"Approach Shots" is Ricky's weekly look at what's ahead on the ATP Tour.
Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer? Not too happy that the spring clay-court season is over. Roger Federer and Andy Murray? Thrilled.
Federer and Murray will kick off the grass-court swing this week in Halle and London, respectively. The veteran Swiss headlines a Halle draw that also features No. 2 seed Richard Gasquet, defending champion Tommy Haas, Milos Raonic, and Jerzy Janowicz. Whereas Federer at least reached the final at the Rome Masters and the quarters at Roland Garros, Murray won only three clay-court matches in three tournaments before skipping the French Open. The Scot is back in action at Queen’s Club, where he is joined by Tomas Berdych, Juan Martin Del Potro, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and 2012 winner Marin Cilic.
Where: London, England
Prize money: 683,665 Euros
Top seed: Andy Murray
Defending champion: Marin Cilic
Draw analysis: Returning from almost one full month away from tennis due to a back injury, Murray could not have asked for a much better draw. The world No. 2, who is 14-4 lifetime at this event with two titles, drew the weakest of the 5-8 seeds (Alexandr Dolgopolov) in his quarter and his nearest seed is clay-courter Pablo Andujar. Looming relatively large for Murray is a possible opening match against Nicolas Mahut. The veteran Frenchman has been out of form (in singles), but he upset Murray at the same stage of last year’s Queen’s Club tournament and he is also a former finalist. Murray is on a semifinal collision course with Tsonga, a matchup that would likely be more problematic than one against Del Potro—who landed in Berdych’s half of the bracket. Tsonga should have little to no trouble before a potential quarterfinal clash against Kevin Anderson.
Berdych could face Cilic in the last eight, but the defending champ will be hard-pressed make it that far. The slumping Croat is expected to begin his title defense against countryman Ivan Dodig and all-court player Julien Benneteau is a possible third-round adversary. It’s hard to imagine Berdych having any issues prior to the quarterfinals, and maybe not even until the semis or final. Del Potro, meanwhile, missed the French Open like Murray and has not played since the Rome Masters. The Argentine has no grass-court threats in his half of the third section, but the other side will almost certainly produce a worthy quarterfinal opponent. Sam Querrey, Grigor Dimitrov, and Lleyton Hewitt headline one of the more difficult pods in the braket.
First-round upset alert: Ryan Harrison over (13) Jarkko Nieminen. Nieminen is in the midst of a stellar season, but the brief grass-court interruption is by far his least favorite part of every year. The 31-year-old Finn is an amazing ball-striker who wants time to set up for his shots, something which the slick stuff does not always allow. Furthermore, Nieminen’s serve is the weakest part of his game and he generally has to break his opponents several times in order to stay in matches. That’s also a more difficult task on the lawn. Harrison is no grass-court specialist, himself, and his 2013 campaign has been a disappointment. However, the 21-year-old American advanced one round at Roland Garros and pushed John Isner in an entertaining five-setter.
Hot: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Kevin Anderson, Benoit Paire, Grigor Dimitrov, Lukas Rosol, Jarkko Nieminen
Cold: Andy Murray, Juan Martin Del Potro, Alexandr Dolgopolov, Nicolas Mahut, Bernard Tomic, Lleyton Hewitt, Sergiy Stakhovsky
Quarterfinal predictions: Andy Murray over Lukas Rosol, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga over Kevin Anderson, Grigor Dimitrov over Juan Martin Del Potro, and Tomas Berdych over Julien Benneteau
Semifinals: Murray over Tsonga and Berdych over Dimitrov
Final: Berdych over Murray
Gerry Weber Open
Where: Halle, Germany
Prize money: 683,665 Euros
Top seed: Roger Federer
Defending champion: Tommy Haas
Draw analysis: This literally might be the most lopsided 32-spot draw in the history of tennis. Breaking it down into groups in which they go into the proverbial sorting hat, Federer is obviously superior to Gasquet, Haas is better than Kei Nishikori, and of the 5-8 seeds the combination of Raonic and Janowicz is far stronger than Philipp Kohlschreiber and Florian Mayer. Well…Federer, Haas, Raonic, and Janowicz are all in the top half of the bracket. As if that isn’t enough, consider the placement of the unseeded threats. Ernests Gulbis, Marcos Baghdatis, Gael Monfils, Daniel Brands, and David Goffin find themselves in the top half. All five of those guys are arguably more dangerous than the second best unseeded player in the bottom section, where Mikhail Youzhny is most likely to do damage as an unseeded floater.
Haas, who is playing doubles with Federer in Halle, has the most difficult draw of anyone. The 35-year-old German likely awaits familiar foe Ernests Gulbis in the second round before a possible quarterfinal showdown against the big-serving Raonic. Haas and Federer, of course, are on a collision course for the semis. Federer would first have to get past either Cedrik-Marcel Stebe or a qualifier then hold off Janowicz. On the other side, 2011 champ Kohlschreiber has a great opportunity to make a return trip to the final. The No. 6 seed will be a heavy favorite in his first two matches before a possible date with either Nishikori or Youzhny. Similarly, Gasquet has a favorable path in the last quarter of the draw.
First-round upset alert: Marcos Baghdatis over Ernests Gulbis. The top four seeds have byes and the other four should be able to progress through the opening round, but Baghdatis over Gulbis would qualify as an upset even though they are both unseeded. Based on current form, Gulbis is a massive favorite. While the Latvian is 20-8 at the ATP level this season, Baghdatis has lost in the first round of his last seven tournaments—including one Challenger. On the bright side, the Cypriot is 4-1 lifetime against Gulbis (although they have not faced each other since 2010) and Gulbis generally performs better on clay and hard courts than he does on grass. A surprise here cannot be expected, but it is not entirely out of the question.
Hot: Roger Federer, Richard Gasquet, Tommy Haas, Kei Nishikori, Philipp Kohlschreiber, Ernests Gulbis, Daniel Brands
Cold: Florian Mayer, David Goffin, Philipp Petzschner, Marcos Baghdatis, Jurgen Melzer
Semifinal predictions: Roger Federer over Milos Raonic and Philipp Kohlschreiber over Richard Gasquet
Final: Federer over Kohlschreiber
Comments and your own predictions are appreciated!
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|1. Djokovic||12 500 pts|
|2. Murray||8 750 pts|
|3. Federer||8 670 pts|
|4. Ferrer||6 970 pts|
|5. Nadal||6 385 pts|
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