Federer, Osaka in action: Previewing this week's grass-court events

Federer, Osaka in action: Previewing this week's grass-court events

Looking ahead to strong draws in Halle, Queen’s, Birmingham, and Mallorca.

Grass season arrives in a 24-hour flash. One day we’re watching the players slide across red clay in Paris; the next we’re watching them slip across green turf in England, and Germany. After a week, many of those players have had a chance to grow accustomed to the new surface under their feet. Now, as the tournaments offer more ranking points, and Wimbledon gets a little closer, a new group of Top 10 pros will join them. Here’s a look at week two of the grass season; savor the time of year while it lasts, because it will be over the same way it came: In a flash.


Noventi Open (ATP)

Halle, Germany
$2,500,000; 500 ranking points
Grass
Draw is here

After 25 years as the Gerry Weber Open, Halle has a new name, courtesy of a venture-capital firm based in California. But everything else about this 500-level tune-up looks familiar. Roger Federer, who is going for his 10th title at the event, is the top seed. Alexander Zverev, the German native who reached the finals in 2016 and 2017, is the No. 2 seed. Last year’s champ, Borna Coric, is the No. 4 seed.

Federer lost to Coric in the Halle final in 2018, and went on to lose in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon. Will his recent run at Roland Garros give him more confidence this time around, or leave him more vulnerable physically? Either way, he’ll be tested this week. Federer starts against John Millman, who beat him at the US Open last year, and then will face either Benoit Paire or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the second round.

Players of Interest: Matteo Berrettini just won a title in Stuttgart; Jan-Lennard Struff has been one of the year’s pleasant surprises; and Karen Khachanov finally showed signs of life in Paris.

First-round matches to watch: Paire vs. Tsonga; Gael Monfils vs. Pierre-Hugues Herbert


Fever-Tree Championships (ATP)​

London
$2,500,000; 500 ranking points
Grass
Draw is here

The headline news here comes from the doubles draw: Andy Murray, who all but hung up his racquet in January, will return, partnered with Feliciano Lopez. They may not last long, considering that they’ve drawn the top seeds, but the sight of Murray on a tennis court, seemingly pain-free, should be cheering to the fans at Queen’s.

As for the singles, the headline name is a less-familiar one, for now anyway: 20-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas is the top seed, though he likely won’t be the crowd favorite in his opener against Kyle Edmund. The same may go for No. 2 seed Kevin Anderson; last year’s Wimbledon finalist is playing his first tournament since Miami, and he’s going up against another Brit in Cam Norrie.

First-round matches to watch: Juan Martin del Potro vs. Denis Shapovalov; Grigor Dimitrov vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime; Stan Wawrinka vs. Dan Evans

Underhand servers to watch: Nick Kyrgios and Alexander Bublik


Nature Valley Classic (WTA)​

Birmingham, England
$1,000,000; Premier
Grass
Draw is here

As far as powerhouse fields go, Birmingham may take the cake this week. The WTA’s Top 3—Naomi Osaka, Ash Barty, Karolina Pliskova—will all be in attendance, as will Elina Svitolina, Aryna Sabalenka, Jo Konta, Venus Williams, Petra Martic, Julia Goerges, and Qiang Wang

As you might expect from a pre-Wimbledon Premier event, easy first-rounders are hard to come by. Osaka will start her grass season against Maria Sakkari, Barty against grass-lover Donna Vekic, and Konta against Anett Kontaveit.


Mallorca Open (WTA)​

Mallorca, Spain
$250,000; International
Grass
Draw is here

WTA International-level fields don’t come much stronger than the one assembled in Mallorca. Defending Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber is the top seed, and she’s joined by Anastasija Sevastova, Belinda Bencic, Elise Mertens, Amanda Anisimova, Sofia Kenin, Katerina Siniakova, and Carolina Garcia, who won a title on Sunday in Nottingham.

Former No. 1s of Interest: Maria Sharapova will play her first event since January, while Victoria Azarenka will continue her draw difficulties when she faces off against Garcia in her opener.