Roger Federer again reclaimed the #1 ranking by virtue of his title in Stuttgart that came 6-4 7-6 in the final against a resurgent Milos Raonic. Federer had some tough matches to open his grass court season in Germany, but he got past Mischa Zverev in 3, Guido Pella in straights, and Nick Kyrgios in a tight third set tiebreak earlier in the week, along with the Raonic victory.
Raonic had his best run of the year defeating Mirza Basic, Marton Fucsovics, Tomas Berdych, and Lucas Pouille without dropping a set or having his serve threatened en route to the final.
Germany’s Petzschner and Puetz defeat Lindstedt/Matkowski in the Mercedes Cup doubles final.
31 year old Richard Gasquet defeated his fellow over 30 French countryman Jeremy Chardy to win the Libema Open title in the Netherlands on grass. Gasquet claimed his first championship of the season 6-3 7-6 after previously winning matches against Evgeny Donskoy, Stefanos Tsitsipas and surprise semifinalist Bernard Tomic to reach the final.
Chardy moved to 9-1 on grass this season after defeating Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, Adrian Mannarino, Mackenzie McDonald and Matt Ebden to reach the final, he could be a dark horse at Wimbledon.
Inglot/Skugor defeated Klaasen/Venus in the doubles final.
Roger Federer Returns at the Mercedes Cup 2018 in Stuttgart Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The Mercedes Cup ATP 250 in Stuttgart is where Roger Federer, Nick Kyrgios, Milos Raonic and other accomplished grass courters will start their 2018 Wimbledon preparations. Here is a look at the German grass court stop.
Roger Federer will begin his return to the ATP tour against a veteran no matter what. Mischa Zverev is his likely opponent (rather than qualifier Mikhail Youzhny). Federer should be tested more by Denis Shapovalov or John Millman in the quarters though. I’ll back Shapovalov to defeat Prajnesh Gunneswaran and Millman (or Guido Pella) to reach that quarters. At that stage though I don’t see him beating the legendary Fed on grass.
Nick Kyrgios vs. Feliciano Lopez looks like a great quarterfinal contest. Kyrgios will need to find form and defeat Max Marterer or Viktor Galovic while Lopez has to defeat fellow veteran Viktor Troicki, followed by Gilles Simon/Matteo Viola. On grass Lopez should be up to scratch though, I’ll back him to reach the semis and upset Kyrgios in the process.
Lucas Pouille is in awful form this year but he should still defeat Rudolf Molleker/J.L. Struff as he aims to turn his season around. Philipp Kohlschreiber at home is the danger player here though. Peppo opens with Denis Istomin and I’ll back him over Florian Mayer or Yannick Maden in round 2. Kohlschreiber over Pouille at home in Germany seems like a sensible pick.
Milos Raonic will take on Mirza Basic in round 1, Marton Fucsovics or Denis Kudla in round 2 will be far trickier. That said, Raonic is the most accomplished player in this section and I’ll back him into the quarters against Tomas Berdych. Berdych has to find form and defeat Taylor Fritz and Benoit Paire in round 2. Raonic should win the section.
2018 @PorscheTennis WTA Stuttgart Preview, Predictions Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
Clay season arrives in style with the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart. The field is always stacked here as the top players aim to find their footing on the clay and this year is no exception. It is one of the best tournaments of the year, so let’s get to it.
Simona Halep goes into the tournament as the number one seed and arguably the favourite to go all the way. The Romanian is considered to be the best clay courter on the tour by many people, but she is yet to add a French Open title to her collection. Building momentum for Roland Garros is a big aim during this stretch of the season and it starts in Stuttgart. Daria Kasatkina is the likely second round opponent which is a difficult starting match for anyone, but she is also probably her biggest test in this section.
Sloane Stephens has also landed in this section as she aims to kick off her clay court season. She is coming in off the Fed Cup semi final against France and that is why it is funny she has drawn her team-mate Coco Vandeweghe in the first round. Laura Siegemund, who has made big runs here in the past, is a potential second round opponent.
Halep is the strongest clay courter in this section, and despite some tough challenges early on I think she should come through this section.
Prediction: Halep def. Siegemund
Elina Svitolina is another player who comes into this tournament as a favourite to go all the way. The Ukrainian is usually very efficient at picking up titles such as Stuttgart so she should come into the tournament with a fair degree of confidence. After her opening round BYE, Svitolina will face the winner of Julia Goerges vs Anastasija Sevastova, two players who have a complete contrast in styles. Goerges will have the home crowd cheering for her and the indoor conditions favour her powerful game, but Sevastova is a tricky player who is hard to hit through.
Caroline Garcia has not kicked into gear in 2018, but she is a very capable clay courter who can do a lot of damage here. She has got the Sharapova draw however in one of the most high profile round one match-ups. The winner of that match should be a safe bet for the quarter finals with Antonia Lottner or a qualifier waiting in the wings.
There is plenty of talent in this section, but I have Svitolina being too stable for an erratic Garcia in the quarter finals.
Prediction: Svitolina def. Garcia
Jelena Ostapenko (Photo: Tony Callaio)
French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko will be happy with the draw she has gotten here. The Latvian has points to defend with her French Open win and this is a tournament where she could make some up and get some nice form heading into Roland Garros. She has a BYE then the winner of two qualifiers in the second round, so despite being inconsistent, you have to favour the Latvian to get through.
Karolina Pliskova has not had a great start to 2018 and clay is not her best surface. However, you can not count the Czech out. The fifth seed opens against Kiki Bertens, a very capable clay courter who can do a lot of damage during this stage of the season, then potentially faces Carla Suarez Navarro in the second round.
This is a section where we could see an unseeded player come through. Bertens comes alive on the clay and given Pliskova’s struggles in the surface we could see an upset there. Ostapenko is also very inconsistent in matches so I think the Dutchwoman will prevail here.
Prediction: Bertens def. Ostapenko
This is a stacked quarter headlined by Garbine Muguruza. The Spaniard is on her best surface again fresh off a title win in Acapulco so will have a degree of confidence heading into Stuttgart. However her section is stacked with power players, bot least of which is Madison Keys who she could face in the second round. Muguruza will need all her clay court prowess this tournament due to players being able to outhit her in this section.
