It’s been a bit of a soggy start to the grass season and play was delayed substantially again on Wednesday by rain and when they did finally get underway our outright Marton Fucsovics just about sneaked through in Stuttgart.
In Rosmalen we found an odds-against winner when Taylor Fritz and Borna Coric went over 2.5 sets before the rain came again at an inopportune time in the match between Robin Haase and Cristian Garin.
Haase is currently serving at *3-2, 40-0 in set two having lost the opener, but he’s certainly in with a fair chance still in that one, which is set to resume at around 12pm on Thursday.
The forecast looks fine for Stuttgart on Thursday, but while it’s set to be dry in Rosmalen as well, it is meant to be very windy, with 30kph gusts expected at the Libema Open.
Top seed in Stuttgart, Alexander Zverev, begins his campaign on Thursday (weather permitting) and his round two clash is an intriguing one against his mercurial countryman Dustin Brown.
I said in my preview the other day that Brown was a decent underdog option against John Millman and so it proved, but having watched him perform poorly many times over the years I didn’t want to trust him.
And it’s the same here. If he plays his best he’ll be an awkward opponent for Zverev, who’ll get no rhythm at all from Brown’s bag of tricks, but will Brown show up on form?
He seemed very pleased with himself after beating Millman: “I had a phenomenal start into the match,” he said. “I served big and also returned very well.” But will he do so two matches in a row?
If he does the fact that he holds serve 86.1% of the time and that Zverev will probably take a while to figure out how to approach this challenge in what will be his first grass match for almost a year.
Given Brown’s poor record (8-17 win/loss) in grass court tie breaks the 7-6 to Zverev is an option, but at 3-1 the price isn’t great.
Gilles Simon’s fitness issues and Felix Auger-Aliassime’s lack of experience on grass make that match hard to bet on, but I could see Gael Monfils having to work hard to beat Denis Kudla, who can play on this surface.
Kudla lost out in two tight sets to Roger Federer in the Halle semi finals last season and took down Stefanos Tsitsipas at the same tournament, so he’s got the game on his day.
Monfils has lost three of his last four on grass when priced up between 1.40 and 1.60 (Chardy, Seppi [ret] and Kohlschreiber) and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a third set here, but I was hoping for a better price on Kudla.
And the price on Matteo Berrettini isn’t great either at just 2.10 against Karen Khachanov considering that Berrettini was a 3.64 chance when he beat Khachanov on indoor hard in Sofia in February.
It looks like the Italian is finding his feet a bit on grass now though after David Cup duty earlier this season and a win over an admittedly disinterested Nick Kyrgios here on Tuesday.
Against Khachanov it will be a match against a similar opponent, with a big serve and big forehand and whoever gets the first strike in has the destiny of the point in their hands and as such I expect a swingy one here.
Khachanov hasn’t played on grass for a year and despite some okay results on grass last summer I’m not convinced at all that the slick low-bouncing surface is much good for Khachanov in the long term.
Both of these very tall guys would prefer the ball to bounce higher than it does on early season grass in what’s been a damp week and it’s Berrettini that’s been playing the better tennis in 2019, as the stats show.
On all surfaces at main level Berrettini is 5% better than Khachanov as far as their hold/break totals go and he has the advantage of a match here already, but I like the over 2.5 sets here at 2.17.
At the Libema Open, the game of Mikhail Kukushkin, when he gets it right, can be very tricky to overcome, with his flat hitting skidding through the court.
If he does get it right he can cause problems for the ageing and injury prone Richard Gasquet, who had a three set struggle against grass-averse Aljaz Bedene in round one.
This pair haven’t clashed since back in 2013, but my concern about backing Kuku is if he doesn’t play well off the ground he’s not nothing to back it up, winning only 68.4% of his first serve points on grass at main level in his 28 matches (11-17 win/loss).
Gasquet has held serve 87.1% of the time in his last 50 main level grass matches (32-18 win/loss) and 89.8% of the time here in Rosmalen, so if we’re backing Kuku we’re hoping for a bit of fatigue or stiffness in Gasquet, really, as well as Kukushkin on a good day.
David Goffin could well be tested if Pierre-Hugues Herbert has a good day on serve, but given that he’s only managed to hold 59.1% of the time in his two career meetings with Goffin and hasn’t got much of a record on grass I’ll pass on Herbert.
He’s capable of beating the inconsistent Goffin on his day, but Herbert winning would potentially make life easier for our outright Adrian Mannarino, so that would be reward enough for me there.
Mannarino was a set and 1-4 down to Fernando Verdasco (who was 1.01 in-play) when they clashed on grass in Antalya and I’m hoping that Manna won’t take the scenic route this time.
The Frenchman ended up winning 61.5% of his second serve points that day against Verdasco and in theory the match-up should suit Mannarino on this surface, with his flat hitting on early-season grass keeping the ball away from Nando’s strike zone.
0.5 points win over 2.5 sets in Berrettini/Khachanov at 2.17