Pay attention because this week’s submission deadline is Sunday morning, June 15, 4am (EST) in the U.S./10am (CET) in Europe.
The top players are resting before the start of Wimbledon next week except for David Ferrer and Richard Gasquet. Ferrer skipped the grass this week and Gasquet started the recovery from his confidence crisis with a quarterfinal finish at Queen’s Club. They are the top two seeds at s’Hertogenbosch. The other tournament this week is Nottingham which also has a few good players and would have featured Andy Murray too if he hadn’t fallen on his thumb at Queen’s.
We need eight players for our team so let’s pick four players from each draw, in other words, the semifinalists.
David Ferrer is the top seed in s’Hertogenbosch but Mario Ancic is in his quarter and that’s bad news. Ancic reached the third round at Queen’s this week and he went 9-1 on grass two years ago after missing the grass court season last year due to mononucleosis. Ferrer, on the other hand, has won four matches on grass in the last two years. I’m going with Ancic.
The next quarter is a real mess. Jarkko Nieminen reached the semifinals at Halle last year. Arnaud Clement reached the semifinals at Queen’s and the final at Notthingham last year. Michael Berrer reached the quarterfinals here last year as a qualifier. Juan Martin Del Potro also reached the quarterfinals but the highest ranked player he beat was number 92.
Clement isn’t doing well on grass this year. He lost to the 153rd ranked player at the Surbiton challenger and to Andreas Seppi in the first round at Queen’s. And his ranking has dropped from the 30’s this time last year to the 80’s. Nieminen lost to the 97th ranked player in the first round at Halle this week. Instead, I’m picking Fabrice Santoro because he’s having a more consistent year than any player in this quarter on faster courts and he’s a decent grass court player.
Ivan Ljubicic is in the next quarter and he won this tournament last year. Robin Haase is a player waiting to break out. He beat Ljubicic at the Australian Open this year and he already has three quarterfinal finishes on faster surfaces but he’s 1-3 lifetime on grass so I’m going with Ljubicic over Haase and Guillermo Canas.
Assuming that grass has revitalized Richard Gasquet, he’s a good pick here because he has two titles and one quarterfinal finish at Nottingham in the last three years. But should you save him for later? Remember, you can only use a player five times in one season. I’ve used him twice already and I want to save him for Wimbledon and the U.S. Open and he can probably make a whole lot more money at one of the Masters Series events or a hard court fall event. So I’m not going to use him and you should save him for at least three more events this year. Igor Andreev hasn’t won a match on grass in three years but it’s not as bad as it looks. He only played two matches in that time period and lost those to James Blake and Gael Monfils. Overall he’s 8-8 on grass with victories over Gasquet and Andre Agassi so I’m going with him.
Radek Stepanek is the top seed at Nottingham. He reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon in 2006 but he didn’t do much on grass last year and he lost to Tommy Haas – who just returned from injury – in the first round at Halle week. Julien Benneteau is in this quarter and he did reach the semifinals here last year, but that was the only time he’s gone past the second round on grass. He lost this week in the first round to Philipp Kohlschreiber in Halle but Kohlschreiber is in the final so that doesn’t tell us much. Grass tournaments are tough to pick because there are so few of them so we don’t have much to go on, but I’m picking Gael Monfils to come out of Stepanek’s quarter because he has a better record on grass in the past year.
Ivo Karlovic tops the next quarter and he won this event last year but he has some competition. Jonas Bjorkman reached the semifinals here last year and Andreas Seppi reached the same round two years ago. Still, looking at those 35 aces and three tiebreakers again Rafael Nadal in Queen’s last week, Karlovic is my pick.
The next quarter is a tough call because both Robin Soderling and Nicolas Mahut are there. Soderling reached the quarterfinals at Halle this week and the third round at Wimbledon last year. Mahut reached the quarterfinals at Queen’s this week and also reached the third round at Wimbledon last year. I’m giving Soderling the slightest edge because he beat Mahut here two years ago. They won’t meet till the quarterfinals, though, so either one could be a good choice.
Dmitry Tursunov and Paul-Henri Mathieu are by far the strongest players in the bottom quarter and it’s a tough call because Tursunov beat Mathieu at Queen’s last year, but they’re pretty evenly matched on grass. Tursunov lost in the first round at Halle this week but he had the misfortune of drawing Mikhail Youzhny. I’m taking Tursunov because he had a slightly better grass court record than Mathieu last year.
Here are my picks for this week: Ancic, Santoro, Ljubicic, Andreev, Monfils, Karlovic, Soderling, and Tursunov.