge weapon, but the rest of his game appears to be in a bit of a free fall, as he won just 1 match in Den Bosch and is just 2-6 in his last 8 matches. Giraldo has struggled this year with a below .500 record, is an average grass court player at best, but if he can win this, it will be a sign that the party is going to be over soon for Karlovic. I still think Ivo wins but it could get messy.
(4)Gael Monfils vs. Lukas Rosol
Monfils has a h2h win (on clay) against Rosol, and he comes off the semis in Stuttgart, thus he should win this, but Rosol with his ball bashing could make things interesting if his game clicks. Lukas did not look good in Stuttgart, losing round 1, but you never know with both of these players, as they are quite streaky.
Federer/Kohlschreiber will face Ernests Gulbis or Sergiy Stakhovsky in round 2. Gulbis has a poor record on grass in his career and has been horrendous this season, while Stakhovsky is good on grass with his serve and volley game, but is nursing a back injury. It’s a tough pick but I tip Gulbis to oust his likely still injured opponent before getting blitzed by Federer, who should reach the quarters without dropping a set, or at least that’s what his fans would hope for. A healthy Stakhovsky serve and volleyed his way to a shocking upset of Federer at Wimbledon, but it’s quite likely Federer will get his revenge if that matchup takes place.
Tomic/Johnson will be the favorite to be opposite Federer in the quarterfinals, neither JL Struff or Florian Mayer, both Germans, are playing well at the moment as Struff was sick and Mayer has struggled in his return from injury. One of them will break a four match losing streak,and Mayer was previously decent on grass, I have Struff sneaking through only to lose to Tomic again, like he did in Stuttgart though.
Federer-Tomic has the potential to be a great match, and two, if not all three of Federer’s opponents early in Halle will be tough outs, that said Federer is 4-0 against the Australian and he has a grass court h2h win, Bernie could take a set, but Federer is comfortable at Halle, and barring a severe dip in form he should be a safe pick for the semis. Tomic can’t be happy with his draws in his first two grass court tournaments of 2015, as he lost to Nadal in the Stuttgart quarters, and he is likely to be stopped in the quarters yet again.
Tomas Berdych is a former Halle champion and given the Czech is 35-10 this year, with hardly only 1 loss to player outside the top 10 (Tsonga at the French Open), he should roll through to the quarterfinals. It’s also worth nothing Berdych is 10-4 since 2013 on grass, and he should pad that record with routine wins over non grass courters Victor Estrella and Borna Coric/Donald Young in round 2. Coric tanked hard in Stuttgart where he lost R1, and he has hardly any grass court experience, while Young is in poor form and may not be healthy at the moment (also 5-11 since 2013 on grass), so the winner of that is anyone’s guess.
The section below Berdych is quite weak, Karlovic/Giraldo and Alexander Zverev or a qualifier are the players it consists of. The teenager Zverev, who is just 18, was feisty in Stuttgart as he won a match, his first ever as a professional on grass, and took a set off of eventual finalist Viktor Troicki. That said the qualifier could be dangerous for a youngster who isn’t used to coming to net and plays a clay court oriented top spin defensive style. If Karlovic doesn’t fall apart, he should reach the quarters, but this is a difficult section to predict, and the qualifier will also have his chances.
Berdych is simply stronger than any possible opponent in the quarters and though he has a negative h2h against Karlovic (3-4 all hard court meetings), given the difference in form as of late, he should be on a collision course with Federer in the semifinals.
Kei Nishikori is slated to face Dominic Thiem, four years his junior, in the opening round. Thiem has not proven himself to be capable on grass yet as he lost badly to Mischa Zverev in Stuttgart, a player well below his ranking. Nishikori 32-8 in 2015, and coming off the RG quarters, should improve on his 7-4 grass record since 2013 and defeat Thiem and the winner of Dustin Brown/Andreas Haider-Maurer. Brown is a threat with his serve and volley game on this surface, though he lost round 1 as a qualifier in Stuttgart and Brown-Nishikori should be a great match, but Kei should be able to pass Brown enough, especially if the German slips up on serve to win, and reach the quarterfinals.