Petra Kvitova is the other seed in this quarter and she will be one half of another big round one match against Germany’s own Angelique Kerber. The former champion has had a resurgence this year and is playing like a top 10 player once again after a disappointing 2017. The winner faces either Kristina Mladenovic, last year’s finalist or Anett Kontaveit , a dangerous big hitting Estonian. There is not easy match-up in this section.
With the home crowd advantage and being a former champion, I fancy Kerber to make her way through this section. We do not know which version of the other women will show up, so I think the more steady Kerber will fight her way past Muguruza in the quarter finals.
Prediction: Kerber def. Muguruza
Semi Finals Finals onwards Prediction:
Halep def. Svitolina
Kerber def. Bertens
Halep def. Kerber
As usual, Stuttgart is stacked and difficult to call but I am going with the number one seed to overcome the home favourite in the final.
Pouille and Muller Claim Second ATP Titles of the Season Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
A great comeback for Frenchman Lucas Pouille secured his second ATP title of the season, the first final of the 2017 grass court season was decided 4-6 7-6 6-4, as Pouille was pushed to the limit in the second set tiebreak, and after taking that, battled hard in the third to break Lopez’s effective grass court serve and volley and hold his own serve to secure the title. Pouille barely got out of his opening match, winning close second and third set tiebreaks and saving a match point to defeat J.L. Struff, he went on to defeat Philipp Kohlschreiber and Benoit Paire in close matches, showing his mental toughness this week.
Lopez chip and charge helped him reach his first tour final of the season, the Spaniard, happy to be on grass, got past Gilles Simon, Jeremy Chardy, Tomas Berdych, and Mischa Zverev, all of those matches going three sets except for his contest against Simon as the Mercedes Cup featured a lot of close matches this week.
Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares defeated Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic to take the doubles title.
34 year old Gilles Muller continued his best season on tour, winning a second title this year 7-6 7-6 in narrow fashion over fellow big server Ivo Karlovic at the Ricoh Open. Muller won tiebreaks this week against Andreas Seppi and Alexander Zverev, also winning in three sets against Aljaz Bedene to reach the final as his serve and volley game was lethal on grass.
Karlovic, 38, reached his first final this season, the veteran upset Marin Cilic in three sets in the semifinals, Daniil Medvedev and Stefan Kozlov were his other victims on the week, as both players will be difficult early round opponents at Wimbledon.
Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo continued the trend of veteran success in Rosmalen as they defeated Raven Klaasen and Rajeev Ram.
2017 ATP Stuttgart and Rosmalen Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The 2017 ATP grass court season starts this week with two European tour stops that are on the 250 level of the tour. Clay season is over, so get ready for fast paced action on the green grass of Stuttgart and Den Bosch.
ATP World Tour 250
June 12-18, 2017
Prize Money: €630,785
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Roger Federer (5)
2: Grigor Dimitrov (12)
3: Tomas Berdych (14)
4: Lucas Pouille (16)
Stuttgart has a great field this week, highlighted by one of the best grass court players of all time, Roger Federer, along with a core group of solid tour players for a 250.
First round matchups to watch:
Pierre-Hugues Herbert vs. (WC)Tommy Haas
A battle between solid grass court players, the 39 year old Haas has lost more than a step, but he’s a very crafty player at his age, and will give the big server Herbert plenty of trouble. Herbert has not been able to consistently compete at the tour level in singles, and Haas should get the win in his German homeland.
Florian Mayer vs. Jeremy Chardy
The unorthodox shotmaking of Mayer is a good fit for grass, and he’s the favorite in Germany against the higher ranked Chardy, who hits the ball hard and plays aggressively, but often racks up a high error count in the process. Mayer should find form and notch the win.
(7)Gilles Simon vs. Feliciano Lopez
Lopez has won both meetings these veterans have played on grass, Simon is in poor form, and Lopez, happy to be off of the slow, high bouncing clay, should be able to whip his serve in and advance forward enough to get the win and reach round 2.
Marcos Baghdatis vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber
Baghdatis has been in terrible form and hasn’t won a match since January, but he’s been good on grass against the German, who for his part has lost three straight matches and isn’t in the best form himself. Baghdatis badly needs this win, but in Germany, Kohlschreiber is a sensible favorite.
Roger Federer, the heavy favorite this tournament, will open his bid against the Haas/Herbert winner, look for Roger to tune up and get the win, before doing the same against serve and volleyer Mischa Zverev, who is happy to be off of clay, and should beat Malek Jaziri and either Yannick Hanfmann or Marton Fucsovics in round 2.
Tomas Berdych and Feliciano Lopez should contest the other quarterfinal in the top half, Lopez will face Mayer/Chardy in round 2, and should be the favorite in that match, if he defeats Simon. Berdych will get a dangerous contest against Bernard Tomic for his first match, presuming Tomic puts away the ageless Stephane Robert. Given Tomic’s awful form (four straight defeats), Berdych should make it to the quarters, where I have him knocking off Lopez to reach the semis. Berdych and Lopez have split the h2h 6-6.
Grigor Dimitrov will face Andrey Kuznetsov or Jerzy Janowicz in round 2, Janowicz is far removed from his success on grass, although he still has plenty of power. Kuznetsov has had a good season, but Dimitrov is a favorite in this section for a reason, having found a bit of form at Roland Garros. Viktor Troicki should beat Benoit Paire and Nikoloz Basilashvili/Peter Gojowczyk to reach the quarters. Dimitrov will be the favorite whether it’s Troicki or someone else in the quarters.
Lucas Pouille begins his tournament against either Jan-Lennard Struff or Lukas Lacko. Pouille isn’t perfect on grass by any measure but he should be good enough to reach the quarters before falling to Steve Johnson. The in-form American Johnson faces Max Marterer first up, then the Kohlschreiber/Baghdatis winner, a difficult but winnable path. Johnson’s game is built for fast surfaces.
