Wimbledon is only two weeks away so it’s time for big warm-up events at Queen’s Club and Halle – our Andy Schooler has 30/1 and 33/1 picks among his selections.
2pts win Marin Cilic in the Cinch Championships at 6/1 (General)
0.5pt e.w. Lorenzo Sonego in the Cinch Championships at 33/1 (Betfred 1,2, 1-2)
1pt win Hubert Hurkacz in the Terra Wortmann Open at 10/1 (General)
0.5pt e.w. Miomir Kecmanovic in the Terra Wortmann Open at 30/1 (BetVictor 1,2, 1-2)
MARIN CILIC won at Queen’s Club in 2012 and 2018 and can complete the hat-trick in the 2022 edition of the Cinch Championships.
The Croatian has also twice finished runner-up in west London where they have some of the fastest grasscourts in the game.
That suits Cilic’s big serve which has won him many points here down the years and helped him build a 32-11 win-loss record at the venue.
But clearly backing him can’t simply be done on the back of his tournament history.
Crucial to this bet is that Cilic’s game is in fine nick.
He showed that with an unexpected run to the semi-finals of the recent French Open during which he crushed world number two Daniil Medvedev in straight sets.
That victory was in many ways a template of what Cilic will aim to produce here.
With his serve and forehand firing, Cilic didn’t face a single break point and he produced a fine display of attacking tennis behind it, one which left Medvedev all at sea.
Cilic also served 33 aces during his Roland Garros win over Andrey Rublev.
If he can dial back into that groove this week, he’ll be hard to beat.
He’s been handed what looks a decent draw, landing in the same half of the draw as top seed Casper Ruud, a player whose experience on grass is limited to just six career matches.
Only two of those have been won, both in Mallorca, where conditions are rather different to Queen’s. His best win, by ranking, is against the world number 68.
At no bigger than 9/1, Ruud is easily overlooked this week.
Alexander Bublik and Taylor Fritz are potentially tricky hurdles for Cilic to overcome en route through the draw but neither has the class of Cilic on this surface and won’t put me off backing the Croat at 6/1.
The bottom half looks much tougher to call with some real grasscourt quality packed into the lowest four spots in the field.
Defending champion Matteo Berrettini and five-time winner Andy Murray are both there and could meet in round two. It would be a repeat of Sunday’s Boss Open final in Stuttgart, although Murray struggled with an injury in that match and there has to be a chance he won’t make it to the start line here.
Even if he does, LORENZO SONEGO has the ability to cause an upset in round one, as does Dan Evans against Berrettini, and I wouldn’t be too surprised were that to happen, especially given the quick turnaround the Stuttgart finalists face.
It’s difficult to confidently predict the quarter-finalist from that lot, although Berrettini is the layers’ favourite.
However, at the prices, Sonego is very tempting at 33/1.
We backed him last week in Stuttgart only for him to lose from a set up to eventual champion Berrettini in the last eight.
However, his displays in Germany were decent and he will have taken plenty out of that tournament.
Two of his four ATP finals have come on grass and given the doubts surrounding Murray, the Italian looks worth a punt.
Elsewhere in this half, last season’s beaten finalist Cam Norrie warrants respect, as does Denis Shapovalov, although I’ve mentioned many times how worrying his single career title is to potential backers.
Perhaps Grigor Dimitrov can repeat his title success of 2014.
He’s a player who’s shown some decent form in recent months, making the quarter-finals in Indian Wells and the semis in Monte Carlo, and the Bulgarian is now moving onto a more favourable surface.
The problem is he’s facing a tough first-round clash with Norrie and that makes odds of 16/1 of little appeal.
I’ll therefore take a speculative shot with Sonego but keep the majority of the budget on Cilic.
Fingers crossed for more of the same.
There will be no Roger Federer in Halle this year, which feels a bit odd, although the good news this week was that the great man is on course for a comeback later this year, potentially at the Laver Cup in London.