Dirtballer Pablo Cuevas is the #6 seed at this tournament, but he’s an underdog in round 1 against Jerzy Janowicz. The mercurial Pole beat Brown in Stuttgart but then choked against Kohlschreiber, and he’s had a mediocre and mentally weak 2015 season. Given Cuevas has played just one grass court match since 2010, JJ should win that match, and presumably beat a qualifier in the next round (qualifier vs. qualifier is that matchup). Perhaps the momentum of that weak early draw will inspire him in the quarterfinals.
With a Masters final and a Wimbledon semifinal on his resume, Janowicz has already proven he has the talent, especially on a fast surface where his heavy hitting power game can shine, but he’s struggled to put all the pieces together, thus Nishikori is the favorite to reach the semifinal in their first h2h meeting. It should be a fun match, but Nishikori has a mental edge and is much better in pressure moments than the Pole.
Monfils/Rosol is likely to decide the quarterfinalist in that section, as I wouldn’t expect much out of Jiri Vesely/Mikhail Kukushkin, the other options who meet round 1. The 21 year old Czech Vesely has limited experience on grass, but his game suits it reasonably well, while Kukushkin is poor on the surface. As long as Monfils is healthy and motivated, his talented shotmaking should place him into the semifinals. He looked awful in a 2014 Wimbledon match against Vesely, but that appeared to be more like a one off Clownfils performance than a sign of a matchup problem.
33 year old #5 seed Tommy Robredo could well go out to a qualifier in round 1, he’s 5-1 on grass since 2013, but has not played much on it, even with such a long career. The topspinning Spaniard has struggled to stay healthy this year, so we’ll see how this tournament goes for him, either way look for the quarterfinalist to be either Andreas Seppi or Tommy Haas, a match I thought about putting on my matches to watch, but decided against it after how poor Seppi played in his round 2 match in Stuttgart. Haas came back after a year off the tour due to injury and won a round (beating Kukushkin) before losing to Tomic, and their grass court h2h is split 1-1 (both meetings came in Halle) that said Haas has won the previous four meetings, and given this is grass, presuming he’s healthy I’d expect him to make it five straight. You’d expect Haas to improve with each match, and he has good history in Halle as the former Wimbledon semifinalist has took the title twice here. Haas is 4-1 against Robred and has a grass court h2h win as well, so expect him to survive two early matches against veterans who have a lot of variety with their strokes, as does Haas.
Monfils vs. Haas has great potential, the h2h is an even 2-2, and Haas won their 2013 Halle match, that said with Haas coming off of a long injury layoff, Monfils should be sharper and win by perhaps a very small margin to reach the semis.
Dark Horse: Tommy Haas
It’s likely expecting too much from Haas this soon after his comeback to say he’ll reach the semis, but he has two previous titles here, and he’s a crafty veteran who tends to be able to find ways to win. His draw isn’t bad as he should at least make the semis, and Monfils is a player he’s beaten previously, so though unlikely don’t count the veteran with the one-handed backhand out of things.
Federer d. Berdych
Nishikori d. Monfils
Berdych has been entirely impotent in their two matches this season, losing by a combined game score of 24-10, given his ranking you can’t count him out, but if Federer makes it this far he should reach the final.
Nishikori beat Monfils last year in three sets at this venue, and it has some great potential in terms of an exciting matchup, I could see Gael winning this but I feel Kei will be too strong for him and thus I have a Federer vs. Nishikori #1 vs #2 seed final picked out.
Federer d. Nishikori
Federer beat Nishikori in Halle last year and he has won their last two meetings, after dropping the two before that (3-2 overall h2h), it’s a tough matchup to predict, but Federer loves Halle and seems to just about own the tournament, thus I have to pick him to win it, without reason not to do so.