The 2017 grass season continues to up the pace this week, as the 2017 Gerry Weber Open takes place just a fortnight before the third Grand Slam of the year at Wimbledon. Players will be eager to find some form on the grass courts in Germany, but face a tricky draw to negotiate with Roger Federer, Dominic Thiem and Kei Nishikori all finding a place in the draw.
Projected quarterfinal: (1) Roger Federer v Lucas Pouille (6)
Eight-time champion Roger Federer is once again the top seed in Halle and takes on tricky grass-courter Lu Yen-Hsun in the opening round. The winner is likely to take on Mischa Zverev in the second round, with the German having of the best years of his career after reaching the quarterfinals at the opening Grand Slam of the year in Melbourne.
The next highest seed behind Federer is the sixth-seeded Lucas Pouille, a recent champion in Stuttgart after edging out Feliciano Lopez in a tight three-set battle. The Frenchman kicked off his grass season saving one match point in Stuttgart against Jan-Lennard Struff, and the two face-off again in the opening round here. The final match in the top quarter features defending champion Florian Mayer and Benoit Paire, with Paire making his very first appearance at the Gerry Weber Open. 33-year-old Mayer stunned the field last year to lift his first ever ATP 500 title, but will have his work cut out in the first round in 2017, with Paire recently reaching the semifinals in Stuttgart.
Predicted semifinalist: Roger Federer
Projected quarterfinal: (3) Kei Nishikori v Albert Ramos-Vinolas (8)
The second quarter features one of the best opening round ties, with 3rd seed Kei Nishikori scheduled to take on the dangerous Fernando Verdasco. Nishikori has reached the semifinals in Halle twice, whilst Verdasco hasn’t made an appearance since 2009 after featuring at the Queens Club for the past two years. At his best the Spaniard can trouble anyone, and Nishikori couldn’t have asked for a much tougher start to his grass campaign.
The winner of the tough-to-call encounter will face either Russian Karen Khachanov or veteran Gilles Simon in the next round, with both players neither having registered a victory upon the courts of Halle. Frenchman Simon last played in the Gerry Weber Open in 2007, and will have his work cut-out against 21-year-old Khachanov who has all the weapons to be a potential banana-skin on the faster courts.
Elsewhere Albert Ramos-Vinolas continues his fine 2017 and will fancy his chances of registering a first win in Halle against the main-draw debutant Andrey Rublev. The Spaniard is likely to then have to overcome the huge challenge of Ivo Karlovic, the man no player wants to play on a grass court. The 38-year-old arrives at the event in good form after reaching the final in s-Hertogenbosch before narrowly losing to Gilles Muller. If the big-Croat can continue to serve at a high-level, then it would be hard to write him off.
Predicted semifinalist: Ivo Karlovic
Projected quarterfinal: (4) Alexander Zverev v Roberto Bautista Agut (7)
The third quarter contains a former champion in Philipp Kohlschreiber, and two players searching for their first ever main draw wins at Wimbledon in Carlos Berlocq and Paolo Lorenzi. 33-year-old Kohlschreiber is no stranger to the Gerry Weber Open after winning the title in 2011 and takes on Joao Sousa in the opening match of the event on the Stadion court on Monday. The German also reached the final in 2008 and will like his chances of going far in the draw again, despite the threat of Alexander Zverev looming in the following round. The younger Zverev faces Paolo Lorenzi in what should presumably be a one-sided affair given the Italian’s poor record on grass, so look out for a possible entertaining second round match between a former champion and last year’s runner-up Zverev.
The exciting Dustin Brown features in his sixth Halle draw and will face a qualifier in the first round, before a likely clash with Roberto Bautista Agut in the following round. Bautista Agut won the title in s-Hertogenbosch three years ago, and despite not having the power that many around him possess, the Spaniard has the game on any surface to cause disruption for his opponents. An opening match against clay-courter Carlos Berlocq should be nothing but routine.
Predicted semifinalist: Philipp Kohlschreiber
Projected quarterfinal: (2) Dominic Thiem v Gael Monfils (5)
World number eight Dominic Thiem headlines the final quarter of the draw and has a comfortable looking start to his 2017 grass season against a qualifier. The recent French Open semifinalist reached the last four in Halle last year and has had another impressive year thus far, clinching the title in Rio back in February. If the Austrian comes through, he will like the look of his draw with either David Ferrer or Robin Haase next up in the second round. Ferrer has pedigree on grass, having twice won the title in s-Hertogenbosch, but has had a tough 2017 so will have to be careful against the erratic Haase.
The highlight of the quarter is the match between French compatriots Gael Monfils and Richard Gasquet, who will clash for the 15th time in their careers. Monfils leads the head-to-head 8-6, but isn’t as comfortable on the grass compared to Gasquet, who has twice made the semifinals at SW19. Both have recent last four showings in Halle however, so another close battle is expected. The winner will take on either Tommy Haas or Bernard Tomic in the second round, with the 39-year-old Haas rolling back the years in Stuttgart last week by defeating good friend Roger Federer in three sets. The German has clinched the title in 2009 and 2012 defeating Novak Djokovic and Federer, but some injury-hit seasons have prevented him from challenging for more after missing last year’s event. His first opponent Tomic plays some of his best tennis on the grass, after posting a semifinal finish at Queens last year, and a run to the last eight at Wimbledon five years previous. If the Australian plays his 'A' game this week, he could be a danger in the draw.
Predicted semifinalist: Dominic Thiem
Semifinals and final prediction
Federer d. Karlovic
Kohlschreiber d. Thiem
Federer d. Kohlschreiber