2014 ATP Eastbourne, ‘s-Hertogenbosch Previews & Picks
Steen Kirby, Tennis East Coast
It’s the week before Wimbledon and many players are choosing to make their final preparations for the next slam in the pair of 250 grass court tournaments this week.
Top 4 seeds (Who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Richard Gasquet (14)
2: Alex Dolgopolov (19)
3: Feliciano Lopez (29)
4: Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (31)
It is the week before Wimbledon, so not the strongest field in Eastbourne, but the tournament should be competitive.
First Round matchups to watch:
Donald Young vs. (WC)James Ward
This is the only match of interest in round 1 that I see. Young comes off a successful string of play on clay, including a third round French Open appearance, and he will look to improve his relatively poor record on grass in Eastbourne. He faces the Brit wild card Ward who has had some success on grass, and they have never met before. It should be a close match and a good warm-up for Young.
Top seed Richard Gasquet is struggling and is perhaps carrying a shoulder injury into this tournament. He could quite possibly fall to Bernard Tomic in his first match and the draw would open up from there.
Gasquet comes off an opening match loss in Halle and Tomic showed some renewed play in Queens with a round 1 win and a 3 set loss in round 2. Tomic beat Gasquet at Wimbledon last year in 4 tight sets, though Gasquet is 4-0 in matches on other surfaces and crushed Tomic (even while not healthy) at the French a couple of weeks ago. Tomic must beat Andrey Golubev first, I might add, and one of those three players will face Young/Ward or Martin Klizan/Federico Delbonis in the quarters. Delbonis is a clay courter and Klizan has a very poor record on grass, but he appears to be in form as he had a strong clay court season.
Young or Ward have a great chance at the quarterfinals or better. Klizan beat Tomic on clay last month
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez is another in-form player who is beginning his grass court campaign this season at a tournament where he is a former finalist. GGL will face Denis Istomin or Mikhail Kukushkin in round 2, and neither player looks overly imposing, so I’m tipping GGL vs Edouard Roger-Vasselin in a competitive quarterfinal. ERV won a couple of rounds in Queens and after a qualifier, he will face Jarkko Nieminen/Santiago Giraldo in round 2. Nieminen retired in his last match and Giraldo is sort of an unreliable player right now. He beat ERV on hard courts two years ago, but I don’t think that result matters that much. As for the predicted quarterfinal, GGL won a 10-8 fifth set against ERV at Wimbledon 2 years ago, but ERV beat him at the Aussie open this year (and GGL has two probably unimportant wins on clay as well), so it should be close and I’m leaning towards ERV to reach the semis.
Alex Dolgopolov will face Sam Querrey or Kyle Edmund in his first match. Dolgo gave a walkover in his last match in Queens and may not be entirely together.
I feel Querrey has a nice chance at the quarterfinals here. Dolgopolov leads the h2h 2-1 between them in all hard court meetings.
Dolgo/Querrey could face defending finalist Gilles Simon in the quarters or perhaps Julien Benneteau, who was upset in the opening round of Queens, or Yen-Hsun Lu, who reached the quarterfinals in Halle but gave a walkover in his last match. Simon plays a qualifier and then Benneteau/Lu. Gilles showed some renewed form at the French, unlike he has all season really and I like him as a semifinalist here.
Current Queens finalist Feliciano Lopez is the defending champ here in Eastbourne. If he doesn’t pull out because of fatigue, he will face Dan Evans or a qualifier in his first match. Should he not be exhausted, expect him in the quarters against one of Ivo Karlovic/Jeremy Chardy/Carlos Berlocq/qualifier. Karlovic lost in round 2 in Halle, but he is a two-time champion here and has a 12-1 record overall.
Given the other choices, the semifinalist should come down to Lopez/Karlovic and how fatigued is Lopez. His form has looked great in Queens and he could get on a winning a streak.
Dark Horse: Bernard Tomic/Edouard Roger-Vasselin
I feel one of these two players will be the finalist here from the top half of the draw: Tomic can play very well on grass but he’s horribly inconsistent, while ERV has a lower ceiling for peak play, but is less likely to see his game entirely collapse. In three head to head meetings, all on grass amazingly, Tomic has won twice and ERV has won once, the last meeting coming in 2011. Either one of them is a dark horse to take the title regardless.
Roger-Vasselin d. Tomic
Karlovic d. Simon
I just went over ERV-Tomic. While I like Karlovic by a hair over Simon (because he won a h2h grass meeting in 2007 between the two and also won their most recent meeting in 2011), I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Simon made the final again, but Ivo is who I’m picking.
