The build-up to Wimbledon continues this week with three grass tournaments on the ATP and WTA tours. There are two ATP 500 tournaments - in Halle, and at Queens Club - and a 64 player WTA Premier event in Birmingham.
As most traders will know, there are fewer breaks of serve on grass and the event at Queens Club in London is a clear indication of this, with last year's tournament playing very fast. I'd expect plenty of tiebreaks and there will be some projected hold percentages well into the 90%s.
As always, detailed daily data will be available via the ATP/WTA daily trading spreadsheets, which can be purchased via the links on the right.
ATP 500 Halle:-
2014 service hold 84.7% (Grass Court Mean 84.7%)
Conditions should be very similar to the ATP average for grass...
2014 Champion: Roger Federer (beat Alejandro Falla in the final)
Predicted Weather: 18-23 degrees C, sunny.
Last year's winner Roger Federer is the outstanding player in the field and his grass pedigree cannot be questioned. Unfortunately for the third highest hold/break percentage rated player, Phillip Kohlschreiber, the German faces Federer in the first round, which is why an outright price of 29.00 is available on Kohlschreiber.
Kei Nishikori is the second favourite but historically on grass, his usually strong return game isn't as effective, although he has a relatively nice draw. With Federer in the top half of the draw, with Tomas Berdych, it's probably best to look at the bottom half of the draw for decent outright propositions, and the third quarter in particular looks quite open, with Gael Monfils the player seeded to make the semi finals. However, the Frenchman is without superb grass court stats and looked disinterested in Stuttgart last week. Perhaps Tommy Robredo (26.00) or the grass-loving Andreas Seppi (67.00) can make inroads into the draw.
ATP 500 Queens:-
2014 service hold 88.0% (Grass Court Mean 84.7%)
Conditions should play very fast - breaks of serve will be at a premium...
2014 Champion: Grigor Dimitrov (beat Feliciano Lopez in the final)
Predicted Weather: 18-24 degrees C, sunny.
Player level is a little closer at Queens, in a very high quality field, although Andy Murray is by some distance the best grass courter on display. The Scotsman has admittedly struggled with illness in the last week or two, but I feel otherwise the 2.75 about him regaining the trophy he won in 2009, 2011 and 2013 would be pretty reasonable. Second-rated and last year's champion Grigor Dimitrov is a potential quarter final opponent, and that match is a very interesting prospect.
Rafael Nadal, who won in Stuttgart last week, is a dangerous floater in the draw, as he didn't make the top four seeds, and Stan Wawrinka is the unlucky player to have Nadal in his quarter. In that quarter also lies Wimbledon quarter-finalist Nick Kyrgios, the big-serving Kevin Anderson and the severely declining, but grass-loving Lleyton Hewitt.
The second and third quarters looks a little more open. The second quarter has some solid players in Marin Cilic, John Isner and Feliciano Lopez, and the latter two in particular will be tough to break on such a quick surface. Tiebreaks are likely in matches involving this duo.
In the third quarter, Milos Raonic plays his first match back after a foot nerve injury, and perhaps Richard Gasquet can come through this quarter. I'd imagine the Frenchman will struggle in the semi-finals, however, assuming he plays a top ten opponent...
WTA Premier Birmingham:-
2014 service hold 71.7% (Grass Court Mean 69.6%)
Conditions are likely to be on the fast side of average...
2014 Champion: Ana Ivanovic (beat Barbora Strycova in the final)
Predicted Weather: 18-22 degrees C, mixed.
* Using 3 year data for Azarenka due to small sample size.
Victoria Azarenka is the bookmaker's favourite for Birmingham despite having to play a first round match as opposed to a bye, which the top eight seeds receive (she is still trying to recover her ranking following a long injury layoff), whilst Simona Halep and last year's champion Ana Ivanovic look to be the main contenders along with the Belarussian.
On conditions that should be relatively quick, it's interesting to note that most of the contenders have service holds in the 70%s. Only Carla Suarez Navarro and Andrea Petkovic, two of the stronger returners in the field, have 2 year grass service holds below the 70% mark, with Petkovic looking particularly return orientated.
Sabine Lisicki is significantly better on grass than other surfaces and may thrive here, whilst Alison Riske, after a semi-final in Nottingham, also has nice grass stats for a lower ranked player. Eugenie Bouchard's woes may continue in Birmingham - the Canadian's stats are a fair bit below her fellow top ten contenders.
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