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Tennis• Ricky’s Preview and Predictions For The Beginning Of Grass In Stuttgart And ‘s-Hertogenbosch

By Ricky Dimon

 

Tennis has been played on Rafael Nadal’s personal playground for the past two months. Now that the French Open is over, the tour moves to Roger Federer’s stomping grounds: grass. It begins this week in Stuttgart and ‘s-Hertogenbosch, with Federer headlining the former along with Nick Kyrgios and Milos Raonic.

 

Ricky previews this week’s two tournaments and makes his predictions.

 

Mercedes Cup

Where: Stuttgart, Germany

Prize money: 656,015 Euros

Top seed: Roger Federer

Defending champion: Lucas Pouille

 

Like he did in 2017, Federer bypassed the clay-court swing to rest up for grass. And why not? It worked out perfectly for him in 2017. The Swiss actually lost right away at this Stuttgart event to Tommy Haas, but he triumphed both in Halle and at Wimbledon without surrendering a single set. Another strong field and difficult draw awaits him this week, featuring a likely opener against Germany’s own Mischa Zverev, a potential quarterfinal date with Denis Shapovalov, and possible semifinal adversaries in Kyrgios and Feliciano Lopez. Kyrgios’ first singles match of his latest comeback from injury could be a rough one against Maximilian Marterer.

 

The other wise of the bracket is more wide open, with two of the three seeds either slumping (Lucas Pouille and Tomas Berdych) or rusty (Raonic). Philipp Kohlschreiber may be able to convert on his opportunity in front of the home crowd, but he could have a tough time of things with capable grass-court player Denis Istomin in round one. Pouille, the No. 2 seed and possible quarterfinal foe for Kohlschreiber, cannot be discounted as Stuttgart’s defending champion.

 

First-round upset possibility: Denis Istomin over (5) Philipp Kohlschreiber. Kohlschreiber is the definition of an all-court player, so he should not have much trouble making the transition from clay to grass. Thus the German is an obvious favorite in this one, but an upset is not out of the question. Istomin leads the head-to-head series 4-2 (3-2 at the ATP level), including 1-0 on grass (4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 in the 2011 Wimbledon first round). The Uzbek has won one of his two career titles on grass (2015 in Nottingham).

 

Semifinal picks: Roger Federer over Feliciano Lopez and Philipp Kohlschreiber over Tomas Berdych

Final: Federer over Kohlschreiber

 

 

Libema Open

Where: ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands

Prize money: 612,755 Euros

Top seed: Adrian Mannarino

Defending champion: Gilles Muller

 

French Open doubles champ Nicolas Mahut is not playing, so everyone else has a chance! Okay, that is a bit of an exaggeration; but it is true that Mahut has won this tournament three of the last five seasons. The defending champion, however, is back; Muller, also the Den Bosch runner-up to Mahut in 2016, aims for a third consecutive final appearance in what looks like a relatively soft top half of the draw. The Luxembourgian’s opener, though, could be a problem because both Matthew Ebden and Pierre-Hugues Herbert (Mahut’s Roland Garros-winning partner) can be dangerous on grass with their net-charging tactics. If one of the semifinals turns out to be Muller vs. Mannarino, a free lesson in grass-court tennis would ensue.

 

Gasquet, Karlovic, Fernando Verdasco, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Robin Haase, and Daniil Medvedev will be among those battling it out on in the bottom half. Karlovic and Haase are going head-to-head in an intriguing first-rounder, while Gasquet and Tsitsipas are on a collision course for the quarters.

 

First-round upset possibility: Ivo Karlovic over (6) Robin Haase. They went head-to-head in the ‘s-Hertogenbosch quarters three years ago, when Haase scraped through 6-7(4), 6-4, 7-6(3). Their only other encounter came in 2007 at a clay-court Challenger in Croatia and—not surprisingly—it also featured two tiebreakers (Haase won 7-6(12), 7-6(5)). In general, however, it is no secret that the Dutchman is an underwhelming tiebreaker player. Almost any Karlovic grass-court match is a 50-50 bet, so this will come down to who can serve better on the biggest points.

 

Semifinal picks: Adrian Mannarino over Gilles Muller and Richard Gasquet over Ivo Karlovic

Final: Mannarino over Gasquet

 

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

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