ATP Tour Week 26 Preview: Muller can get through weak field in Eastbourne
We have two 250 grass court events on the ATP Tour this week as players look to fine-tune their preparations for Wimbledon. Our tennis columnist, Dan Weston, previews the action...
"From 2016 onwards, just 35.29% of the top four seeds in all Grand Slam warm-up tournaments have made the semi-finals, giving weight to the argument that top players often lack motivation in these events with their priorities being the subsequent Grand Slam tournament."
Wimbledon just one week away
With one week to go before Wimbledon, eyes focus on two relatively low-profile 250 tournaments in Eastbourne and Antalya, with many players keen to get some competitive game-time on grass before arguably the most prestigious tournament in world tennis starts.
Murray the tournament favourite on the South Coast
One of those is Andy Murray, who has accepted a wild-card into Eastbourne, and the Scotsman has immediately been installed as the 6/1 favourite for the event with the Sportsbook, slightly ahead of Kyle Edmund, Denis Shapovalov and Gilles Muller, who are all at single-digit prices as well.
While Murray exceeded market expectations in defeat to Nick Kyrgios last week at Queens, it would be a big ask of him to win five consecutive matches this week with his current level of fitness.
Conditions likely to be medium-slow for grass
Conditions on the south coast of England are likely to be warm and sunny, with expected temparatures in the mid 20s throughout the week. However, from a small sample of recent data the courts are likely to play medium-slow for grass, thus fairly similar to an average indoor hard court.
This gives a little less benefit to big-servers than that at the other English warm-up event, at Queens, but still should favour them a little over the more return orientated players in the draw.
Seeds with underperformance in recent Slam warm-up events
Another dynamic worth considering this week is the performances of top four seeds in these Grand Slam warm-up events. From 2016 onwards, just 35.29% of the top four seeds in all Grand Slam warm-up tournaments have made the semi-finals, giving weight to the argument that top players often lack motivation in these events with their priorities being the subsequent Grand Slam tournament.
With this in mind, chancing an unseeded player at slightly bigger prices, potentially each way, seems to make a lot of sense, and with clay-courters Diego Schwartzman and Marco Cecchinato being the top four seeds with byes into round two both being in the top half of the draw, taking a chance on a player in this top half also is logical.
Muller can take advantage of weak top half of the draw
Of these players, Muller is the obvious threat, with the man from Luxembourg having a very strong level on grass, as does Andreas Seppi. Both are in the latter stages of their career, however, but Muller in particular looked in reasonable touch last week at Queens, narrowly losing to eventual winner Marin Cilic in three sets. John Millman and Gilles Simon look to block his route to the quarter-finals, and both return-orientated players have very poor grass court data over the last couple of years. At 9/1, Muller looks the call in Sussex.
Monfils a strange favourite in Antalya
Over in Turkey, Gael Monfils, rather bizarrely, has been chalked up as the 7/2 event favourite with the Sportsbook, which seems very short given his woeful year so far. It would take a big leap of faith for backers to chance the Frenchman at this price.
He does have a bye into round two, however, with Adrian Mannarino, Fernando Verdasco and Damir Dzumhur joining him as seeds with byes. They are also joined by Joao Sousa and Nikoloz Basilashvil, who won their first-round matches yesterday, on a low-key opening day.
Baghdatis and Youzhny grass-lovers in decline
Looking at the unseeded players in the draw with good grass court data, both Marcos Baghdatis and Mikhail Youzhny are flagged up, but both veterans are in big decline now, and Baghdatis retired last time out at the French Open. Even at 20/1, it's tough to chance the Cypriot here.
Copil with potential at a big price
One player perhaps worth chancing at a big price is Marius Copil, who loves quicker conditions and has a solid enough record on grass in the last couple of years. The Romanian couldn't ask for a better draw than the local wild-card Cem Ilkel in the opening round, before facing the winner of Federico Delbonis versus Pierre-Hugues Herbert, and at 20/1 looks a decent each-way investment at a generous price.
Yuichi Sugita is another with decent grass data and the Japanese player is available at 12/1, but my slight preference is towards taking a chance on Copil here at the bigger price.
Follow Dan on Twitter @TennisRatings