Tennis - Grass court season preview
World number one Novak Djokovic made it third time lucky yesterday when he finally won the French Open, beating Britain's Andy Murray in the final 3-6 6-1 6-2 6-4. Murray looked on course for an upset when he raced through the first set playing the type of tennis that beat Djokovic in the final of the Rome Masters, but his dreams were short lived, as he failed to maintain this level and this allowed Djokovic to storm back.
The world number one reeled off the next two sets for the loss of only three games and while Murray put up some resistance in the fourth set, it was to little to late for the second seed, and Djokovic held on to win his 12th Grand Slam in total. By winning the French Open Djokovic now holds all four Grand Slams and also joins an elite group of only eight players to have completed the Career Grand Slam, which includes names like Perry, Laver, Agassi and Federer.
The French Open brings to a close the first half of the European Clay Court season and both tours now switch to the grass courts of Europe in the lead up to the third Grand Slam of the season at Wimbledon. The grass court season gets underway this week with two ATP 250 tournaments in Germany and Holland and two WTA Tour events in England and Holland.
The transition from clay to grass has proved to be a difficult one for many players on the ATP and WTA Tours and the below Profit/Loss table illustrates this in terms of how well the top five seeds in each grass court tournament over the last six seasons performed if you had opposed them in each singles match to a level 1 point stake.
Grand Total 76.24
Grand Total 41.14
The Profit and Loss figures are to a level 1 unit stake and going back 6 years ie 2010-2015. Profit and loss returns have been omitted for matches where the top-five seeds played each other, for walk overs and in-play retirements.
The above tables demonstrate that it's definitely worth opposing the top-five seeds at Halle, Queens and s-Hertogenbosch on the ATP Tour (except Djokovic, Murray and Federer) and at s-Hertogenbosch on the WTA Tour, both from a match betting and tournament betting perspective.
On to this week's ATP action and there are two grass court events, the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart, Germany and the Ricoh Open, in s-Hertogenbosch, Holland. World number three and top-seed at Stuttgart this week Roger Federer returns to the ATP Tour after missing the French Open due to a recurring lower back problem. Since reaching the semi-finals of the Australian Open Federer has had knee surgery and because of this and a subsequent lower back problem he has only played two tournaments at Monte Carlo, where he reached the quarter-finals and Rome where he lost in the third round.
The top-seed has not performed that well at Stuttgart over the last decade winning the title only twice and they were never a losing finalist in this period, which does not bode well for Federer's chances this week even before taking his injury problems into account. However, he's most at home on grass and with little in the way of serious opposition in his half of the draw I would suggest waiting to see how he performs in his opening match to assess how well he's playing before deciding on your betting strategy.
Second seed Marin Cilic is also very at home on grass and will be difficult to stop reaching the final this week if he play anywhere near his best. However, history is not on his side as the second seed has never won the title over the last decade and they were a losing finalist only twice in this period, the last time in 2013. Seeded players in general have a good record at Stuttgart; a player seeded no higher than five has won six of the last ten titles, including the last three, and a player seeded no higher than eight has been a losing finalist six times over the last decade.
Unseeded players have a reasonably good record at Stuttgart over the last decade and there were three winners during this period, the last time being in 2012 and there have been three losing finalists in this period, the last being in 2014. Looking at seeded and unseeded players who could go well this week and 2015 finalist and sixth seed Victor Troicki would be of interest if he wasn't drawn to meet Federer in the quarter-finals.
In the bottom half of the draw seventh seed Philp Kohlschreiber (12/1) usually performs well on home soil and is worth siding with to follow up his Munich title. He reached the quarter-finals here last year, losing to Monfils in three sets. He has an easier draw this year and is drawn to meet second seed Cilic in the quarter-finals, but has leads the head-to-head 6-3, which includes a three set win at Rotterdam indoors this year.
Marcos Baghdatis (33/1) also resides in the bottom half of the draw and is also worth backing this week. He's unseeded this year due to his world ranking of 39, but he's been in reasonably good form over the last 12 months and plays his best tennis on quicker surfaces. He reached final at Dubai this year, which is has notoriously fast conditions, and has a decent career record on grass winning 43 of his 71 matches.
He's drawn to meet fourth seed Simon in the second round and their head-to-head is 3-3, but Baghdatis won all three encounters on faster surfaces at Brisbane 2013, Dubai 2010 and Halle on grass 2007. He also has a 5-2 winning head-to-head record against Kohlschreiber, who he's drawn to meet at the semi-final stage. This includes two wins on grass at Halle 2007 and s-Hertogenbosch 2006. The one player who he would not want to meet is Cilic, who he's drawn to meet in the semi-finals. He has a 5-1 losing head-to-head record against Cilic, but hopefully he'll avoid meeting Cilic and meet either Kohlschreiber or a lower ranked player who he'd have a better chance against.
At s-Hertogenbosch top seed David Ferrer will attempt to win a third title this week having lifted the trophy in 2008 and 2012. In the bottom half of the draw defending champion and eighth seed Nicholas Mahut will also attempt to win a third s-Hertogenbosch title having lifted the trophy in 2013 and 2015. Second seed Bernard Tomic will be glad to be back on a more familiar surface after another disappointing clay court swing.
The top-two seeds don't have a particularly good record at s-Hertogenbosch over the last decade; the top seed has won two of the last ten titles, the last coming back in 2012 when Ferrer won and they have never been a losing finalist in this period. The second seed has won one of the last ten titles, the last coming back in 2007 and they have never been a losing finalist in this period, which does not bode well for Tomic's chances this week.
Seeded players in general have a reasonably good record over the last decade and a player seeded no higher than three has won five of the last ten titles, but has only won the title twice over the last seven seasons (2014 and 2012). Also, a seeded player no higher than seven has been a losing finalist four times over the last decade, including four of the last six (2015, 2013, 2011 and 2010). Unseeded players have a good record winning five of the last ten titles, the last time being 2015 when Mahut won as a Qualifier, and they were a losing finalist six times in this period, the last time being 2014.
Of the seeded players taking part this week top-seed Ferrer (two grass titles), third seed Karlovic (two grass titles and three finals), fifth seed Sam Querrey (one grass title and two finals), sixth seed Seppi (one grass title and two finals) and eighth seed Nicholas Mahut (three grass titles and two finals) appeal the most based on their career record on grass, which is streets ahead of the majority of other players in the draw. The only other player to come close to the quartet is the unseeded veteran Ram in the bottom half of the draw, who has won two grass court titles at Newport, USA in 2009 and 2015.
Of this group of players Sam Querrey (9/1) from the bottom half of the draw appeals the most at the prices, as there are question marks over Mahut's fitness, after he withdrew injured at the French Open recently. Mahut is also in Ram's and Tomic's section of the draw, which could make his task of winning this week even tougher. With unseeded players having such a good record, including qualifiers, it's worth highlighting a couple of big priced outsiders that could go well this week.
In the bottom-half of the draw Ram (16/1) has the experience and ability on grass to go well, while young 20 year old Russian 6ft 6" Daniil Medvedev (50/1) impressed during qualifying, beating top seed Kravchuk and fifth seed and experienced veteran Zverev easily in straight sets. With a booming serve at his disposal and the advantage of two matches on the surface already under his belt, which should give him an advantage over his main draw opponents, he could spring a surprise at a big price.
Finally, from a first round match betting perspective Ram, Pospisil and Querrey should win their respective matches and can be backed in a treble at just over 4/1.