There are two final grass court Wimbledon warm-up events in advance of the big event next week, Tennis Signal returns to preview the tournaments…
Field quality mediocre in Antalya
Action got underway yesterday in Antalya with two matches on Sunday in a low-profile opening day on round one. Miomir Kecmanovic and Lorenzo Sonego got straight-set victories to get the tournament started, but neither player has considerable grass court pedigree and they remain outsiders to lift the trophy on Sunday.
Conditions in Turkey are likely to be fairly medium paced for grass courts, with 66.5% of service points won at the venue in the two years since it started in 2017, and 0.60 aces per games served – both numbers are similar to ATP mean grass court figures.
The field quality, as in previous years, is extremely mediocre. Today’s round one schedule is more akin to a Challenger Tour event, and the winners list is far from a who’s who of grass court legends – Yuichi Sugita and Damir Dzumhur have been successful in the two tournaments so far.
Mannarino tournament favourite after being twice runner-up
Adrian Mannarino is a common denominator in the two finals, being runner-up on both occasions, and the Frenchman has considerably more grass court pedigree than the majority of the field. He joins countryman Benoit Paire, Jordan Thompson and Pablo Carreno-Busta as seeds with byes in the first round.
On the Exchange, Mannarino, at around 5.00, has slight favourite status over Paire 5.40. Paire’s top quarter of the draw is extremely weak, with no rival player having above a 100% combined hold/break, while Mannarino’s is equally facile in the bottom quarter. Lorenzo Sonego and Janko Tipsarevic are probably the main threats in that segment, which says it all about the field quality here.
Gulbis worth a long-shot interest
Across eight main draw grass court matches across the last two years Gulbis is running at just over 102% combined hold/break on the surface. He faces a gift opener against wild card Altug Celikbilek, who has never played a main tour match on grass, and in a very weak field with long-shot winners in the past, he looks as good a long-shot bet as any.
Slower conditions expected in Eastbourne
Over in Eastbourne, conditions are expected to be a little slower. Across the last two years here (the event wasn’t held in 2015 or 2016) 64.0% of service points have been won and 0.50 aces per game served – a fair bit below the ATP mean grass court numbers. I’m anticipating that big servers may not derive quite as much benefit here as they tend to on the average grass court.
The out of form Kyle Edmund is tournament favourite in his home country, available at8.40 on the Exchange, with Steve Johnson marginally further back. A number of potential winners, including Queens finalists Gilles Simon and Feliciano Lopez are around the 15.00mark, along with the likes of Jeremy Chardy, Dan Evans, Sam Querrey and Taylor Fritz.
Higher calibre of entrants on the south coast
With a higher calibre of grass courter evident here (probably attracted by the greater prize money and less distance to Wimbledon following the tournament) we will probably get a decent player winning the tournament, although of the seeds, only Edmund has any grass court pedigree. The other three seeds with byes – Guido Pella, Dusan Lajovic and Laslo Djere – have largely reached their rankings on the basis of clay court performances.
Looking at the draw, there could be an opportunity for Simon to go deep again in consecutive tournaments. His bottom quarter of the draw is a gift, although there are several players in Q3 who could give him a tough semi-final. Fernando Verdasco, in that bracket, hasn’t achieved much on grass in the last couple of years but can’t be ruled out, while Sam Querrey – if fit – has shown a very decent level on the surface in recent years.
Johnson among those capable in the top half of the draw
In the top quarter of the draw, Steve Johnson looks to have as solid a chance as any in making it to the latter stages. He does face a tricky opener against big-serving Reilly Opelka today, although his American countryman hasn’t had as much success on grass (from a small sample of matches) as I’d expect, while Dan Evans, Jeremy Chardy and the aforementioned Lopez (assuming he’s not completely shattered after winning the singles and doubles combo at Queens) will have high hopes in Edmund’s second quarter.
Certainly I’m expecting a better quality of grass court tennis in Eastbourne than Antalya this week, and both tournaments look open affairs. I’ll stick with Gulbis as a small-stake long-shot in Turkey this coming week as our recommendation, before returning during the coming days with pre-draw and post-draw Wimbledon previews in advance of SW19.