"Approach Shots" is Ricky's weekly look at what's ahead on the ATP Tour.
The grass-court “season” just started and now it’s about to end with Wimbledon on the immediate horizon. First, though, players get one last chance to fine-tune their games at 250-point events a week before the year’s third Grand Slam. A pair of Top 10 players is in action; David Ferrer is attempting to defend his ‘s-Hertogenbosch title, but he could be challenged by Stanislas Wawrinka. Eastbourne, meanwhile, features four men ranked between 15th and 20th in the world. By the standards of weeks leading up to majors, this one has already overachieved.
Where: Eastbourne, Great Britain
Prize money: 468, 460 Euros
Top seed: Milos Raonic
2012 champion: Andy Roddick (not playing)
Draw analysis: Milos Raonic is looking to get his game on track—under new coach Ivan Ljubicic—in time for Wimbledon. In an effort to emerge from a minor slump, the top-seeded Canadian cannot be disappointed with his draw. His nearest seed is Fabio Fognini, who is far more capable on clay or slow hard courts. Potential seeded semifinal opponents for Raonic are Juan Monaco and Alexandr Dolgopolov; neither is on fire at the moment and both would rather face Raonic on a slower surface. The world No. 15’s toughest test prior to the title match may come right away against the winner of a first-rounder between Ivan Dodig and Denis Istomin.
A deeper, more difficult bottom half of the bracket features Gilles Simon and Philipp Kohlschreiber with opening-round byes. The only former Eastbourne champion in the entire field is Andreas Seppi, who is on a collision course with Kohlschreiber for the quarterfinals. Simon should cruise into the quarterfinals before likely meeting the winner of a difficult first-round matchup between Kevin Anderson and Julien Benneteau. Also in the last quarter of the draw is Bernard Tomic, who is enduring a mighty struggle both on and off the court right now.
First-round upset alert: Fernando Verdasco over (6) Alexandr Dolgopolov. Verdasco is actually starting to play decent tennis. He has advanced at least one round in each of his last three tournaments and all of his losses in that span went the distance—including a 7-6(3), 6-1, 3-6, 5-7, 8-6 setback against Janko Tipsarevic at Roland Garros. It is Dolgopolov who has been even worse of late. Not counting walkovers, the Ukrainian has won back-to-back matches at ATP tournaments only once since Memphis is February. He is coming off a second-round showing at Queen’s Club, where he was ousted by Benjamin Becker. The only previous encounter between these two ended in Dolgopolov retirement after Verdasco had won the first set 6-0 last year on the clay courts of Rome.
Hot: Kevin Anderson, Jarkko Nieminen
Cold: Milos Raonic, Alexandr Dolgopolov, Martin Klizan, Radek Stepanek, Bernard Tomic
Semifinal predictions: Milos Raonic over Fernando Verdasco and Philipp Kohlschreiber over Julien Benneteau
Final: Kohlschreiber over Raonic
Where: ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands
Prize money: 410,200 Euros
Top seed: David Ferrer
Defending champion: David Ferrer
Draw analysis: Ferrer and Wawrinka do not have terrible draws at the Topshelf Open, but their opening matches could be extremely difficult. The top-seeded Spaniard will begin against accomplished grass-courter Xavier Malisse, who advanced one round at Queen's Club before losing to Juan Martin Del Potro 7-5 in the third. Wawrinka is going up against big-hitting Dutchman Igor Sijsling, who played well on clay and also won two main-draw matches at Queen’s Club before succumbing to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-5, 5-7, 6-3. Ferrer, whose nearest seed is a slumping Marcos Baghdatis, should have no trouble reaching the semis and maybe even the final as long as he gets past Malisse. The case may be similar for Wawrinka, who is on a collision course for the quarterfinals with Jeremy Chardy.
For several reasons, the match of the first round is Benoit Paire vs. Michael Llodra. They are both playing well, the draw will open up for whoever wins, and—best of all—they do not like each other. The Paire-Llodra winner will be expected to reach at least the semifinals. In the top half of the bracket, Ferrer vs. John Isner would pit an intriguing contrast of styles against each other in the semis. Isner has a good chance to advance that far, but a possible second-rounder against Robin Haase would not be easy.
First-round upset alert: Michael Llodra over (4) Benoit Paire. These two Frenchmen have already faced each other twice this season. Paire prevailed in three sets on the indoor hard courts of Montpellier before Llodra won 7-6(7), 6-2 in Miami. The more recent meeting featured bad blood right from the start, never improved, and did not end with any kind of handshake or acknowledgement. Reports are that things have improved since then, so anyone hoping for fisticuffs during this one may be disappointed. At the same time, you can be sure Paire and Llodra won’t be going to dinner afterward. Paire has an edge in current form, but grass should favor Llodra and the underdog even played relatively well in his last two clay-court tournaments.
Hot: David Ferrer, Stanislas Wawrinka, Benoit Paire, Igor Sijsling
Cold: Marcos Baghdatis, David Goffin, Thiemo De Bakker
Semifinal predictions: David Ferrer over John Isner and Benoit Paire over Stanislas Wawrinka
Final: Ferrer over Paire
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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