Dark Horse: Feliciano Lopez
The unseeded Spaniard has every shot to at least make the quarters, and will have a punchers chance against Berdych. Federer is probably too much in the semis, but after a rough few months, Lopez could be back in winning form on grass.
Semis Federer d. Berdych
Dimitrov d. Johnson
Final Federer d. Dimitrov
Nothing suggests Federer will not win in Stuttgart, he should be fresh and focused, while Dimitrov looks to be solid enough to make the final with his all-court game.
ATP World Tour 250
S-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands
June 12-18, 2017
Prize Money: €589,185
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Marin Cilic (7)
2: Alexander Zverev (10)
3: Ivo Karlovic (24)
4: Gilles Muller (28)
First round matchups to watch:
Yuichi Sugita vs. Janko Tipsarevic
Sugita has found form this year and just won a challenger on grass. Tipsarevic is a steady veteran who has a h2h win this matchup, but has yet to return to his tour level form. Fatigue may be an issue for Sugita, but it’s sensible that he’d be able to defeat Tipsarevic on grass.
(5)Steve Darcis vs. Alexandr Dolgopolov
Two shotmaking specialists, Dolgo has a only won one out of three meetings against the Belgian veteran, but he’s still the favorite in this match. The serve and volleyer Darcis is my pick though, he’s had a great season and that should continue on grass.
Dustin Brown vs. (WC)Stefan Kozlov
Brown is a dangerous serve and volleyer and should teach the young Kozlov a thing or two on grass. Kozlov has the game to compete on this surface but he still has plenty to learn, and Brown should have too crisp of a performance to suffer a defeat in this one.
Mikhail Youzhny vs. Thanasi Kokkinakis
The veteran Youzhny has a great history on grass, but at 34 his game has declined from its peak by a large margin. Kokkinakis is just getting his feet wet on tour after injury, he’s immensely talented but Youzhny should find a way to scrape through for a much needed win to further enhance his grass court record.
Jordan Thompson vs. Adrian Mannarino
Another battle between players who enjoy grass court tennis, Thompson comes off of a challenger final on the surface, and although Mannarino should challenge him, look for Thompson’s fast developing game to show out and get the win.
Marin Cilic is in good form after reaching the quarterfinals at Roland Garros and should beat the Sugita/Tipsarevic winner, and then Darcis/Dolgopolov in the quarterfinals. Cilic didn’t drop a set in his Paris victories and looks setup to continue that trend on grass. The Darcis/Dolgopolov winner will face Vasek Pospisil or local wild card Tallon Griekspoor in round 2.
Ivo Karlovic‘s serve is a threat on grass, and he should defeat Brown/Kozlov, before facing Youzhny in the quarters. Youzhny faces Robin Haase or Daniil Medvedev in round 2 and has a winnable path to the quarters, although Haase is a competitive opponent. Karlovic should be solid enough to reach the semis on this surface.
11-6 in his career on grass, Alexander Zverev is a contender for this title, after breaking through on tour this season with a 27-10 record on the year. Zverev struggled at Roland Garros, but moving to grass may bring a refreshing change for him. Zverev should defeat Thompson/Mannarino to reach the quarters, Nicolas Mahut has won three Den Bosch titles and should defeat him there. Mahut opens with Dennis Novikov and then faces Rendy Lu/Evgeny Donskoy. Look for Mahut to show off his talents and reach at least the semifinals.
Gilles Muller also looks set for success, he’s had a great season and grass is perhaps his best surface. Muller should defeat Andreas Seppi/Tatsuma Ito, and then either Aljaz Bedene or Denis Istomin in the quarters. Rising young gun Hyeon Chung and improving American Ernesto Escobedo are also here in this section, and Chung could rise up and secure it. I have it Muller over Bedene, two players who have had good seasons, in the quarterfinals.
Dark Horse: Mikhail Youzhny
There are plenty of seeds with a shot at this title, but don’t count out Youzhny. The veteran still has enough game to find form for a week and take a title. In the very least, he should make the quarterfinals, with a good chance at beating Karlovic.
Semis Cilic d. Karlovic
Muller d. Mahut
Final Cilic d. Muller
Cilic should be the clear favorite to take the title this week. I’ll back Muller’s form over all of his opponents to make the final, and he could take the title as well.
The Porsche Tennis Grand Prix of 2017 is not only one of the biggest clay court tournaments on the calendar, it also marks the return of Maria Sharapova from her doping suspension. Here is a run down of the draw.
World number one Angelique Kerber returns to her home country to defend the title she won last year and once again the German does not have it easy. After a first round bye, Kerber will face a tough challenge in the form of Kristina Mladenovic or Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. Both players have had good starts to the year and are among the most dangerous unseeded players in the draw.
Garbine Muguruza once labelled clay as ‘her territory’. She looked formidable last year at Roland Garros, but minus that triumph, the Spaniard has looked rather mediocre. Can she rediscover her best form on the dirt? Muguruza opens against compatriot and former doubles partner Carla Suarez Navarro before meeting Elena Vesnina or Daria Kasatkina for a place in the last eight.
On clay, Muguruza is a much bigger force to deal with, but her recent form is not great. I do not see her making it past Kerber.
Prediction: Kerber def. Muguruza
Sharapova’s return draw sees the former world number one drawn in the second quarter and set to face Roberta Vinci in the first round. It will be interesting to see what response the Russian receives and how she will play in her first match in well over a year. I think she will be victorious against Vinci, who is not great on clay, but will find Agnieszka Radwanska too much to handle in round two.
The winner of that heavyweight clash is projected to play Dominika Cibulkova in the quarter finals. The Slovak has a bye into the second round where she will face highly touted youngster Ana Konjuh. Clay is not Cibulkova’s favourite surface, but the indoor conditions suit her game and she could advance from this quarter.
Prediction: Cibulkova def. Radwanska
Jo Konta (Tennis Atlantic)
After battling in Fed Cup over the weekend, Johanna Konta and Simona Halep are set to meet again in Stuttgart, providing they get through the opening rounds. Halep has the advantage of a bye in round one, then it will likely be Barbora Strycova waiting in round two. The Czech faces a qualifier in her the opening round match.
