The dust has barely cleared in Paris but the French Open has finished, which means all eyes will be firmly on the lead up to Wimbledon. The third Grand Slam tournament begins in three weeks, and players will fine tune their game as they transition from clay to grass courts. The Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart is headlined by former world number one Roger Federer and 2014 Wimbledon semifinalist Grigor Dimitrov as the top two seeds.
This will be the 40th edition of the event but it will be the third edition on grass after it switched from clay in 2015. Dominic Thiem was the defending champion but the Austrian has opted not to play in Stuttgart, after reaching the semifinals in Paris. The 2015 finalist Viktor Troicki and last year's finalist Philipp Kohlschreiber are among the field in this year's tournament.
Projected quarterfinal: Federer (1) v M. Zverev (6)
The world number five Roger Federer returns to competitive tennis for the first time since March, after he claimed back-to-back Masters 1000 titles in Indian Wells and Miami. The 18-time Grand Slam champion opted to skip the entire clay court season, and he will be refreshed and recharged as he mounts a serious title assault at Wimbledon for an eighth title. The 35-year-old begins his campaign on Wednesday, and the top seed receives a bye, where he will face good friend Tommy Haas or Pierre-Hugues Herbert. Whoever, Federer plays in his first grass court match, they will provide a tough test, and the top seed will be rusty, but he should reach the quarterfinals.
Mischa Zverev, is also lurking in this section of the draw, and the German lost in the first round of the French Open like his younger brother Alex. The elder Zverev brother is most notably known for his dream run to the quarterfinals at the Australian Open, where he upset the world number one Andy Murray. Zverev opens his grass court campaign on home soil against Malek Jaziri, and he faces a qualifier in the second round. Compatriot, Yannick Hanfmann or Marton Fucsovics, could await in the second round. Nonetheless, both Federer and Zverev should meet in the quarterfinals, and expect the top seed to reach the semifinals. Federer reached the semifinals last year but lost to the eventual champion Dominic Thiem.
Projected quarterfinal: Berdych (3) v Simon (7)
2010 Wimbledon runner-up Tomas Berdych will also be participating at the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart. The third-seeded Czech has struggled in 2017, and his clay court form was dismal. His clay court campaign came to a halt at the French Open, when he suffered a shocking straight-sets defeat at the hands of Karen Khachanov in the second round. Berdych fired 2001 Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic, who was appointed as his coach last year, as he was looking to win a Slam under the Croat but was unable to. Berdych begins his campaign against Bernard Tomic, a 2011 Wimbledon quarterfinalist or France's Stephane Robert in the second round, after receiving a first round bye.
This mini-section of the draw continues to get tougher as seventh seed Gilles Simon takes on Feliciano Lopez. Simon lost in the first round of the French Open, which would have been a bitterly disappointing result for the Frenchman. Lopez defeated Simon in a three-set thriller in Madrid, last month and dispatched Simon in both of their grass-court meetings in the final of Eastbourne in 2013, and the first round of Wimbledon in 2013. The winner of that first round clash will earn the right to face the winner of Jeremy Chardy and Florian Mayer. Mayer won his first ATP 500 level tournament in Halle last year when he defeated Alexander Zverev. The German has got the game to beat Chardy, and this section of the draw is wide open. Berdych should reach the semifinals but Lopez is a good player on grass with a big serve, and powerful groundstrokes, which could see him making a surprising run in Stuttgart.
Projected quarterfinal: Johnson (5) v Pouille (4)
One of the most touching stories at the French Open this year was fifth seed Steve Johnson, overcoming Borna Coric at the French Open. The American was tearful at the French Open after the emotional passing of his father, that happened before the tournament. Johnson will play German wildcard Maximilian Marterer in the first round. Last year's finalist Philipp Kohlschreiber, who also advanced to the quarterfinals in 2015, has a mouthwatering first round encounter with 2006 Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis. Kohlschreiber is a classy grass court player, and he reached the quarterfinals of Wimbledon in 2012. The German will sense a good opportunity to go far in Stuttgart with a favourable draw.
Fourth seed Lucas Pouille got a wildcard into this event, and the Frenchman will be looking to get his grass court campaign off to a good start. Pouille lost to Albert Ramos Vinolas in the third round of the French Open. The 23-year-old will play Slovakian qualifier Lukas Lacko or another German in the draw, Jan-Lennard Struff in the second round. Pouille reached his first Grand Slam quarterfinal at Wimbledon last year before Berdych halted his run. Pouille also reached the quarterfinals at the US Open last year, after he defeated Rafael Nadal in a five-set thriller. A potential quarterfinal clash between Pouille and Kohlschreiber could be on the cards, and you would fancy the veteran to reach the semifinals.
Projected quarterfinal: Troicki (8) v Dimitrov (2)
Viktor Troicki is no stranger on reaching the latter rounds of grass events. The eighth seed reached the final in Stuttgart in 2015 also as the eighth seed, which could be an omen, losing to Nadal. Troicki will face the unpredictable Benoit Paire in his opening round match. Paire lost in the first round of the French Open as he suffered at the hands of the eventual winner Rafael Nadal. The winner of this match will face Nikoloz Basilashvili or German qualifier Peter Gojowczyk.
However, one of the favourites for the title will be the second seed, Grigor Dimitrov. The Bulgarian will be pleased to be back on his favourite grass courts after he reached the third round of the French Open. Dimitrov was happy to win at least one match in Paris, which was his aim, as he lost in the first round on three successive occasions from 2014-2016. Furthermore, the draw gods haven't been kind to "Baby Fed" as he will face the lanky Jerzy Janowicz, who's career has been derailed by injuries or Andrey Kuznetsov. Janowicz reached the semifinals of Wimbledon in 2013, and he will be looking to go on a deep run in Stuttgart. Nevertheless, if Dimitrov can find the confidence that he showed in Australia after winning the title in Brisbane, and a semifinal finishes in Melbourne, almost defeating Nadal, he could win the title in Stuttgart.
Semifinals and Final prediction:
Federer d. Lopez
Dimitrov d. Kohlschreiber
Final: Federer d. Dimitrov