After the drama of the French Open, the ATP Tour moves onto the grass season this week. Previewing this week's events is our tennis columnist, Dan Weston.
"In the top half of the draw, both Adrian Mannarino and the aforementioned Seppi have very strong grass court records and in the case of Mannarino, looks a little under-rated after a bad couple of months on clay - again entirely predictably."
Nadal lifts French Open trophy in advance of the grass season
Yesterday's French Open final went the way of Rafa Nadal, in rather easy fashion, as he defeated Dominic Thiem in three straight sets. After a tough men's campaign this column picked up in the second week, and Nadal's straightforward triumph was a good winner for us, with him covering the game handicap with ease.
Following yesterday's match, the ATP Tour moves from clay (three-year mean service hold 77.0%, mean aces per game 0.37) to grass (three-year mean service hold 84.1%, mean aces per game 0.64) and this huge difference in the conditions will render a great deal of player 'form' pretty irrelevant.
Surface differences renders 'form' irrelevant
Certainly, clay courters who have enjoyed a couple of decent months will not enjoy grass conditions - clay to grass is the most dramatic surface adjustment on the tennis calendar - and while all surfaces have specialists, to a varying degree, surface specialists are more prevalent on grass than any other surface.
Grass action this week starts off with two pretty low-profile events as players begin to prepare for Wimbledon in a few weeks time, and we have tournaments in Stuttgart (Germany) and Hertogenbosch (Netherlands) on our radar in the coming week.
Federer returns to tour in Stuttgart
In Stuttgart, after skipping the clay court season, Roger Federer is the number one seed and is just 8/13 to take the title with the Sportsbook. In truth, while he has been inactive from tournaments over the last couple of months, he's the best grass-courter on tour right now and in this event which isn't of the highest quality, he should have few issues.
However, last season he also skipped the clay season and then went in cold to Stuttgart, and was beaten by Tommy Haas when priced [1.07] in his first match, and he didn't pick up his grass level until a week later, in Halle. Federer will need to ensure that the same issue does not repeat itself and the main threats in his top half of the draw include the fitness-doubt Nick Kyrgios, and Feliciano Lopez, who is in decline but excellent on grass.
Each way options viable in the bottom half of the draw
With Federer respected by the market, and indeed, myself, the best option in all honesty is to look for each-way options in the bottom half of the draw, at potentially big prices.
Of the players with good grass data in the bottom half of the draw, we have Milos Raonic, Tomas Berdych, Phillip Kohlschreiber, Florian Mayer and Lucas Pouille, but there are doubts over a number of players in this shortlist.
Raonic missed the French Open with injury, while Mayer comes into this event in very poor touch indeed. Pouille has won 10 of his 15 matches on grass in the last two seasons, and has a good record in quick conditions, but I also suspect that he's flattered by this 10-5 record on the surface, given huge overperformance on break points in these matches.
Kohlschreiber a threat to make it through the bottom half
This leaves Kohlschreiber and Berdych, and I've gone for the German in his home country, at 12/1. He's got a solid grass court record (105.2% combined hold/break percentage) in the last two years, winning 10 of 14 matches, and comes into the event with a decent level in recent months. We can excuse his first-round defeat at the French Open, given his brutal draw against the rapidly improving Borna Coric.
Gasquet the market favourite in Hertogenbosch
Over in the Netherlands, the low quality of the event is evidenced by Adrian Mannarino being top seed, and Gilles Muller, Fernando Verdasco and Richard Gasquet are the other seeds with byes, and Gasquet takes the favourite billing at 7/2, and in what looks a pretty open tournament, all other players are 7/1 or bigger.
Muller is at 7/1 and he falls into the Lopez bracket - grass specialist in decline - while quite bizarrely, Stefanos Tsitsipas is 9/1 third favourite. The Greek has an excellent record on clay and the market looks to be influenced by successes on that surface in recent months, but his record away from clay is very mediocre indeed, and he looks very short at this price.
Shortlist of competent grass courters recommended
Competent players with good levels on grass in the draw include Andreas Seppi, Jeremy Chardy, Yuichi Sugita, Ivo Karlovic, Bernard Tomic, Marcos Baghdatis and Daniil Medvedev.
Medvedev had an awful clay season - rather predictably - but he showed a good level on grass last season and his career is in a generally upward curve. However 11/1 is too short on the Russian youngster in a half of the draw featuring Karlovic, Baghdatis, Tomic and Gasquet.
Mannarino can come through weak top half of the draw
In the top half of the draw, both Adrian Mannarino and the aforementioned Seppi have very strong grass court records and in the case of Mannarino, looks a little under-rated after a bad couple of months on clay - again entirely predictably.
He has a first round bye before facing either Guillermo Garcia-Lopez or Chardy, and it should be between him and Seppi to make it through the top quarter. In truth, unless Muller can reproduce his previous grass levels, which is far from a given, either Mannarino or Seppi will be favourite against any player in the second quarter in a semi-final.
I'm happy to take the chance that Mannarino will relish the return to his favourite surface, and reverse his bad results on clay in the last couple of months, and 14/1 is a generous price for him to do so.
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