Konta also faces a qualifier in her opener. The Brit is not at her best on clay, but should have enough to get through to the second round where she faces either Anastasija Sevastova or Sam Stosur. Konta will likely scrape through that one, but will find Halep too much on clay, and the Romanian will progress to the last four.
Prediction: Halep def. Konta
Svetlana Kuznetsova (Photo: (C) 2014 Chris Levy @tennis_shots for TennisAtlantic.com)
Karolina Pliskova has arguably been the best player of the year so far, but the Czech enters a territory that has not been kind to her. Clay has proven to be her weakest surface, but has she made the required improvements for this season? After a bye in the opening round she faces a fellow big server in CoCo Vandeweghe in round two, another player who is not great on the dirt. Pliskova should make the quarter finals, but from there it could get tough.
Svetlana Kuznetsova is a former French Open Champion and feels well at home on the dirt. The Russian faces Kiki Bertens before likely playing the story of last year’s tournament, Laura Siegemund. The German made an incredible run to the final where she ultimately would come up short against Kerber. I can’t see the same thing this year though, and Kuznetsova should have enough to make it through this quarter.
Prediction: Kuznetsova def. Pliskova
Kerber def. Cibulkova
Kuznetsova def. Halep
Kerber def. Kuznetsova
The home crowd will have a say whenever the German players are involved, and I can see them spurring Kerber to retaining the Stuttgart title.
2016 ATP Grass Court Season Recap: Murray and Thiem Soar Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The last four ATP grass court tournaments after the French Open featured most of the top players looking to get practice before Wimbledon, and a host of players making strong runs. Many of these players will likely find themselves wishing their was more grass court tennis after Wimbledon, while others are already ready for hard court action.
Austrian superstar Dominic Thiem has moved into the top 8 after his fourth title of the season was won in Stuttgart at the Mercedes Cup. Thiem has won titles on all of the surfaces (hard court, clay, and grass) already this season and has clearly demonstrated his all-court prowess. Thiem beat Sam Groth, Mikhail Youzhny, and grass court legend Roger Federer, before toppling Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber in the final. Only against Groth did Thiem not drop a set, but he showed great fight to prevail in his matches. Kohlschreiber had defeated Thiem earlier this season in a clay final, so the Austrian got his revenge.
The German defeated Pierre-Hugues Herbert, Denis Kudla, Radek Stepanek, and Juan Martin Del Potro to reach the final. Del Potro showed great form as he continues his return from serious wrist injuries.
Marcus Daniell and Artem Sitak defeated Fabrice Martin and Oliver Marach in the doubles final.
ATP ‘s-Hertogenbosch (Den Bosch)
Nicolas Mahut won a second consecutive, and a third overall Den Bosch title as he defeated fellow big server Gilles Muller in the final. Mahut defeated Lukas Lacko, Paul-Henri Mathieu, Bernard Tomic, and Sam Querrey en route to the final, surviving in three sets against all but Lacko and Muller. The Frenchman clearly enjoys playing in Holland.
Muller contested his second career ATP final as he defeated Robin Haase, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, David Ferrer, and Ivo Karlovic to get that far. Both Ferrer and Tomic disappointing. At 33 he’s still looking for an elusive first ATP title.
Mate Pavic and Michael Venus defeated Dominic Inglot and Raven Klaasen in the doubles final as New Zealanders won both doubles titles on offer last week.
Florian Mayer stunningly captured his first title since 2011 as the oft-injured German will return to the top 100. Mayer defeated countryman Alexander Zverev in the final, the passionate Zverev simply didn’t have consistency to prevail in the third set. Mayer with his funky game has seen a resurgence in his tennis on grass this season. The 32 year old defeated Brian Baker, got a walkover against Kei Nishikori, and then defeated Andreas Seppi, and the in-form Dominic Thiem to reach the final.
The 19 year old Zverev dropped his second career ATP final after posting wins over Viktor Troicki, Benjamin Becker, Marcos Baghdatis, and most surprisingly, Roger Federer in three sets. Federer will now enter Wimbledon without a grass court title, though he entered two events. The Swiss legend hasn’t won an ATP title this season.
Raven Klaasen and Rajeev Ram defeated Alexander Peya and Lukasz Kubot in the doubles final.
Andy Murray was a set and a break down against Milos Raonic before he fought back to capture a fifth career London Queen’s title. Murray defeated Nicolas Mahut, Aljaz Bedene, Kyle Edmund, and Marin Cilic, as he dropped sets against Edmund and Cilic, along with Raonic. Murray has been in tremendous form as he moved to 33-6 on the season with two ATP titles. Murray hasn’t lost a match before the final since Monte Carlo.
Raonic defeated Nick Kyrgios, Jiri Vesely, Roberto Bautista Agut, and Bernard Tomic to reach his third ATP final of the season. The Canadian has established himself as a possible Wimbledon dark horse.
Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert defeated Chris Guccione and Andre Sa in the doubles final as they will perhaps be the Wimbledon men’s doubles favorites given their prowess on grass and great success this season as a team.
Stuttgart Loves 2015 Champion Rafael Nadal and Nadal Loves The Mercedes Cup Andreas Thiele, Tennis Atlantic
Nadal wins on grass (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
The last two days here in Stuttgart were very sunny and without any problems. At this weekend three matches were played, two Semi-finals on Saturday and the final on Sunday. As you already know, Rafael Nadal could gained the fourth grass title of his career and managed to defeat the Serb Viktor Troicki in two sets, concluding a week of intense matches for Rafa. Troicki performed very well in the first set against Cilic on Saturday, but – in short – his game wasn’t a similar threat to Nadal’s precise game. Nadal defeated Troicki 7-6(3), 6-3.
