Wimbledon came to an end yesterday for another year and Serena Williams made history on Saturday by winning a seventh women’s title and, more importantly, matching Steffi Graff’s elusive 22 Grand Slam wins. She gained revenge against Kerber, who defeated her in the Australian Open final this year, coming through 7-5 6-3 to defend the Venus Rosewater dish she won in 2015.
The men’s title was won by my ante-post selection, Andy Murray (9/2), who produced a masterful display of returning to thwart Canada’s Milos Raonic 6-4, 7-6, 7-6 in yesterday’s final. Murray’s performance was on par with his 2013 win when he defeated Djokovic in straight sets and the way he dealt with Raonic’s serve, which at times was up at the 140mph mark, was mesmerising to watch.
This was Murray’s second Wimbledon title and third Grand Slam in total, which all came under the watchful eye of Coach Ivan Lendl, who Murray had re-employed after losing an eighth Grand Slam final against Djokovic at the French Open. It’s plain to see what Lendl brings to Murray’s game and, while there were some negative histrionics at times over the last fortnight, it was nowhere near as bad as the abusive and negative berating of himself and his team, which had become a regular sight when Lendl was not in his corner.
The ATP tour returns this week and it’s a busy one with no less than three tournaments; two clay court events in Europe with an ATP 500 event at Hamburg in Germany and an ATP 250 event at Bstaad, Sweden along with the final grass court tournament of the season over in Newport, USA.
I will focus on the ATP 500 clay court event at Hamburg, Germany first as it’s attracted the best quality field with the likes of home hopes Kohlshcreiber (seeded one) and teenage sensation Zverev (4), who both perform strongly on home soil, Paire (2), who strangely does not line up at Bstaad to defend his title this year and multiple clay court title winners Cuevas (3) and Almagro (6).
Individually the top two seeds don’t have the best record at Hamburg over the last decade. The top seed has won two of the last ten titles (last 2015 when Nadal won) and was a losing finalist twice in this period (last time Ferrer 2014). The second seed has also won two of the last ten titles (last time Davydenko 2009) and was a losing finalist only once in this period (Nadal 2007).
Seeded players in general have a good record at Hamburg over the last decade and a player seeded no higher than 12 has won eight of the last ten titles and a player seeded no higher than 15 was a losing finalist eight times in this period. Unseeded players don’t have the best record at Hamburg only winning two of the last ten titles (last time L. Mayer 2014) and they were a losing finalist twice in this period (last time Delbonis 2013).
Veteran Kohlschreiber and teen sensation Zverev both reached the semi-finals here in 2014. Kohlschreiber already has one clay court title to his name this season, which he won on home soil at Munich while Zverev has reached his first ATP finals this season at Nice on clay and Halle on grass. However, no German player has won here over the last decade and, with only one finalist in this period and a busy first half of the season for both players, I advise avoiding both on this occasion.
Cuevas is a prolific winner at this level and has won two clay court titles this season (both in South America) and he also reached the final at Nottingham on grass recently so has to be respected this week. However, he faces a tricky first rounder against Wild Card and home hope Florian Mayer, who stormed back to form recently winning the title at Halle on grass after an injury ravaged couple of seasons. Mayer holds a 2-0 head-to-head advantage against Cuevas, including a straight sets win here back in 2010, and with this in mind I advise backing Cuevas for the tournament, but only if he wins this first round encounter.
Veteran and sixth seed Almagro (14/1) is a prolific winner of clay court titles at this level and has to be respected this week. He’s already won one title this year at Estoril and reached one final at Buenos Aires. He’s drawn to face Cuevas or Mayer in the quarter-finals, has a 4-0 losing head-to-head record against Cuevas, but a 3-1 winning head-to-head record against Mayer and a 6-4 winning head-to-head record against Kohlschreiber, who he could face at the semi-final stage. He fits the profile of seeded players winning the title over the last decade and, with eight of the last ten winners coming from Europe, he also ticks this box.
The bottom half of the draw looks fairly open with fourth seed Zverev the stand out player in terms of form this year. Second seed Paire will be motivated to do well this week as he’s defending ranking points after winning Bstaad this time last year and 2014 Hamburg winner Leonardo Mayer (25/1) looks overpriced as he’s usually a very consistent performer at this level on clay and could spring a surprise at big odds.
At Bstaad, two time winner Ferrer (2007 and 2012) lines up as the top-seed with multiple ATP tournament winner Sousa seeded two. Two time Bstaad quarter-finalist Ramos-Vinolas is seeded three and multiple ATP title winners Granollers (4) and Verdasco (5) also line up for a shot at this year’s title.
The top two seeds have performed reasonably well at Bstaad over the last decade and the top seed has won two of the last ten titles (last time Ferrer 2012) and was a losing finalist twice in this period (last time 2010). The second seed has won three of the last ten titles (last time 2009 Soderling) and was a losing finalist twice in this period (last time Robredo 2015).
Seeded players in general also have a good record at Bstaad and a player seeded no higher than four won seven of the last ten titles and a player seeded no higher than eight was a losing finalist eight times in this period. Unseeded players have performed well at Bstaad in recent years winning the last three titles and they were a losing finalist twice over the last decade (last time Monaco 2009).
With veteran David Ferrer’s form this season well below his best this could finally be the tournament and year when compatriot Ramos-Vinolas (9/1) finally delivers on his potential and wins his first ATP tournament at the ripe old age of 28.
His best performance prior to this week on the ATP Tour was a final appearance at Casablanca in 2012 but 2016 has arguably been his best season so far reaching a career high ranking of 32 last month and a first Grand Slam quarter-final at the French Open, where he beat Sock and Raonic before losing to Wawrinka. He receives a first round bye so only has to win three matches to reach the final and, with his quarter of the draw looking more than winnable as all the players are ranked outside the top 50, he has every chance of reaching the final and challenging for his first ATP title this week.
The bottom half of the draw looks a lot more competitive with the likes of 2014 winner and second seed Sousa and multiple clay court title winners Granollers and Verdasco lining up. With that in mind, I’ll swerve the bottom half of the draw and just stick with one selection in Ramos-Vinolas for this tournament as he fits the profile of a seeded player reaching the final and the fact eight of the last ten winners were European, including five Spanish players.
At Newport American Steve Johnson, who had a superb grass court run in Europe this year winning the title in Nottingham and ten matches in a row, returns to Newport as the top-seed. Two time finalist (in 2014 and 2015) Karlovic returns as the second seed again and the likes of Muller (3), Baghdatis (4) and Mannarino (6) will no doubt be in the mix come the business end of the tournament.
The top two seeds don’t have a good record at Newport. The top seed has won two of the last ten titles (last time Isner 2012) and has never been a losing finalist in this period. The second seed won one of the last ten titles (last time Santoro 2008) and was a losing finalist twice in this period (last time Karlovic in 2015).
Seeded players have a fairly good record at Newport and a player seeded no higher than five has won six of the last ten titles (last time Hewitt 2014) and a player seeded no higher than eight was a losing finalist eight times in this period (last time Karlovic 2015). Unseeded players have performed reasonably well at Newport over the last decade winning four of the last ten titles (last time Ram 2015) and they were a losing finalist twice in this period (last time Hewitt 2012).
History suggests an experienced big server and grass court specialist, possibly from America as they’ve won five of the last ten titles, will win this week. At the time of writing there were no tournament prices available for Newport so I’ll give this tournament a miss from a tipping perspective on this occasion.