Karlovic d. Roger-Vasselin
Ivo beat ERV in Newport last year and has a 2-1 overall h2h lead. The final could go either way, but I like the big serving Croat as a titlist this week.
Top 4 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: David Ferrer (7)
2: Fernando Verdasco (23)
3: Roberto Bautista Agut (28)
4: Marcel Granollers (30)
Holland just annihilated the Spanish in the World Cup and local celebrations cannot be sitting well with the four top seeds here, all Spanish players.
First Round matchups to watch:
Nicolas Mahut vs. (WC)Kimmer Coppejans
Defending champion Nicolas Mahut could have trouble against young Belgian wild card Kimmer Coppejans, who is untested on grass. Mahut comes off a round 2 loss in Queens that was close and though I still think he will prevail, this match is a good opportunity for Coppejans to show his mettle.
Kenny De Schepper vs Steve Johnson
Johnson leads the h2h 2-0 and their last meeting at the Le Gosier challenger, the final of it in fact, was a crazy 3 setter that ended with a 7-2 final set tiebreak. De Schepper is 4-2 on grass this year, Johnson is 3-2, as both players have shown they can do well on the surface, albeit with different styles. This match is a toss-up to me, but I’ll go with the rising and much improved Johnson to ride his forehand to victory over the big serving Frenchman for the third time.
Two time Den Bosch champion David Ferrer faces a qualifier in round 1 and then a qualifier or Alejandro Gonzalez in round 2. Ferrer should be safe for the quarterfinals against one of Igor Sijsling/Thiemo De Bakker/Bradley Klahn/Dmitry Tursunov. He should watch out for Tursunov as the Russian vanquished him twice last season in their only meetings.
Sijsling is also a bit of a home threat here, but given Tursunov just beat him in Queens I like Tursunov over Klahn and Sijsling over De Bakker and then Tursunov over Sijsling as the path to the quarterfinals. Ferrer to avenge his Tursunov defeats last year is my pick for semifinalist out of this section.
Marcel Granollers is not a good grass court player, but Benjamin Becker, a former champion here, has lost five straight matches and is in terrible form right now. Granollers should get through to round 2 to face Dudi Sela or Benoit Paire, both of whom are also struggling: Paire 2-6 since coming back from injury and Sela 2-8 since Indian Wells. One of these four out-of-form players will be able to win two matches and reach the quarterfinals as a much needed boost for their morale and ranking.
Strapped to a chair, I’d take Granollers by a hair.
One of Granollers/Becker/Sela/Paire will face one of Lukas Rosol/JL Struff/Dusan Lajovic/Vasek Pospisil in the quarters. Rosol is just starting his grass campaign. Struff was poor in Halle. Lajovic took a set off an in form Feliciano Lopez. Though Pospisil finally broke his post-AO losing streak, he was poor in his very next match.
I like Rosol to get through all the way to the semifinals from the top half.
Fernando Verdasco, who has had some success on grass, will face Paul-Henri Mathieu, who gave Andy Murray a competitive run in Queens. Dasco dominates PHM in the h2h, so he should be through to face either Jesse Huta Galung or Aleksandr Nedovyesov. Nedo is struggling, so I think JHG will be willed to victory by the home fans and Verdasco will reach the quarterfinals.
Verdasco should also be safe for the semis as his possible opponents are not overly imposing: Jurgen Melzer is struggling a bit and faces current and surprise Halle finalist Alejandro Falla, who will probably be gassed after playing so much in Halle, and then the winner gets Victor Hanescu or a qualifier.
The qualifier has a good chance for the quarters.
Bautista Agut will face his countryman Daniel Gimeno Traver and then the struggling Matt Ebden or a qualifier. Look for RBA to get a real test in the quarters against Mahut/Coppejans or Johnson/De Schepper. I like RBA vs Mahut. The h2h is split, with all of their meetings coming on indoor hard on the challenger tour.
Given this is grass, I tip towards Mahut a bit to reach the semis.
Dark Horse: Lukas Rosol
The in-form Czech I have making the semis. His match with Ferrer will be tough. Ferrer beat him twice last year and leads the h2h 3-0, so he probably comes up short from there, but I expect him to have a good showing this week.
Ferrer d. Rosol
Verdasco d. Mahut
I just broke down Ferrer-Rosol and Verdasco is 3-0 career against Mahut including a win on grass, so it should be an all-Spanish final.
Ferrer d. Verdasco
A super-weird h2h between a pair with no grass court meetings. Ferrer got a win on clay last year and is on a 5 match winning streak in the rivalry, but going back to 2010 Verdasco had winning streaks of as many as three straight matches in the rivalry with a whole bunch of meetings on clay. Down to the wire, I like Ferrer in 3 sets in the final.