Semifinals: Nadal d. Monfils in 2, Troicki d. Cilic in 3
Gael Monfils didn’t perform up to a level needed to beat Rafael Nadal who has improved his forehand a lot. Monfils served better than on Friday when he faced Philipp Kohlschreiber, but his many unforced errors during rallies prevented him from troubling Rafa. Besides Nadal’s first service game, Monfils didn’t face any break point and he blew his chances then due to wrong shot selection. Nadal served very well and approached to the net successfully, though he had some forehand unforced errors Uncle Toni was critical of in the stands. It seemed the Frenchman was slightly cramping from his thighs, as his movements got even worse than the day before and Nadal could hold his serve easily with Serve-and-Volley after he avoided the break. Monfils made it too easy for Nadal who dictated the match without any pressure. Nadal improved his returns a lot and could read Gael’s serve with ease, breaking him in the middle of the set as Monfils double faulted when serving against the break. Monfils knowing Nadal was dialed in on his second serve, overcranked himself on first serves. Nadal didn’t have any problems to hold his serves then, though Monfils displayed some great shots and forehands.
Monfils looked deflated (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
In the second set Monfils kept having problems holding his service, though he served 11 aces. Nadal returned too well and Monfils had problems staying focused on the match, put on a show and tried to hit many hot shots which didn’t get in. The crowd was delighted, but it didn’t help his game, he even laughed a lot and didn’t appear to be taking things too seriously. Monfils tried to strike at Nadal’s topspin on grass, the problem is you do a lot of UEs if you don’t move well enough to get every ball. Nadal didn’t have many problems dictating the rallies, predicted Monfils’ shots in the right spots and could let him move a lot. The very charismatic person – that’s how Nadal described Monfils – lacked the get up, did some great shots, but a double fault and a very silly backhand smash which went right into the net sealed Nadal’s break and just like in the first set he didn’t have problems to hold his last service game to win in a surprisingly short match 6-3, 6-4.
Nadal’s forehand worked very well a lot of times, but failed at crucial moments too. Nevertheless his forehand improved a lot compared with the first practice sessions when almost all his forehands reached the net or were far and few between out. His service which has a slice kick, since it ‘skirts’ the returner was lethal this tournament. Nadal reached a grass court final for the first time since Wimbledon 2011 (l. to Djokovic).
Viktor Troicki played fantastically in the first set against Marin Cilic. The Croat didn’t seem to be fit, even at practice he looked very troubled and unhappy with himself. Marin lost his first service game and had a rusty start to the match as he couldn’t put his plan into action to attack with his forehand. He committed too many unforced errors at the beginning of the match and didn’t have the depth in his shots to let Troicki on the baseline, Viktor could move forward often and approach to the net. He played an all-round solid first set and struggled in just one service game. Cilic had a chance at four break points but he couldn’t convert due to good serves and good shot selection, aside from that Cilic didn’t have the power in his shots to force errors. Nonetheless the Serb returned very well and the Croat had issues during his service games: Troicki had even set points on Cilic’s serve. Troicki’s groundies were good and he often varied, so Troicki had the rhythm to break Cilic.
Troicki (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
In the second set Marin had issues and had to take the medical timeout, Troicki lost his rhythm to win the match in two sets. Both had more problems with their serves and long rallies took place in the second. Cilic started to return better as time went by and his shots had the depth they had previously lacked. Troicki found his keys to success again and returned very well at later stage of the set, many returns landed on the line. Cilic faced pressure, but many serve winners kept him in the match. Troicki also matching him with big serves, so the second set had to be decided in a breaker. Troicki didn’t have any chance in the breaker and Cilic redlined his game. Troicki by contrast committed unforced errors in crunchtime and wasn’t clutch enough.
In the third set Cilic had Troicki behind him as he won the rallies, returning well, and broke Troicki, but thanks to a pair of poor backhand errors, he failed to keep the break in hand and the te match was even again. Troicki saved himself after a very long service game, with three break points gone for Cilic. The breaker had to decide a set yet again, and therefore the whole match. Contrary to the second set tiebreak Cilic committed many unforced errors, above all with his forehand. He was more nervous than Troicki, perhaps feeling the pain of losing break point chances in the third set. Troicki took advantage of the situation, and served the match out 6-3, 6-7(1), 7-6(2). Vik achieved his first grass final ever and his second ATP final in 2015 (Sydney).
The crowd applauded Troicki (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
Final: Nadal d. Troicki in 2
Before the match it was clear Nadal was the favorite. At his press conference he didn’t want to put himself under pressure and was even more relaxed than probably the tournament director and journalists were at his day before the final. Sweltering heat featured on the final day in Stuttgart and these were probably the best conditions for Rafael Nadal, a player of great stamina. It was a sell out like the past three days and this year’s tournament goes down in the history as one of the most successful ones ever for the Mercedes Cup. Both players,vying for a coveted Mercedes car, got a big cheer after their entry to the stadium, Nadal of course the fan favorite, but both looking comfortable playing in Germany.
Troicki served first and got off to a strong start. The Spaniard returned well in the beginning but wasn’t given time to rip his groundies.Troicki began with solid baseline game and good shots to keep the ball in play. Nadal committed the unforced errors at the beginning, and especially in his service game. A wrong shot selection, some tricky misses and a very good return granted Troicki the first break point. Nadal could save his serve with backhands crosscourt, and a great forehand down-the-line passing winner to get his game point and convert it with an ace. Troicki seemed unfazed and served again like he did at the beginning. He made the better start as he served better than the Spaniard and had more free points. Nadal won his service games after very long and exhausting rallies, exhausting particularly for Troicki. Nadal’s forehand down-the-line wasn’t as effective as usual, and Troicki began even to win the longer rallies. As time went by, Nadal could feel more comfortable with his forehand. He began to touch the lines with depth, and got more offensive in his service games, winning them without effort. Both served very well in the first set, but couldn’t hold a good level in returning. They won the service games more or less smoothly, apart from Nadal’s first one, and still needed time to adjust to the others game. Suddenly Nadal served two double faults serving at *3-4 and but managed to win the game then with huge services.
Troicki started strong (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
Troicki was the one winning routine service games at this point, Nadal couldn’t return as well as he did against Monfils the day before. Whereas Vik sometimes returned great. and posed problems for Nadal. The Spaniard still held his service games and the breaker had to decide the first set. Though Troicki played a bit better and was leading in the most aspects, the Spaniard, known for clutch play, rose to the occasion. He won the first point Troicki served and extended his lead winning two more mini-breaks. The second time Troicki lost his serve was because of a double fault and he gifted his third point on serve due to a forehand unforced error. Troicki, who had a great shot selection before the breaker, began to fail too often at the important points and Nadal took the first set. as Troicki began to fold after he lost the first three points.
