Queen’s Club preview and prediction: Scenic courts play host to stars
At one of the more scenic ATP Tour stops, a number of big names will contest the Queen’s Club Championships in Kensington, including the returning Andy Murray.
Despite a number of high profile withdrawals, including the two top seeds, outgoing world #1 Rafael Nadal and world #4 Juan Martin del Potro, there is still plenty of star power at Queen’s Club for the 2018 edition, including two former world #1’s and four Grand Slam champions. With Wimbledon looming large on the horizon, all the players in the draw will be desperate for a good week to set them up perfectly for a big tournament across London. But who will walk away triumphant?
The three biggest names in the draw are all unusually playing without seedings. Unquestionably the man who will find himself the centre of attention is the returning Andy Murray, who will play his first match in over eleven months against Nick Kyrgios. Since he last played, the two-time Wimbledon champion and former #1 has had hip surgery and where his game is at is far from certain. A good run may be hoped for by his fans, but not expected after such a long absence.
Further along the road back from surgery is 12-time Major champion Novak Djokovic, who is playing at Queen’s for the first time since 2010. Though he is not yet back to his best, as a quarterfinal loss in Paris to the unseeded Cecchinato demonstrated, there is rightly a sense that he is moving in the right direction. He has never won the title at Queen’s in singles, although his only doubles title did come here in 2010. But the Serbian may well feel this could be his year as his strength returns.
The third of the Tour’s returning stars Stan Wawrinka still looks to be struggling to get his body back to full working order after knee surgery last year. His comeback has been stop start and he has just a handful of wins this year, and only one since February. Grass has also never been his favourite surface, with the Swiss yet to advance beyond the quarterfinals at Wimbledon, having lifted the title at the other three Majors. A long shot for the title indeed, but any wins would be valuable for Stan the Man.
Top seed and fellow Slam champion Marin Cilic will be eager to repeat his 2012 triumph at Queen’s, although under different circumstances after Nalbandian’s default in that final. He came close last year, narrowly losing out to Feliciano Lopez in a deciding set tiebreak in the final. With his big serve and unquestionable quality, he looks to be a favourite for the title early on, but at Queen’s anything can, and often does, happen.
2014 champion Grigor Dimitrov will be eager to get his season moving back in the right direction after a disappointing year so far. He has not yet won a title this year, but the world #6 is always a danger on a grass court. So too is the big serving Kevin Anderson, who reached the final in New York last year. He has never won the title at Queen’s Club, but has had his fair share of good moments in Kensington, including reaching the final in 2015. This could be his year.
British #1 Kyle Edmund may still be getting used to that position after succeeding Andy Murray earlier this year. He has not yet won a title on Tour, and is currently the highest ranked man not to have lifted a trophy. But he continues to improve and the 23-year-old will surely feel he is getting closer. Also amongst the seeds are 2010 champion Sam Querrey, Belgium’s world #9 David Goffin and former Wimbledon finalist and world #4 Tomas Berdych.
First round matches to watch
The standout clash of the first round by some distance pits Murray against the mercurial Australian Nick Kyrgios. Even if Murray had not been out of the game for nearly a year, Kyrgios would represent a stern test, with the world #24 pushing Federer to a deciding set tiebreak in the Stuttgart semifinals. But whatever the outcome, both players have the quality and talent to put on a real show for the Queen’s Club crowd.
Denis Shapovalov drew the attention at Queen’s last year thanks to his aesthetically pleasing style and a run to the third round last year (lost to Berdych). He has since gone on to reach greater heights and is currently the youngest man in the top 25 at world #23. He faces a tough opening test against the net-rushing Gilles Muller, who last year reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals. This should be like one of the grass court clashes of old, and expect plenty of highlight-reel worthy shot making.
There are few tournaments more difficult to predict than the grass court Wimbledon warmups, particularly with a draw as stacked with quality as Queen’s this year. But it has been a long-time since Djokovic was in the winner’s circle, almost a year, in fact, with his last title coming at Eastbourne. With three Wimbledon titles to his name he is a formidable grass court player and as his powers return to him, this could well be the week he really announces his return to the big-time.
Who do you think will win the title at Queen’s? Let us know in the comments below!