Wimbledon is a week away and in this shortened grass court swing the players have only one more week to get themselves attuned to the green stuff ahead of the All England Club.
This week’s grass tournaments are both ATP 250s: the Viking International in Eastbourne and the Mallorca Championships.
Sean Calvert will be taking his rain jacket and umbrella to Eastbourne this week and ahead of the action there he brings us his outright preview of both tournaments in week 25 of the ATP Tour.
We were out of contention early on in week 24 in Halle and Queen’s thanks to a truly woeful performance from Lorenzo Sonego and a disappointing one from Daniil Medvedev.
Medvedev downed our double on him and Matteo Berrettini after losing from 1.09 in-play against Jan-Lennard Struff in Halle and at the time of writing Berrettini is into the final at Queen’s Club.
Conditions and trends
We’re in Majorca and Eastbourne in this pre-slam week and while we know pretty much what to expect at Devonshire Park, the Mallorca Championship is making its debut on the ATP Tour this year, so conditions are unknown.
They’ll play on grass at the Santa Ponsa Tennis Academy in Santa Ponsa, Majorca, and it looks like it’ll be nice and sunny all week, with highs of around 27C in the shade.
Contrast that to the tournament that I’ll be attending this week – Eastbourne – where it’s set to rain on and off all week long, so it’s likely to be a very frustrating sort of a week at Devonshire Park.
I’ll be there from Monday to Wednesday, so expect a bunch of ‘get a roof’ tweets and the like for those days.
As well as rain there’s also wind to contend with usually in Eastbourne and it’s not usually the quickest of surfaces here either – more a medium-paced grass surface in years gone by.
Three of the last five winners of Eastbourne have been unseeded and the number one seed has only been successful here once in the nine editions of the tournament so far (Djokovic in 2017).
Qualifiers don’t have the best record, with only two players from the qualie draw having made the quarter finals in Eastbourne since Frank Dancevic did it in its maiden year on the tour in 2009.
After being dumped out of Halle in the opening round, Daniil Medvedev took a wild card into Mallorca and is our top seed this week.
Medvedev will surely want as much court time as possible pre-Wimbledon in this rather shorter grass swing for most players, but he may well be challenged first up by the man we backed in Stuttgart at a big price, and that’s Lloyd Harris.
When Harris made the quarters in Halle and was favourite to make the semis I did think I may have backed him a week too early, but he showed in a quarter final loss to Nikoloz Basilashvili (played in very hot conditions) that he’s still not quite got the movement on this surface.
The grass will presumably be quite different in Majorca (probably drier and less slippery) so that could help Harris and it wouldn’t shock me if he did take down Medvedev (assuming that Harris beats Moutet in round one).
Aside from Harris and Medvedev this section of the draw looks rather weak in terms of grass court quality, with Tennys Sandgren perhaps the only one that could possibly spring a surprise in Q1.
Sandgren can be effective on grass and he really should be beating Jaume Munar and the winner of Casper Ruud (two career matches ever on grass) and the fading Gilles Simon.
Q2 is also dominated by clay courters, with Jordan Thompson (and perhaps the qualifier that ends up being placed in this quarter, although most in the qualie draw are Spaniards) the only one in Q2 likely to class grass as something like their best surface.
Pablo Carreno Busta is 2-8 win/loss on grass and Thompson seems the obvious choice to progress from this quarter, but I’m not much of a fan of Thompson and I’d want bigger than 22-1 about him winning the title.
The bottom half of the draw looks much harder to call, with many more players in it that are comfortable and competent on grass and they include: Ugo Humbert, Miomir Kecmanovic, Sam Querrey, Roberto Bautista Agut, Adrian Mannarino, Feli Lopez, Karen Khachanov and Jan-Lennard Struff.
Dominic Thiem won Stuttgart in 2016, beating Roger Federer en route to that title, but he’s done little on the green stuff since, and Thiem comes here after a really poor clay swing, so he’s hard to fancy this week.
His opening match looks difficult against either Struff or Mannarino and the Austrian is readily opposable this week for me.
Thiem’s Q4 looks tough to call, with Khachanov, Lopez, Struff, and Mannarino all capable of taking advantage and Mannarino is perhaps the one I’d take a chance on at a price of 50-1.
Manna’s form has been poor, but he hasn’t forgotten how to play on grass and I’m not sure he should be quite as big as 50-1 to win an ATP250 on grass and at that price I’ll take the chance on a player who’s gone well in this pre-slam week in the past.
