ATP preview – Week of June 19

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What used to be the first official week of grass-court play, with the longstanding ATP events in Halle, Germany and at Queen’s Club in London, is now the second week. So grass is in full swing.

And except for the players who are nursing injuries, all of the top 20 are in action with the notable exceptions of French Open champion Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

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No wonder. Each tournament offers nearly 2 million Euros in prize money, and both venues are lovely. The Halle tournament features a retractable roof atop Gerry Weber Stadium. So it’s rather more weather-proof.

The forecast is for temporatures in the 80s and very little rain in the forecast in London, which is welcome news. Conditions will be similar in Halle although the chances of rain increase next weekend. By then, with the roof, it will no longer be a factor.

Here’s a look at who’s playing where, who’s not playing, and how the draws may shake out.

Aegon Championships

Place: London, England
Dates: June 19-25, 2017
Prize money: €1,966,095
Category: ATP 500
Draw sizes: S32 – D16
Surface: Grass

American Jack Sock, who was the No. 8 seed, was a late scratch with a knee injury. So his good pal Nick Kyrgios (who was sporting a sleeve on his knee in practice) became the No. 9 seed.

The early rounds feature a few country vs. country clashes: Janko Tipsarevic vs. Viktor Troicki, No. 5 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Adrian Mannarino and, notably, No. 1 seed and defending champion Andy Murray vs. Aljaz Bedene.

Bedene appeared to be planning to play the Halle tournament. But having received direct entry into Queen’s Club because of some withdrawals there, he made the switch to his home turf.

From the very first round, in addition to the matches mentioned above, there are some high-level clashes.

No. 2 seed Stan Wawrinka, trying to build towards a first Wimbledon title, drew Feliciano Lopez of Spain in the first round. Always tough on grass, Lopez is in the final Sunday in Stuttgart.

Milos Raonic, a finalist in 2016, will play Aussie wild card Thanasi Kokkinakis. The Murray-Raonic final was, it turned out, a perfect preview for the Wimbledon final three weeks later.

No. 4 seed Marin Cilic will play big-serving John Isner, having just lost in ‘s-Hertogenbosch to big-serving Ivo Karlovic. And No. 6 seed Grigor Dimitrov, who is no kind of form, gets feisty American Ryan Harrison in the first round.

The tournament will heat up from the very first balls struck.

Queen’s Club has undergone some renovations this year, adding some 2,000 seats to the stadium court. Given it’s in a very residential area, the improvements there have been impressive.

However, they may well have weather-jinxed themselves with this Tweet.

Projected quarterfinal matches:

[1] Murray vs. [5] Tsonga
[4] Cilic vs. [9] Kyrgios
[3] Raonic vs. [6] Dimitrov
[2] Wawrinka vs. [7] Berdych

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Gerry Weber Open

HallecourtPlace: Halle, Germany
Dates: June 19-25, 2017
Prize money: €1,966,095
Category: ATP 500
Draw sizes: S32 – D16
Surface: Grass

The true grass-court home of Roger Federer will see the Wimbledon maestro try to get more matches in. He lost his first grass match to old friend Tommy Haas in Stuttgart, Germany last week.

Some of the more dangerous opponents – young guns Alexander Zverev and Dominic Thiem, shotmakers Gaël Monfils and Dustin Brown, are in the other half of the draw.

(A hopeful sign that Monfils is healthy: he just entered the final grass tuneup in Eastbourne next week).

The strength of field isn’t what it is at Queen’s, although the prize money is the same.

Draw quirk: Kei Nishikori and Fernando Verdasco, a random pairing in the doubles, were drawn to meet each other in the first round of singles. To add insult to (draw) injury, they drew the No. 1 seeds in doubles in the team of Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo.

First-round matches to watch: [5] Gaël Monfils vs. countryman Richard Gasquet, and wild-card Tommy Haas vs. Bernard Tomic. 

Projected quarterfinal matches:

[1] Federer vs. [6] Pouille (in the Stuttgart final Sunday)
[3] Nishikori vs. [8] Ramos-Viñolas
[4] A. Zverev vs. [7] Bautista-Agut
[2] Thiem vs. [5] Monfils

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