The grass season is in full swing and one of the showpiece grass events on the Men’s tour begins this week in London. The AEGON Championships was previously a 250 event but has been upgraded to 500, meaning that the draw has now been reduced to a 32 player draw rather than the usual 56. Sixth seed Grigor Dimitrov looks to defend his title, with an in-form Andy Murray his biggest threat. The Scot is a three time champ at the event, winning in 2009, 2011 and 2013.
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Murray can meet Dimitrov in the quarter finals if seedings hold. An incredibly flat performance last year at Wimbledon saw him sent packing by the Bulgarian in straight sets, coming as a major shock despite Dimitrov’s perceived potential. Before that, Murray must first defeat former Wimbledon quarter finalist Yen Hsun-Lu. The qualifier can often be tricky on grass but lost in straight sets to Murray last time they faced on grass, at Wimbledon in 2013. A Spaniard awaits in round two, be it Fernando Verdasco or Roberto Bautista Agut. Verdasco notably held a two set lead over Murray in the quarter finals the year he won the tournament, showing he can be a tough out on the surface while Bautista Agut has a grass title to his name in ‘S-hertogenbosch 2014.
Defending champion Dimitrov will probably need to navigate two tricky big servers to make the quarters. Sam Querrey’s serve will be a massive weapon on the surface although Dimitrov has won their only meeting. Gilles Muller will be full of confidence coming off a semi final in the Netherlands while already boasting a win over Dimitrov this year in Rotterdam. Mikhail Youzhny will hope to spoil proceedings but the 2012 Wimbledon quarter finalist’s form in 2015 has been disastrous.
Marin Cilic famously won this event in 2012 after David Nalbandian’s disqualification for hitting a line judge. He tried to win it the conventional way in 2013, falling to Andy Murray in the final. The Croatian will have been disappointed to have not made his first grass final at the weekend, losing from a break up in the final set in his semi final match. He will open against Adrian Mannarino while the other seed while another Frenchman is a possible second round opponent in qualifier Paul Henri Mathieu. More likely though, Cilic will have the chance to avenge his loss against Troicki in the second round.
Last year’s losing finalist Feliciano Lopez has always proven a tricky player on grass with his lefty serve and following volley and has three Wimbledon quarter final appearances to his name. He opens against Joao Sousa while a tiebreak festival could be on the cards in round two if John Isner can win. Lopez played 9 tiebreaks in total at last years tournament. Isner faces the highly touted American prospect, Jared Donaldson, who qualified after getting a wildcard.
Gilles Simon was scheduled to open his tournament against -s’Hertogenbosch finalist David Goffin although the Belgian had neck pain his defeat to Nicolas Mahut so may rest up rather than make the journey to London for this event. Thanasi Kokkinakis stands between a possible all-French second round with Jeremy Chardy. The Australian now has received six main draw wildcards this year, although being from a slam country will account for at least two of them. It will be Kokkinakis’ first main draw match on grass so will be interesting to see how he goes.
After skipping the French Open, Milos Raonic should be raring to go and is in a section of the draw that he will fancy his chances in. Raonic begins against home wildcard James Ward while Richard Gasquet should await in round two if his head to head over Simone Bolelli is extended to 6-0. Gasquet is 1-2 against Raonic although he did win a marathon five setter at the US Open in 2013.
What a difference a week has made for Rafael Nadal, with the doom and gloom surrounding him after his loss to Novak Djokovic at the French Open. Fast forward 10 days and the Spaniard is celebrating a title at the new event in Stuttgart after beating Viktor Troicki in the final. His stats were mightily impressive in the final, winning 42/49 on first serve and saving his only break point faced. Nadal will begin against Alexandr Dolgopolov while a second round against Pablo Andujar or Guillermo Garcia-Lopez is awfully kind for such a stacked draw.
Stan Wawrinka will play his first match since the French Open and will be ripe for an upset against Nick Kyrgios if the Australian can bring his grass form of last year to the table. Kyrgios made the quarter finals, memorably beating Rafael Nadal on the way there. Wawrinka’s grass form has never been all that great although he was a quarter finalist at last year’s Wimbledon. It could be a meeting between Australia’s old and new hopes in round two if wildcard Lleyton Hewitt can surprise Kevin Anderson. Hewitt is winding down his career and was given a wildcard for what should be his last Queens event. Hewitt is a four time winner at Queens as well as a one time champion at Wimbledon, taking the title in 2002.