Saturday, 20 June 2009

The Grasscourt Month

As we approach Wimbledon, I’ve been trying to sort through the last fortnight’s warm-up tournaments for any clues. The most valid of these events are those at Queen’s Club ( Men ) and Eastbourne ( Women ).

Andy Murray just confirmed at Queen’s what we’ve all worked out over the last couple of years – he is a world class player who simply has to win a grand slam to be seen as Britain’s finest ever. The three main Americans – Roddick, Blake and Fish – will all be competitive , as will Karlovic. My eye was also drawn to a man with grass court pedigree – Nicholas Mahut – who got a couple a wins under his belt before losing to Karlovic. Whilst everyone has Federer pencilled in for the semis, his quarter does include some real dangers on grass – Tsonga, Mahut, Karlovic, Soderling and Kohlschreiber. Finally, the woeful display of Eduardo Schwank suggests Wawrinka might be worth backing on Tuesday, even at 1.07.

The Eastbourne men’s tournament brought forward a couple of names seen regularly at Wimbledon – Dmitri Tursunov ( the winner ) and Janko Tipsarevic ( got a couple of games under his belt ), but little that will worry the higher seeds. Frank Dancevic made the final after coming through qualifying, so may be worth opposing in his Wimbledon opener due to likely tiredness.

Halle proved little, apart from that Tommy Haas, who could have wrecked his season by the manner of his defeat to Federer in Paris, bounced back superbly to win the title, and that grass may bring a halt to Fernando Verdasco’s charge up the rankings.

s’Hertogenbosch was just a poor tournament. It ended with a final between two limited bangers – Benny Becker beating the local, Raemon Sluiter (ranked 866 after missing a year), but will no doubt be remembered more for the dodgy betting patterns in the Hernandez / Koellerer ‘contest’. I feel a little sorry for Oscar Hernandez. His name becomes associated with match-fixing, but he can only play what’s put in front of him. How Ferrer managed to lose to Ivan Navarro ( spanish translation of Navarro – ‘journeyman’ ) is beyond me – lost £20 on that. Another couple of names worth opposing at SW19 stood out – Florent Serra and Daniel Gimeno-Traver.

The women’s event at Eastbourne saw early carnage amongst the seeds, leaving Caroline Wozniaki to continue her rise towards the top of the game, after an impressive run defeating a host of competitive players through the tournament – Kleybanova, Stosur, Makarova and Wosniak – although she struggled to see off Razzano in the final and seemed to be vulnerable when leading. The Serbians, Jankovic and Ivanovic, are still struggling for form, so it’s a little tough at the moment to look past the Williams sisters and Safina for Wimbledon (not that I’d completely discount Sharapova).

The other tournaments at Edgbaston and s’Hertogenbosch saw wins for two ladies capable of causing problems to higher ranked players on grass – Magdelena Rybarikova and Tamarine Tanasugarn. The finalist in Holland, Yanina Wickmayer, reached the final at Edgbaston last year and is also obviously comfortable on this surface. Three others made an impression – Aleksandria Wozniak, Francesca Schiavone and Melinda Czink. Sadly, Wozniak and Schiavone meet in the first round, but I’ll certainly be on Melinda Czink to take out Mauresmo in her opener at 3.0+.

Wimbledon will be frustrating for me, missing most of each day due to work, but I’ll have a look for a few to back with enough confidence to leave open. I may even post my selections – that’ll blow my 100% tipping record on the blog!

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