Nadal started again to serve very well in the second set and moved well on and behind the baseline. He anticipated more and more Troicki’s shots which slowly became powerless, and had the perfect answers to Troicki’s tests. Though Nadal’s forehand wasn’t at its classic best, his baseline game was enough for Troicki, who had many problems when forced to hit on the run. The Serb too often missed the sweet spot of his shots and was not in the zone, his shots also started to lack depth but Rafa still missed his chances to break Viktor. As Vik, how friends and players call him, served for the second time in this set, I heard Nadal’s uncle Toni Nadal, who was right behind him in the stands at this moment, shout very briefly in a very cryptic Spanish: “Play point to point”. Nadal began to play very aggressively, passed Troicki with his backhand and started to return sharply. A double fault vanished a good run of two won points. Toni Nadal must have realized his nephew was a bit too nervous, always thinking in games and his uncle tried to remind him what they talked about earlier in a subtle way.
Rafa was clutch on serve (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
Troicki felt the pressure as Rafa raised his level and finally lost his service. His poor second service was the result of a failed first one which was a very close call. Troickiwas confused a bit as Lahyani already started to say ‘Let…’, but the linesman called it out and Nadal just nodded. Troicki didn’t challenge and his second serve wasn’t threatening enough, a forehand UE clinched the break. This exchange shows how important the mental side of the game is in tennis, and Troicki failed a crucial test. It was the only break point in the third set and thus perhaps the most important point of the match. After getting broken Troicki faded and Nadal servbotted his way to holds without worrying about securing a double break.
As I sat in the first row, it seemed to me Nadal was a bit fraught, his uncle tried to motivate him and keep the pressure on but after a great serve-and-volley to have two match points, Troicki pushed one final time. Long rallies and some great winners happened, at deuce Nadal played a very harmless volley at the net and Troicki responded with a backhand into the net. He yelled and was off the wall, the Spaniard gained the control again to close the match with a smash winner. A very good match which had its highs and lows, but more highs and the deserved winner was Rafael Nadal 7-6 6-3.
Nadal adds sorely needed ranking points as he had slipped down in the rankings, nearly outside the top 10, while Troicki moves up to 25.
Many Rafa-fans have shown up in Stuttgart and he didn’t disappoint the fans! He took his time, gave many autographs and took a lot of photographs with spectators and supporters. Even the press conferences were always relaxed as he gave detailed answers. Congratulations, Rafael Nadal, on your third Mercedes Cup (he won it twice on clay). Stuttgart showed great appreciation and love for their champion.
Rafa was great with fans! (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
It should also be noted that Florin Mergea and Rohan Bopanna won their second ATP title of the season in doubles over Alexander Peya and Bruno Soares.
Bopanna and Mergea won the dubs (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
Monfils, Cilic reach semis @Mercedescup ATP Stuttgart 2015 Friday Andreas Thiele for Tennis Atlantic
Nadal advances to the semis (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
Seventh day of this year’s ATP Stuttgart and it was at the beginning a very hot day. Later on it got very cloudy and bad weather arrived in Stuttgart. It rained at about one hour and the match between Groth and Troicki had to be moved to the Mercedes Court which is not televised. The rain delay didn’t change anything as just three matches were played. Before those two matches Nadal played against Tomic in the Center Court and won deservedly in three sets.
Gael Monfils had the right keys to beat Philipp Kohlschreiber who was not looking sharp against Frenchman. Monfils broke in the first game, only to get broken back. Monfils broke his serve again at five all, as Monfils changed his return position. His balls were really long and sliced and Kohlschreiber’s slices went many times today into net. He also couldn’t bring the power to extort Monfils during rallies. Monfils anticipated very well and could read Kohli’s weak serves. Monfils served out the set out after his break, the rhythm of Le Monf bothering Kohli. In the second set Kohlschreiber served well again and Monfils let the German’s service games slide. Monfils couldn’t find his focus anymore and started to commit many unforced errors. Kohlschreiber benefited from these and could break very early in the second set with some beautiful forehand winners. Monfils shots became short and Kohli consolidated the break.
Monfils couldn’t gain a foothold anymore in this set and Kohlschreiber stayed focused to not lose his serve. Monfils had three break points again as the Bavarian served for the set. The Frenchman lost these break points just a bit too easily, played too risky and had the wrong shot selection. For example: At set point he played an unnecessary and failed half volley, though he was almost at the net. Over and above his down-the-line shots didn’t reach the lines they used to. He wasn’t moving well the whole second and the beginning of the third set.
Le Monf (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
He slipped many times, hurt himself and Kohlschreiber couldn’t level up his return game, when Monfils had signs of almost giving up the match. After the first three games in the deciding set Monfils had to take a medical time out, Kohlschreiber lost his rhythm due to this. Monfils was passive during this service game and just waited for the unforced errors the German many times committed. With the break in the bag Monfils served the match out, without any problems. Kohlschreiber’s backhand slice doesn’t work with Monfils who loves to return them with the power and strength he has. Monfils defeats Kohlschreiber 7-5, 3-6, 6-3.
Monfils’ next opponent Rafael Nadal had problems too in the second set. He could have easily closed the match out in two, but he fiailed to pressure Bernard Tomic, who moved poorly today, on serve. In the first set, Tomic had few chances to break as Nadal was strong on both wings. Though the Australian hit some jaw dropping winners, he didn’t have the consistency to put pressure on Nadal, who swung freely. In the second set Tomic started poorly with an opening game break. Tomic appeared to be behind the ball timing was and lacked aggression. Nadal moved better, hit some great returns. Most of all Nadal served unbelievably with 14 aces and many more nonreturnable serves. Still, Nadal got immediately re-broken, as he was too inattentive for a few seconds and Tomic didn’t waste his opportunities to hit the winners for the break. Though he was in the match again, he had more problems holding his serve than Nadal.
