Weekend preview – June 17-18, 2017

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The first weekend of the grass-court tuneup season is missing Roger Federer.

But in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands, the top four men’s seeds have reached the semifinals.

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No. 2 Alexander Zverev (a wild card) will face No. 4 Gilles Muller of Luxembourg, followed by No. 1 Marin Cilic vs. No. 3 Ivo Karlovic in a clash of tall Croats.

On the women’s side, only the No. 5 seed (Ana Konjuh) and the No. 7 seed (Lesia Tsurenko) remain to fight for the title. 

Konjuh will face 20-year-old Russian Natalia Vikhlyantseva, while Tsurenko will play Anett Kontaveit of Estonia.

Zverev (the elder) in Stuttgart

In Stuttgart, neither Federer nor sentimental favourite Tommy Haas (who defeated Federer in the second round) are left for the semifinals.

But the German fans will have a rooting interest – No. 6 seed Mischa Zverev will face Spanish lefty Feliciano Lopez. The other semifinal is an all-French affair between No. 4 seed Lucas Pouille and Benoit Paire.

In Nottingham, the women’s WTA International event still has home-country top seed Johanna Konta in play. Konta also is in the doubles semifinal with Yanina Wickmayer. The British pair of Jocelyn Rae and Laura Robson is in the other doubles semi.

Second-week starts up

Meanwhile, the four tournaments featured in Week 2 of the grass-court season will start up with the qualifying events.

The men have a pair of 500-level events in London at Queen’s Club, and in Halle, Germany.

Roger Federer will play Halle, as he usually does. Queen’s Club won’t have Rafael Nadal or Juan Martin del Potro as expected. But the roster is excellent with Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, Milos Raonic and Marin Cilic among the top 10, along with Nick Kyrgios.

For the women, next week is a tougher one. The tournament in Birmingham, designated a Premier-level event, has been plagued with a host of withdrawals among players ranked in the top-25.

withdrawals
Birmingham is going to be a tough sell next week, with so many highly-ranked players having pulled the plug on participating.

World No. 1 Angelique Kerber is still on board. And with the pullouts from Karolina Pliskova and Simona Halep, there is no imminent threat to her top-dog ranking.

Sun, and Vika

The weather is likely to be better at the International-level event in Mallorca, although the field obviously isn’t the same.

But that tournament will feature the return, after more than a year and one baby son, of former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka. Another player who has been out all season, Sabine Lisicki, also is scheduled to return. And Canadian Genie Bouchard is in the house. So the blonde quota is most definitely met.

You never know, the fans there might even have a Nadal sighting. The tournament director is his uncle Toni. And even though he won’t be playing at Queen’s, he’ll surely be looking for some grass-court practice.

Watch the Queen’s Club draw

The draw for the Queen’s Club tournament will be live on the tournament’s Facebook page Saturday at noon (7 a.m. EDT)

As that’s happening, the qualifying will be going on. And 2016 junior Wimbledon champion Denis Shapovalov has received a wild card into the qualies.

Shapovalov, 18, will debut a new Yonex racquet after playing most of his life with Wilson.

preview

It’s a risky thing to do mid-season, just for the matter of a few dollars. Ask Novak Djokovic, Caroline Wozniacki and more recently, Agnieszka Radwanska how much time they lost in making the transition. Even if the sticks have similar specs, there’s still that familiarity factor  – that ability to count on your equipment in the clutch. That takes a lot of time to regain.

The Stuttgart semifinals will be live on Tennis Channel Saturday morning. As for ‘s-Hertogenbosch – and all the women’s action, you’ll have to search a little. Pretty dire.

The Mallorca Open draw will be Sunday at 1 p.m., Mallorca time.

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