June on the ATP Tour is when the tennis season leaves the clay courts behind and moves on to the grass as the season builds towards Wimbledon, which takes place in early July. There are three weeks of warm-up events, with the players having two options of where to play in each of those weeks. These tournaments are the Mercedes Cup, Libema Open, Fever Tree Championships, Halle Open, Turkish Airlines Open, and the Nature Valley International. We’re also taking a look at the Wimbledon ante-post market to see if we can spot any early value for the third grand slam of the season before the grass court season commences.
The Mercedes Cup (11-17 June)
The Mercedes Cup, also known as the Stuttgart Open, kickstarts the ATP Tour’s grass court season. However, it’s a relatively new addition to this part of the tournament schedule, having traded in its former clay courts for grass courts in 2015. The tournament, which is an ATP 250 Series event, is played at the Tennis Club Weissenhof. The winner wins a share of the €650,015 prize fund as well as a brand-new Mercedes Benz.
Roger Federer is likely to be the headline attraction as he starts his build-up to the defence of his Wimbledon crown after his self-imposed exodus from the clay court season. However, if the last two renewals are anything to go by, don’t expect Federer to be anywhere near his best. In 2015, Federer made it to the semi-finals where he was beaten by the eventual champion Dominic Thiem. It was even worse in 2017, when he exited in the round of last-16 to Tommy Haas. Federer could outclass his rivals, but don’t bank on it. Those rivals include the 2017 champion Lucas Pouille, though it’s unlikely that 2016 champion Thiem or 2015 champion Nadal will play here after their French Open exertions.
Libema Open (11-17 June)
The Libema Open, also known as the Rosmalen Grass Court Championships, is an ATP 250 Series event that takes place on the grass courts of the Autotron Rosmalen in the Netherlands. It is played in the same week as the Mercedes Cup and Andy Murray could be in the field this year as he returns from injury in a bid to get fit for Wimbledon at the beginning of July. It must be doubtful as to whether Murray will be anywhere near the top of his game though, leaving the door open for one of his rivals to add a win to their CV. Gilles Muller will be looking to win the tournament for a second time after winning it in 2017, whilst Richard Gasquet has the class on grass to win a tournament of this nature.
However, a name to take note of is Nicolas Mahut who was champion here in 2013, 2015, and 2016. He was beaten in the first round in 2017 but he could be overpriced in the early exchanges if the bookies price the event up purely on rankings.
Fever Tree Championships (18-24 June)
The Fever Tree Championships is also known as Queens, as it played on the grass courts of the Queen’s Club in London. It is a prestigious ATP 500 event that many Wimbledon Champions have used as a warm-up event for the third grand slam tournament of the season. Wimbledon Champions like John McEnroe, Andy Murray, Rafa Nadal, Jimmy Connors, Leyton Hewitt, Pete Sampras, and Boris Becker have all completed the Queens and Wimbledon double.
Five-time winner Andy Murray looks likely to continue his build-up to Wimbledon here this year, whilst Rafa Nadal may get his first taste of grass court action this season. However, as Nadal hasn’t won here since 2008, he may not be a betting proposition, especially with his knees subject to injury on grass. Former Queens Champions Grigor Dimitrov and Marin Cilic could be two names to note, whilst watch out for the improving Kevin Anderson whose serve can be lethal on grass when he’s got his eye in.
Halle Open (18-24 June)
The Halle Open, also known as the Gerry Weber Open, is an ATP 500 event played at the Gerry Weber Stadium in Germany. Roger Federer sees the tournament as his main warm-up event for Wimbledon. He has won the title four times in the last five years and will be bidding for his tenth Halle Open Title in 2018. If Federer doesn’t win, watch out for the German players as Germans have won three of the last seven Halle Opens. Florian Mayer, Tommy Haas, and Phillip Kohlschreiber each won one of those three titles, but it could be young star Alexander Zverev who steps up this year as he already boasts some victories over Federer. Other star names who are set to play include Dominic Thiem, John Isner, Lucas Pouille, and Hyeon Chung.
Turkish Airlines Open (24-30 June)
The Turkish Airlines Open is an ATP 250 event played at the recently refurbished Kaya Palazzo Resort in Belek, Turkey. The event was only added to the ATP Tour schedule in 2017. However, due to its proximity to Wimbledon, it has yet to attract the big-name grass court stars. Last year’s inaugural event was won by the Japanese players Yuichi Sugita and he’s set to try and defend his title. Last year’s runner-up Adrian Mannarino is also set to play.
Nature Valley International (24-30 June)
The Nature Valley International is an ATP 250 event. The last two renewals have been played in Nottingham, but it returns to its former home of Devonshire Park in Eastbourne for the 2018 renewal. It was won last year by Novak Djokovic, but he is yet to commit to this year’s event. Players that have committed include rising stars Kyle Edmund and Denis Shapovalov. However, a veteran that could be worth considering is Feliciano Lopez. The Spaniard won the event in 2013 and 2014 and won Queen’s in 2017, suggesting he’s often at his best at this time of year on grass.
As the grass court season is designed to prepare players for Wimbledon, it looks like a good idea to take a look at the Wimbledon ante-post betting as there are bound to be some movers and shakers over the coming weeks.
Wimbledon Men’s Singles 2018 Odd
Roger Federer 13/8, Rafa Nadal 6/1, Novak Djokovic, Alexander Zverev 11/1, Marin Cilic 12/1, Andy Murray 16/1, Juan Martin del Potro 16/1, Milos Raonic, Nick Kyrgios 20/1, Grigor Dimitrov 25/1, Dominic Thiem 25/1, Kevin Anderson 80/1, John Isner 80/1, Hyeon Chung 80/1, Sam Querrey 100/1, Giles Muller 100/1
Wimbledon 2018 Ante-Post Summary
Eight-time Wimbledon Men’s Singles champion Roger Federer is looking to follow last year’s successful route to the Wimbledon Title. He took the first grand slam title of 2018 when winning the Australian Open and again opted to rest his ageing body by missing the gruelling clay court season. It’s a tactic that saw him produce some brilliant tennis at last year’s Wimbledon and there’s no reason why he can’t do the same again. To be honest, 13/8 look a perfectly reasonable price, as his fellow top-players are unlikely to be at their best. Rafa Nadal’s problematic knees will probably stop the Spaniard being competitive at Wimbledon, whilst Novak Djokovic looks to be lacking the fire in his belly needed to win a grand slam.
Meanwhile, it’s asking a lot of Andy Murray to return from serious injury with his game at a level that will test Federer. However, the fact Federer has been beaten in the Mercedes Cup in each of the last two seasons gives me hope that we may still get a bigger price about Federer. If he fails to win the Mercedes Cup for a third straight season, one or two bookies may push his odds out. That could be the time to take a price about Federer, as his odds may then tumble if he wins the Halle Open for a tenth time.
It’s hard to find value in the next tier of the betting. Alexander Zverev still hasn’t manged to come to terms with pacing himself for the two-weeks of a grand slam, whilst the odds about last year’s Wimbledon runner-up Marin Cilic surely won’t shorten any further before Wimbledon. The likes of Juan Martin del Potro, Milos Raonic, Nick Kyrgios, Grigor Dimitrov, and Dominic Thiem also make no appeal.
Therefore, if you’re looking to maybe back an outsider or two with a view to trading them back at shorter odds if they get to the latter stages, you could do worse than look at Kevin Anderson and Sam Querrey. The pair faced each other in an epic fourth round match last season in which Querrey came out a 3-2 winner before reaching the semi-finals. However, both players have the type of big-serve that could carry them a long way in a season where a lot of the big guns don’t look to be firing on all cylinders.