Rafa on the trot (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
Tomic didn’t change anything to make the match more exciting at this point, just hoped to not get broken. The second set would go to an eventual tiebreak with ease. As the breaker started, bad weather approached and it got very cloudy, you couldn’t see the sun anymore. Leading with a mini-break Nadal kept the balls longer in play to attack Tomic’s groundstroke flaws, but after another long rally Tomic hit this unbelievable forehand down-the-line winner as Nadal was at the net to get the mini-break back. Both serving very well until 6 all Tomic hit another unreturnable serve to get his first set point. Nadal felt the pressure he was in at this point, double faulting to gift Tommic the set. In the third set Nadal established his serve and the in Stuttgart born Australian still had his flaws during the rallies. Nadal played his forehand down-the-line winner to get the break point, he converted with a good forehand, and Tomic just committed another backhand UE. The Spaniard served it then out and didn’t have any problems holding his serves, Tomic lost 4-6, 7-6(6), 6-3.
After Nadal’s match it suddenly began to rain, so we had a rain delay of about an hour. Organizers realized they couldn’t play two matches on the Centre Court, so they moved the match between Viktor Troicki and Sam Groth It was a competitive match, with Troicki finding success attacking Groth’s backhand. Both played a fantastic Serve and Volley and both faced two break points they couldn’t convert due to strong serving by their rivals. Troicki stood more behind the baseline than Groth and was overall a better returner, whereas Groth served better than the Serb. In the breaker the baseline game decided the outcome of the match, Troicki returned really good and dictated the rallies, Groth struggled when blocked from approaching the net. After quality deep shots, Troicki forced Groth in successive volley errors. Troicki converted his first set point on his serve thanks to his great Serve-and-Volley and a smash winner after a bad lob return. The second set went byquickly, Groth couldn’t gain a foothold in the match and got broken two times, as Troicki returned to the line and very long. The Australian’s one dimensionality had been exploited and he didn’t have any clue how to change it. Troicki with very good returns and very good serves held to defeat the serve-and-volleyer Groth 7-6(3), 6-1.
Troicki will face Marin Cilic who after an abysmal start could turn the match over in two tiebreaks against an in-form Mischa Zverev. The German profited from a rusty start by the Croat who committed many unforced errors. By the time he started to serve better and to hit his auspicious forehand shots in the second set. Zverev stood many meters behind the baseline, and couldn’t manage to get many break opportunities and to break him. Though he played a great baseline game and Cilic had many problems with his serve, at the end Cilic served too strong and Zverev couldn’t handle this in the second set. A double fault decided the first tiebreaker to the advantage of Cilic. Cilic got suddenly nervous too and couldn’t hold his serve as Zverev notched up his performance and with the crowd behind him.
Both servers could hold their nerves and their service games until the second breaker. Cilic once again played very clutch in the breaker and hit a return winner on the line, as Zverev moved forward to the net. Cilic lost his match point on his serve and Marin just had one more in the breaker. Zverev served and volleyed, but Marin hit an unbelievable lob winner touching the base line. Cilic won the match and defeated a very strong Mischa Zverev in three 4-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(5).
Zverev, Tomic reach Quarterfinals @Mercedescup ATP Stuttgart 2015 Thursday Andreas Thiele for Tennis Atlantic
Nadal-Baghdatis went 3 sets (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
It’s the sixth day of this year’s ATP Stuttgart tournament and it was another hot day after quite a while. Not only the weather was perfect, today’s schedule was very interesting as we saw Nadal’s first appearance on the Center Court in a singlels match, along with Marin Cilic. The veteran Tommy Haas played his second match against Bernard Tomic who’s finding his form for grass and Mischa Zverev, upset Andreas Seppi. Zverev previously had a promising career that was derailed.
Thursday 2nd round matches
Everyone expected the name Zverev on today’s schedule here, but it’s more surprising Mischa was the one who played. Getting support from his whole family in the box, Mischa Zverev started perfectly. He kept in the long rallies both were playing and Seppi with his variation in shots just let the German move, but Zverev wanted these long rallies to as he was waiting for errors the Italian hit when he tried for winners. Zverev especially moved very well on the baseline and on grass overall, giving the Italian a small margin for error on his shots. The German played very defensively and didn’t approach to the net, knowing Seppi’s strength with passing shots.
Zverev is talented on grass (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
As the match went on, the South Tyrolean got more passive and stayed behind the baseline. He tried to build up the points from behind to finish them aggressively at the net. Zverev realized this and the rallies became longer. Zverev sliced the ball almost always in the break service games he won twice. The German had a perfect start with the double break and held his service games to win the first set. He served very well and tried to avoid playing on the Italian’s forehand since he hit some awesome forehand cross winners on the line. However, the more defensive Seppi got the his shots became, Zverev could have decided the games earlier with some risky forehands, but he preferred to stay in the rally and waited for a Seppi error. The returns were another crucial advantage for Zverev. Seppi couldn’t serve very well today, so Zverev could read his serves and hit some great returns. Whereas Seppi couldn’t manage Zverev’s hard serves and its variation. Seppi could hold his serve twice in the first set, but didn’t have any chance to break him, as long as Zverev even played very good serve-and-volley at his last service game of the set. He served too consistently well and benefited from Seppi’s UE at the end too.
Second set started better for Seppi, he started to serve better and Zverev was more expectant, not as aggressive and effective as the first set. Zverev focused at the beginning more on his service games, approached more often to the net and Seppi had his chances for passing shot winners he sometimes was successful with, but Zverev was really powerful and it was difficult for Seppi to control the ball and massage it. However, Zverev let Seppi’s service games slide and he got much stronger. His groundgame shots were more on point, and his game began to have more depth, on the other side Zverev couldn’t hold his high level of returning he had in the first set. Both players showed no signs of breaking before a tiebreak. Suddenly Zverev tried to hit more top spin and Seppi more slice, in contrast to the first set, and Seppi’s slice shots were a real threat for the German.. Slice shots were a great choice as the court was very fast and had a low bounce, a good slice causes many problems for both with its low bounce.
