Mercedes Cup Preview (Bottom Half) ATP Tips - 6/10/2019
Mercedes Cup bottom half draw breakdown
from 10th to 16th June 2019
Seeds: #3 Danil Medvedev, #8 Denis Shapovalov
Danil Medvedev is another player that might benefit from this change of playing surface. He was great early in the clay season, reaching SF's of Monte Carlo and finals in Barcelona. After that, he has fallen off the cliff and strung together 3 consecutive defeats, which was pretty uncharacteristic for him. It is interesting that he stated grass as his favorite surface, even though he never had any major success playing on it. Not even as a junior, when he was eliminated early in his two lone appearances in Wimbledon. As a pro he is 13-9, which is OK, but nothing special for top 15 player. Analyzing his game, he will probably improve on that record in the future. He has a solid serve, keeps his shot flat and low and has a good lateral movement that allows him to play closer to the baseline and keep his opponents under pressure during baseline rallies. Some of those who need more time to set their feet and swing the racket will not like facing Medvedev in these conditions.
Shapovalov is also a player that loves the grass courts, but in contrast to Medvedev he did thrive playing on them as a junior. He won the Wimbledon in singles and got far in doubles as well. But interesting enough, he failed to translate that success to the pro circuit. He is 3-6, with an ugly loss to Prajnesh Gunneswaran last year in Stuttgart. I believe that is a product of his game become more all-court, adding some shape to most of his shots and not relying on power as much. He probably has the toughest draw out of all seeds and I don't believe he'll get too far.
Sleepers: Jan-Lennard Struff
Speaking of the devil. Jan-Lennard Struff is probably the main reason why Shapovalov's draw is so challenging. They are going to face each other in the first round already. German is in great form at the moment. He is playing tennis of his career, achieving nice results on clay, even though he's not even playing real clay court tennis. It's all about his power and feeling the ball really well at the moment. He lowered the number of unforced errors and erratic play that followed him throughout most of his career and that is giving good results lately. He is only 2-5 in Stuttgart (with some additional qualifying losses) and 6-17 all-time on the grass. But I am ready to throw all those stats out of the window because he never really played as well as he did so far this year. Those stats are the reason why he is going to be undervalued.
Rounding up this group are Kohlschreiber, Pouille, and Kecmanovic (plus qualifier). I could actually make a case for all of these guys as potential sleepers, but I had to highlight Struff because he jumps out so much. Philipp Kohlschreiber is a seasoned veteran with almost 100 matches on grass as a pro. His experience helps him to understand all the quirks and perks of this unique playing surface and use it against opponents that are not as familiar with it. He is 58-35 with an ATP Halle title from 2011. He plays with a lot of flair and variation, using the conditions to make opponent life miserable. He is definitely someone to watch out for in this tournament.
Lucas Pouille is a difficult one to crack. Although sometimes it seems that his form is improving, that gets negated by his very next performance. Won the title in Stuttgart in 2017. Holds a 13-10 record on grass, but I still doubt he can get far with his current level of tennis. Miomir Kecmanovic is a decorated junior. As a No.1 he dominated on pretty much every surface, except for the grass. It makes sense considering his game is not suited well for this type of playing conditions. Lacks power on his forehand side and is an inconsistent server.
Seeds: #2 Karen Khachanov, #5 Gael Monfils
Khachanov with a massive result in Paris in attempt to jump-start his 2019 season, which was sub-par for the first five months. Part of the problem was the equipment. Coming off his best season in 2018, he switched from Wilson to Head and it impacted his game in a negative way. New racquet simply didn't "listen" to him, so he decided to go back and use his old Wilson. Things started to change for the better since then and we'll see if that trend continues with the change from clay to grass. With 10-4 on this surface so far, that should be the case.
Gael was another victim of a Dominic Thiem's run to the finals at Roland Garros. That was a disappointing performance by Lamonf, who holds a solid 39-25 record on grass. Played only once in Stuttgart since they changed the playing surface and lost in semifinals of 2015 tournament to Rafael Nadal. His unmatched athleticism and shotmaking ability are something that can come in very handy in these type of playing conditions. But there remains a question on how well he recovered mentally after a mediocre performance at the French open. We've seen Monfils struggling to find motivation in some smaller tournaments earlier and there is a possibility for something similar to happen here.
Sleepers: Nick Kyrgios, Matteo Berrettini, Denis Kudla, Steve Johnson
Basically, this is "pick your poison" type of deal. Let's start with the most interesting player from this group, which is Nick Kyrgios of course. Lately, he was drawing a lot of media attention but for all the wrong reasons. He said some controversial things about some of the top players in the world, mostly talking negatively about Novak Djokovic. He should probably focus on improving his mediocre season, rather than bashing players that are way out of his league at the moment. And his results indeed might start improving this month. Grass surface suits him perfectly. He doesn't have the patience to build the points on clay courts, but his serve, ball striking, and shotmaking ability are lethal weapons in these conditions. It is enough for something to click inside his head, making him want to play and he'll be one of the favorites in this tournament. Whether that click is going to happen or not, remains to be seen.
Matteo Berrettini mostly thrived on slow clay courts so far in his career. Racket-head speed on his forehand side allows him to generate a lot of power and hit through defense even in the slowest conditions. That is an edge that he has over most of his opposition in that type of conditions, while on grass courts he is still finding his niche. His 2-3 record with some questionable losses is not a great sign going forward. But he is simply too talented to be completely overlooked. He is not a favorite to fight through this stacked bottom part of the draw, but you never know with guys that can hit the cover off the ball like him.
Denis Kudla is a complete opposite when compared to Italian. He is a journeyman with not much success on the ATP tour. But his grass court record is almost two times better than the one on the rest of the surfaces. He is winning 51% of the matches on grass, comparing to miserably sub 30% on clay & hard. He is already prepared well for this tournament with a QF run at Surbiton challenger last week.
Josh's Picks: Jan-Lennard Struff +2000
Philipp Kohlschreiber +1800
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