Week #24: What to watch for on ATP World Tour as delivered to Tennis Channel by ATP's PR & Marketing Department.
10 THINGS TO WATCH IN STUTTGART
1) Grass Circuit Opens: The six-tournament grass-court circuit leading into Wimbledon begins in Stuttgart and ’s-Hertogenbosch. The inaugural Stuttgart event was in 1898, with Mercedes-Benz assuming the role of title sponsor in 1979. This is the third year the event is being played on grass.
2) Federer Leads Field: Roger Federer is one of four Top 20 players who will receive first-round byes. The other Top 4 seeds are Grigor Dimitrov, Tomas Berdych and wild card Lucas Pouille.
3) Roger Returns: Federer is playing in his first event since winning the ATP Masters 1000 Miami title on April 2. The Swiss star is 19-1 this season and on an 11-match win streak. In his only loss of 2017, Federer held three match points against Evgeny Donskoy at Dubai on March 1. Federer, who also won titles at the Australian Open and Indian Wells, is closing in on 10,000 career aces (9,940).
4) Grass Court King: Federer’s 15 titles and 152-23 record on grass are best in the Open Era (.869). He did not win a grass title in 2016 for just the third season since 2003. Federer was 10-3 on grass last season with SFs in Stuttgart (l. to Thiem), Halle (l. to A. Zverev) and Wimbledon (l. to Raonic).
5) Federer’s Conquerors: Two men who have defeated Federer on grass are in Stuttgart. Berdych beat Federer in the 2010 Wimbledon quarter-finals and Tommy Haas, a wild card this week, upset the Swiss in the 2012 Halle final. Federer has captured seven Wimbledon and eight Halle titles.
6) German Drought: Eight Germans will try to end a 25-year title drought in Stuttgart since Michael Stich was the last homegrown champion in 1991. Haas, the 1999 runner-up, is joined by fellow wild card Maximilian Marterer, No. 6 seed Mischa Zverev, two-time finalist Philipp Kohlschreiber, Florian Mayer, Jan-Lennard Struff, and qualifiers Peter Gojowczyk and Yannick Hanfmann.
7) Kohli Eyes Home Title: Kohlschreiber, who earned his 400th win at ATP Masters 1000 Indian Wells on March 11, continues to enjoy great success on home soil. The 33-year-old has won five of his seven career titles in Germany. He is 110-58 in Germany (.655) and 295-257 elsewhere (.534).
8) Up-and-Down Season: Dimitrov went 16-1 to start the season with titles at Brisbane and Sofia, as well as a semi-final run at the Australian Open. He is 5-8 since February 17 with narrow third-round losses to Jack Sock at Indian Wells (held 4 MPs) and Dominic Thiem at Madrid (held 5 MPs).
9) Wild Cards: Haas, Pouille and Maximilian Marterer are the wild cards. The 39-year-old Haas is making his seventh and final appearance in Stuttgart, announcing that he will retire later this season. Pouille was 0-5 lifetime on grass before making a run to the Wimbledon quarter-finals in 2016. The 21-year-old Marterer is looking for his first career ATP World Tour main draw win (0-7).
10) Doubles Field: Headlining doubles are 10-time World No. 1 Bob and Mike Bryan who are looking for their first title in 2017 and last year’s No. 1 team Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares. Zverev teams with Bernard Tomic of Australia for the first time, as does Steve Johnson with F. Lopez.
RICOH OPEN STORYLINES
10 THINGS TO WATCH IN ’S-HERTOGENBOSCH
1) Dutch Delight: The second Dutch event on the ATP World Tour takes place in ’s-Hertogenbosch. The 500-level event in Rotterdam was held in February. This is the 28th edition of the Ricoh Open.
2) Cilic Leads Field: Top 4 seeds Marin Cilic, Alexander Zverev, Ivo Karlovic and Gilles Muller are among the Top 30 players in the Emirates ATP Rankings, with Cilic and Zverev in the Top 10.
3) Marin Top Seed: Cilic arrives after compiling a career-best 12-4 record on clay with his first Roland Garros QF run and his 17th ATP title in Istanbul (d. Raonic). He is 48-23 lifetime on grass, highlighted by the 2012 title at Queen’s Club and three QF finishes at Wimbledon (2014-16). Cilic was 17 when he made his only previous Ricoh Open appearance in 2006 (l. to Robredo in 1R).
4) Mahut Reigning Champion: Three-time champion Nicolas Mahut has an 18-2 record in ’sHertogenbosch. The 35-year-old Frenchman won titles here in 2013 and 2015 as a qualifier and last year as a wild card and No. 8 seed. He has a 10-match main draw winning streak at the Ricoh Open (13 with qualifying) and his last loss came in the 2014 QFs (l. to Bautista Agut).
5) Zverev Rising: #NextGenATP star Alexander Zverev, a wild card making his tournament debut, leads the Emirates ATP Race to Milan. The 20-year-old is 27-10 in 2017 with three titles, breaking into the Top 10 on May 22 after reigning in Rome. He reached his first final on grass at 2016 Halle.
6) More #NextGenATP Players: Also in the field are 21-year-olds Hyeon Chung and Thanasi Kokkinakis. After a series of injuries, Kokkinakis seeks his first tour-level singles win since Sept. 20, 2015 (d. Evans in Davis Cup SF). Americans Ernesto Escobedo and Stefan Kozlov are back. Last year Escobedo made his ATP debut (l. to Bedene in 1R) and Kozlov earned his first ATP victories (l. to Querrey in QF). Russian Daniil Medvedev, who is No. 8 in the Milan race, qualified.
7) Muller Moving Up: Last year’s finalist Muller is putting together his first Top-30 season after reaching a career-high No. 26 on May 8. The 34-year-old Luxembourg native won his first ATP World Tour title in Sydney and was a finalist in Estoril. Last year he had a career-best 13-5 record on grass with a final in Newport. He has a 9-7 tourney mark with a SF in 2015 and QF in 2012.
8) Ivo Back on Grass: Karlovic has the most grass court wins of any player in the field (67). Last year, he won his third grass-court title in Newport and reached the SFs here (l. to Muller).
9) Dutch Title Hopes: No. 6 seed Robin Haase and 20-year-old wild card Tallon Griekspoor will both try to become the first Dutch champion of the Ricoh Open since Sjeng Schalken in 2003. Haase made his ATP World Tour debut at 2006 ’s-Hertogenbosch and reached the SFs here in 2015. Griekspoor is playing in his second ATP main draw (l. to Muller in 2017 Rotterdam 1R).
10) Doubles Draw: Roland Garros champion Michael Venus and finalist Santiago Gonzalez are in the doubles field with different partners than they had in Paris. Gonzalez teams with Adil Shamasdin and Venus with Andre Sa. In Paris, Gonzalez played w/Young and Venus w/Harrison.
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By Greg Sharko, Director, Media Information, PR & Marketing, ATP World Tour