After his period of weakness Zverev started to return more aggressively and the Italian had problems again with his serve, the German had two breakpoints. He started to play again with a real big depth causing Seppi more problems. A backhand down the line went out and after a long rally. Zverev stayed in the rally, varied with short slice and long forehands to the line. Another backhand UE into the net bestowed the break on the German and he served it out to win it in two sets, 6-2 6-4.
Another German who had hopes to get into quarterfinals was Tommy Haas in his second match after his comeback. He was the underdog against the in Stuttgart born Australian Bernard Tomic and had the problems with his serve. He couldn’t serve very well, rather very slow (1st service with an average speed of 155 km/h) and was easy to return for Tomic. Haas won the points due to good rallies and UE Tomic committed. The German veteran had many problems, when Tomic played the balls very long to the baseline and wasn’t able to return them properly. Besides the UE’s Haas hit some great winners, especially fine tuned volleys. The Australian stayed behind the baseline, waited more during rallies and suddenly hit a winner, while Haas had problems with his shoulder to keep up his offensive game. His returns were just so-so and Tomic held with ease his serves in the first set. The German was often too slow to react to Tomic’s whipped serves until the tiebreak. Haas moves very well on grass, Tomic waited for his shots, but Haas wasn’t that patient and committed hasty errors with many forehand UE.
Tomic in action (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
The 1st set breaker began with a good cross-court rally and very beautifully finished with a backhand down-the-line shot for Tomic. The young gun won the first mini-break with another backhand down-the-line winner, just to hit a too long forehand afterwards. Tomic was the more aggressive player now in the breaker and wanted to finish it off quickly, but the backhand missed the line and Haas got the first set point on his serve. Haas applied his good serve-and-volley, but Tomic’s down-the-line passing shot was just too good for the veteran. At 8-7 Haas served again, but after a weak return Haas committed the next forehand UE.
Just like in second set’s tiebreaker Haas can’t level up his game again and had too many UE, hitting poorly with forehands. His game wasn’t up and he couldn’t get off his unforced errors. He went too early on winners, just like in the return game after his serve and missed quite a few. On return, Tomic raised his level taking an overwhelming 0-40 advantage. Haas served well then until 30-40, then Tomic and Haas played a long slice rally. Bernie’s backhand slice cross court was in, touching the line, but someone from the crowd shouted very loudly ‘out’ and Haas thought a linesman called it out. After a long discussion which lasted around three minutes, the hawkeye demonstrated the ball went in. Leading with double-break Bernie served the match out. The big hitter and big server won the match in two sets without facing any breakpoint and converted his fourth match point for a 7-6(6), 6-2 score line.
14 time grand slam champion Rafael Nadal next took to center court. Nadal began the match a little bit rusty and wasn’t moving well at all, allowing Baghdatis to get an early break. After he lost his serve Nadal couldn’t raise his level, the Cypriot even had three break points for the double break, that he didn’t convert. Nadal’s backhand saved him the service game and could break him after his held serve with ease due to Baghdatis’ unforced errors. Nadal started to move better on grass and to adapt his game to the surface, adjusting from clay, his favorite surface. After he survived another three break points and saved two because of good serving, he really took the control of the match and approached more often to the net. Nadal returned very well, but he still hasn’t the feeling for the right shot selection before the breaker and his forehand lacking is something which is a big flaw for his game right now. Nadal won the first mini-breaks with an incredible backhand down-the-line lob winner as Baghdatis served and volleyed very well, but the Spaniard could reach the ball yet. Though he lost the mini-breaks again, the lefty was lucky Baghdatis’ backhand down-the-line shot went out and served the breaker out.
In the second set Nadal broke him because of forced errors Baghdatis committed, but the Cypriot could re-break him again and was still in the match. His backhand failed three times, and the forehand UE into the net ended the service game. Nadal’s forehand still missed at important points the lines it had to or his forehand landed in the net. He moved well after a while, especially on the baseline, but was maybe a bit too fast reaching balls and thought too much about what to do. Nadal’s forehand was shaky overall, he didn’t have the full control, but his backhand and net approaches were really nice and he had the right feeling when to move forward to the net.
Rafa (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
Baghdatis played well, but couldn’t move that well to cover the whole court for Nadal’s shots. His slice shots were really threatening for Nadal, as he doesn’t like to put his whole weight on his knees I reckon. Marcos returned very well and could read Nadal’s serve like in the breaker which had to decide the set again. Nadal played better again at the beginning than before, but Baghdatis returned too well twice at 5-4 and the Spaniard committed once again two UE with his forehand.
In the third set Marcos started to serve very well, yet lost his concentration already at the second service game. Nadal started to return very much better. A return on the line gave him the break and another good return and good shot on the line ended the match. Nadal played better in the third set, served quite well and his serve-and-volley worked, Marcos lost his concentration and ran out of gas. All in all a deserved win for Nadal after the third set, could have lost the match in two if Baghdatis would have been more clutch. Furthermore, Nadal looked a bit unsure on grass at the beginning, but won confidence game by game. Everybody was kind of surprised of the tiebreak Nadal lost, also because of two good but lucky (i.e. close) returns which were very long. His game got deeper and his good shot-selection in the 3rd set he didn’t have was the key for a good relaxed last set. Nadal wins 7-6 (5), 6-7 (4), 6-2.
Marin Cilic defeated Matthias Bachinger 7-6 (2), 6-3. The Croat practiced his serve a lot today and was on point serving after he got broken in the middle of the set. It was a very nervous start, many unforced errors, but as Bachinger served for the set Cilic returned too well and dominated the rallies. Even in the breaker Cilic was too dominant and could return Bachinger’s serves very well, though he ran back and forth. Bachinger could hold Cilic’s pace, but just reacted and Cilic hit a winner at the end of a rally. Cilic returned very well again the second set and could break him after really beautiful rallies both could stand out. Cilic’s power and depth triggered the home German to start cramping after the first set. However, all in all he played a really good match today given his ranking. Cilic needed his backhand to click. Bachinger played a great tournament. If he gets the consistency he can certainly qualify for the next tournaments including Wimbledon.