And the man I’ll go with is in the adjacent quarter is Miomir Kecmanovic, who also has form on grass in a pre-slam week (made the final of Antalya in 2019) and the Serbian could spring a bit of a surprise over the likes of Humbert, Bautista Agut and Querrey in this section.
I’d expect conditions here to be similar to those in Antalya – and similarly hot, but not quite as boiling as Antalya was – and after struggling through the clay swing on a surface that’s too slow for him the Serb should be looking forward to this week.
He has a tough one first up in Humbert, but the Frenchman is still playing in Halle at the time of writing and it’ll be a tough turnaround for Humbert, plus Kecmanovic has beaten him in three of their four career meetings.
Querrey doesn’t look the force of old and while Bautista Agut made the Wimbledon semis in 2019 he hasn’t made a final on grass since I tipped him to win Rosmalen back in 2014 and he was comfortably beaten by Seb Korda in Halle last week.
Viking International Eastbourne
Number one seeds have a poor record in Eastbourne and that looks likely to remain the case after this week, with Gael Monfils being the top seed.
Monfils did actually make the final here in 2017 (lost to Djokovic) but that’s the only time he’s ever made a title match on grass in the 29 tournaments he’s played on the surface at main level.
Lamonf’s Q1 also features a couple of qualifiers, who may have a chance in this section, but the interesting one from the main draw for me is Emil Ruusuvuori, who hasn’t played much on grass but could have the game for it.
He hasn’t shown much yet in the few matches he’s played, but it’s too early to write him off yet and in Albert Ramos he’s got a fairly limited opponent on the surface in round one.
Cam Norrie has shown much improved form on grass this past week at Queen’s and is an obvious threat in this quarter, but his price of around 8-1 this week isn’t that appealing due to that Queen’s Club run.
In Q2 it would be sod’s law if the man we backed last week, Lorenzo Sonego, went deep this week, but on his performance at Queen’s it’s hard to trust him again this time.
Egor Gerasimov is 1-8 win/loss on grass, while Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet are past their best and may go a few rounds, but seem unlikely winners (Gasquet retired at the Nottingham Challenger on Saturday).
Alexander Bublik has the game to do damage on grass, but I’m not sure he fancies the surface that much on the evidence of his tanked second set tie break against Jack Draper last week and his price is too short.
John Millman hasn’t shown enough on grass while Jay Clarke hasn’t shown much at main level.
The bottom half features Alex De Minaur as the high seed in Q4, with Nikoloz Basilashvili the other seeded man to get a bye in this half of the draw.
Basil had a good week in Halle, but he needs to be a big price before I back him (especially on grass) and the winner of Reilly Opelka and Alexei Popyrin could have a shot at winning Q3 ahead of Basil.
We backed Popyrin in Stuttgart, but he was poor and came up against a motivated Dan Evans at Queen’s and now he faces another tough round one opponent in Opelka.
I’m not sure that Opelka has enough away from his serve on this surface at the moment, as John Millman highlighted at Queen’s Club, and maybe Popyrin could finally get his grass swing underway this week in Eastbourne.
Laslo Djere is very beatable on grass and I’m not overly impressed with either Marton Fucsovics or Aljaz Bedene on the surface either, so Popyrin is an option at a decent price.
The other possible option is Vasek Pospisil, who was a little unlucky to lose in two tie breaks to Marcos Giron last week in Halle in two tie breaks.
Giron went on to make the quarters and maybe Pospisil is worth an interest in Q4, given that James Ward and Liam Broady don’t look up to it and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina probably isn’t suited to the grass.
Frances Tiafoe has been playing well on the grass so far this swing and is another option, but at the prices I prefer Pospisil at 22-1.
De Minaur should fancy his chances given the draw, but he’s too short for me given the level he’s shown lately.
In Mallorca I’ll take two in the bottom half at what looks value prices: 33-1 Kecmanovic and 50-1 Mannarino (both Bet365) and in Eastbourne, I’ll take Pospisil at 22-1 and hope for some dry weather there this week.
0.5 points each-way Kecmanovic in Mallorca at 33-1 (Bet365)
0.5 points each-way Mannarino in Mallorca at 50-1 (Bet365)
0.5 points win Pospisil in Eastbourne at 22-1 (Bet365)