Scouting Report: 20 Things To Watch In Stuttgart & 's-Hertogenbosch
An executive summary of what every fan should know about the coming week on the ATP World Tour
Now that Rafael Nadal has captured his 11th Roland Garros title, the ATP World Tour’s best shift their focus to the grass-court season, with two ATP World Tour 250-level events kicking off the six-week campaign this week.
Roger Federer leads the way at the MercedesCup in Stuttgart, Germany, competing in his first event since the Miami Open presented by Itau. The Swiss will be challenged by the likes of No. 2 seed Lucas Pouille, Australian Nick Kyrgios and #NextGenATP Canadian Denis Shapovalov. In ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Frenchman Adrian Mannarino is the top seed at the Libema Open. Defending champion Gilles Muller and 39-year-old Ivo Karlovic return to the tournament one year after playing in the oldest ATP World Tour final since Hong Kong in 1977 (Ken Rosewall vs Tom Gorman).
10 THINGS TO WATCH IN STUTTGART
1) Who’s No. 1?: Even though Nadal captured his 11th Roland Garros title Sunday, Federer can pass him for the No. 1 spot in the ATP Rankings on 18 June by reaching his first Stuttgart final. The Swiss is 2-2 at the MercedesCup.
2) GOAT On Grass: Federer is 164-24 lifetime on grass in tour-level matches with the surface’s best win percentage in the Open Era (.872) according to the FedEx ATP Performance Zone. After losing to Haas in Stuttgart last year, Federer swept 30 sets en route to his ninth Halle title and eighth Wimbledon trophy. He already holds the Open Era-record of 36 consecutive sets won on grass from 2003-04, which he could surpass in the Stuttgart final.
3) Flair for Drama: Pouille has saved match point en route to three of his five ATP World Tour titles, including 2017 Stuttgart, winning a reflex-volley exchange with Jan-Lennard Struff to fight off match point in his opening match. Pouille was the only player to win tour-level titles on grass, clay and hard courts in 2017.
4) Dangerous Wild Card: Former World No. 4 Tomas Berdych is among the wild cards this week. Berdych beat both Federer and Novak Djokovic on the lawns of Wimbledon in 2010 before falling to Nadal in his first Grand Slam final. The Czech won his lone grass-court title in a Federer-less draw at Halle in 2007.
5) Nick’s Return: Australian Kyrgios is scheduled to play his fifth singles tournament of the 2018 season, as he continues his recovery from a right elbow injury. Kyrgios has found success on the doubles court, capturing his first ATP World Tour doubles championship on 26 May in Lyon with Jack Sock.
6) No Place Like Home: Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany has earned 30 or more wins and finished inside the Top 50 of the ATP Rankings in each of the past 11 seasons. The key to Kohlschreiber’s success has come at home. The two-time Stuttgart finalist is 120-62 in Germany (.659) and 318-274 elsewhere (.537).
7) Canadian Duo: Milos Raonic was the No. 1 Canadian from 11 October 2010 through 20 May 2018 before #NextGenATP 19-year-old Shapovalov moved past him in the ATP Rankings. The countrymen clashed for the first time on 10 May in Madrid, with Shapovalov getting the best of Raonic 6-4, 6-4.
8) History Maker: Feliciano Lopez returns after falling to Pouille in last year’s final. The Spaniard is on pace to pass Federer and set an all-time record when he appears in his 66th straight Grand Slam main draw at Wimbledon.
9) Studs in Dubs: Pouille, Kyrgios and Shapovalov are among the singles stars signed up for doubles. Also in the draw are Struff and Ben McLachlan, who are 11-5 in their first season as a team. The German and Japanese reached the semi-finals at the Australian Open, Miami and Budapest.
10) Rudolf Rising: Another wild card is home favourite Rudolf Molleker, a 17-year-old. The German became the first teenager to triumph on the ATP Challenger Tour this year in Heilbroon. Molleker became the youngest player from his country to win a Challenger title since a 17-year-old Alexander Zverev in Braunschweig four years ago. READ REPORT
10 THINGS TO WATCH IN ’S-HERTOGENBOSCH
1) Magnificent Muller: In 2017, Gilles Muller began his 11-2 campaign on grass by beating Karlovic 7-6(5), 7-6(4) in ’s-Hertogenbosch for his second ATP World Tour title. He went on to defeat Nadal 15-13 in the fifth set to reach the Wimbledon quarter-finals. Muller has enjoyed plenty of success at this event, advancing to the quarter-finals in 2012, semi-finals in 2015 and final in 2016.
2) 40-Love: Karlovic is 39 years old, and the 6’11” Croat has a handful of age and aces records. He won the 2016 Newport title on grass to become the oldest champion on the ATP World Tour since 1979. Karlovic has hit the most aces in a match on the ATP World Tour (45), at the Australian Open (75), Roland Garros (55), the US Open (61) and in Davis Cup play (78). His 12,741 total aces are a record, too.
3) First-Time No. 1: Mannarino of France will be the top seed at an ATP World Tour event for the first time this week. The left-hander is seeking his maiden tour-level title after reaching two finals in 2015 and two more in 2017.
4) Great on Grass: Mannarino’s countryman Richard Gasquet is the No. 2 seed, and he boasts a great grass-court resume. He won the first two of his 14 ATP World Tour titles on the lawns of Nottingham before reaching the Wimbledon semi-finals in 2007 and 2015. Gasquet earned his 500th match win on 19 April in Monte-Carlo.
5) 500 and Counting: Like Gasquet, Fernando Verdasco recently enjoyed his 500th victory. Verdasco’s triumph came on 8 May in his hometown of Madrid. While he has never won a grass-court title, Verdasco led eventual champion Andy Murray by two sets in the 2013 Wimbledon quarter-finals. READ TRIBUTE
6) Greek Sensation: #NextGenATP Stefanos Tsitsipas is the No. 5 seed in ’s-Hertogenbosch after accepting a wild card. Tsitsipas is only 19, but he’s already the highest-ranked Greek in ATP World Tour history at No. 39. The Athenian defeated Dominic Thiem en route to his first ATP World Tour final at Barcelona in April.
7) Home Hope: No. 6 seed Robin Haase hopes to become ’s-Hertogenbosch’s first Dutch finalist since Raemon Sluiter in 2009 and the first Dutch champion at the event since Sjeng Schalken in 2003. Haase, who is 6-10 in ’s-Hertogenbosch, was the last Dutchman to win a tour-level title at Kitzbuhel in 2012.
8) Sugita’s Grass Success: Yuichi Sugita broke into the Top 50 of the ATP Rankings following the 2017 grass-court season, during which he won his first ATP World Tour title at Antalya and his ninth ATP Challenger Tour title in Surbiton, Great Britain.
9) Grasshoppers: After finishing 2017 as the No. 1 team in the ATP Doubles Rankings, Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo began 2018 with the Sydney title. Kubot and Melo went 14-0 on grass in 2017, sweeping titles at ’s-Hertogenbosch, Halle and Wimbledon.
10) Hewitt In Action: Australian legend Lleyton Hewitt is competing in his fifth doubles tournament of the season, and his fourth at tour-level. Hewitt, who partnered Sam Groth to the Australian Open quarter-finals, is playing with compatriot Alex Bolt. In the first round, the wild cards face second seeds Raven Klaasen and Michael Venus.