The man who has a road in Halle named after him has won this title 10 times in the past but someone else will hold the trophy aloft this season.
The bookies make Daniil Medvedev’s name the one most likely to be inscribed on that trophy but 3/1 looks short enough about the man who will return to the world number one spot on Monday.
He did make the final on the grass of Den Bosch last week but defeat to Tim van Rijthoven, a man who hadn’t won a tour-level match prior to the tournament, proved a massive disappointment to those who backed the favourite last week. Medvedev won just five games in that match.
An opening match against former finalist David Goffin is another reason for concern, while Ilya Ivashka could await in round two. It’s a tricky start.
Some of the others towards the top of the betting also fail to convince, primarily second seed Stefanos Tsitsipas.
I mentioned last week how he’d never won three straight matches on this surface and that record still stands following his loss to Andy Murray in Stuttgart.
The Greek may well lose to Nick Kyrgios in the second round this week.
Kyrgios clearly has potential, especially after his run to the last four in Stuttagrt, but I’ve long said I’ve got little interest in backing him at a single-figure price and I’ll leave the combustible Aussie alone again.
Like Shapovalov, Felix Auger-Aliassime’s lack of titles (just one so far) has to worry those considering backing him at 15/2 and instead I’m going to back HUBERT HURKACZ.
Last season’s Wimbledon semi-finalist returned to the grass last week but lost in the first round of Stuttgart to Marton Fucsovics.
That wasn’t ideal but a first match of the year on grass also has potential pitfalls and it was a close-fought affair which could have gone either way.
What was a positive for the Pole’s trip to Germany was his doubles title alongside Mate Pavic.
While Hurkacz plays plenty of doubles, one reason for competing in that format last week would have been to get matches under his belt on the surface and that worked out well.
He should now have a much greater feel upon arrival in Halle where the ball does tend to sit up slightly more than in Halle. I see that as something which will suit Hurkacz’s game – he certainly thrived in the slightly slower grass conditions at Wimbledon last summer.
Hurkacz enjoyed a decent claycourt season with quarter-final appearances in Monte Carlo and Madrid, as well as a run to the last 16 of the French Open.
Given that, I am expecting him to produce something during the grasscourt season and it may well be this week.
Admittedly I’m slightly worried by the presence of Ugo Humbert in his section of the draw.
Humbert won this title 12 months ago and the grass surface suits his attacking game.
However, the Frenchman has endured a wretched 2022, going 4-13 so far. He’s got almost half of his ranking points total to defend this week and an early loss would see him slip out of the top 100 which would have big implications for his career.
The pressure is clearly on and with Humbert a player who hasn’t always delivered in big situations, I’m not going to pull the trigger with him.
For a long shot in this tournament I’m instead turning to MIOMIR KECMANOVIC.
The Serbian has been one of the big improvers on the tour this season, racking up a 25-12 record and reaching a slew of quarter-finals, including Indian Wells and Miami.
A final run will surely arrive soon if he keeps up the form he’s shown and this could be the week.
Kecmanovic has reached a final on grass before – in Antalya in 2019. It’s a match I remember well having backed him at a big price only to see him blow match point in the final!
He does have a tricky start against Stuttgart semi-finalist Oscar Otte, while Andrey Rublev is a possible second-round foe.
However, Rublev faces a very awkward start to his grasscourt campaign, opening against Nikoloz Basilashvili, who always seems to play well in Germany, and then possibly meeting Kecmanovic. I think the Russian will struggle to match last year’s final appearance.
Undoubtedly this is a testing section of the draw – it’s also in the same half as Medevdev – but I think that’s factored into the price of 33/1 and I’m prepared to play at small stakes.
Published at 1900 BST on 12/06/22
We are committed in our support of safer gambling. Recommended bets are advised to over-18s and we strongly encourage readers to wager only what they can afford to lose.
If you are concerned about your gambling, please call the National Gambling Helpline / GamCare on 0808 8020 133.