The clay is a thing of the past – for a while at least – and grass is the surface for the ATP and WTA Tours from now until mid-July.
We start the grass swing with two ATP 250 events in the Netherlands and Germany after a typically testing time on the red dirt drew to a close on Sunday at the French Open.
Novak Djokovic was stunned, along with most other observers, when Stanislas Wawrinka brought his best level to the Chatrier court on Sunday and after going a set down kept it there for nigh on three sets to lift the French Open trophy.
I freely admit I did not see that feat being possible on clay, but losing a wager in the circumstances of witnessing what was the best French Open men’s final in recent memory almost makes up for it. Almost.
Our events this week are the Topshelf Open in Rosmalen and the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart and while one is a new tournament on the calendar the other is an old, familiar grass favourite.
The Topshelf Open is played on probably the slowest grass courts of the swing, which is why the likes of Roberto Bautista-Agut have won there and it’s a favourite of the clay courters.
It’s a combined ATP/WTA event there and it looks a wide-open draw with David Goffin and RBA the shaky-looking favourites in s-Hertogenbosch this week.
In Stuttgart, the Mercedes Cup is played for the first time in its long and distinguished history on grass after almost a century on clay and that’s where the big names are in action on week 23.
But it’s a gentle opening day of the main draw of the grass swing on Monday, with only seven matches across the two tournaments, starting at around 11:30 UK time in Rosmalen and around 12:00 in Stuttgart.
I’ll wait until I see what conditions are like in Stuttgart before betting there and in Rosmalen four of 16 underdogs were winners in round one last year, with Thiemo De Bakker’s 3.38 win over Igor Sijsling the pick of the bunch.
Jarkko Nieminen vs Marius Copil
Copil gets a lot of wild cards due to his association with Ion Tiriac, but he doesn’t tend to do much with them, as his 3-7 record in his last 10 matches shows.
The Romanian has a big serve and the assumption would be that he could be dangerous on grass, but that hasn’t been the case so far in his career and the slow conditions in s-Hertogenbosch won’t help him here.
Copil has a 1-2 record at tour level on grass, with the one win coming here against Brazilian Rogerio Dutra Silva, who has never won a match on grass at main level, two years ago.
At all levels Copil is only 7-8 on grass and today’s match against Nieminen will be his first on the green stuff against a left-hander.
The veteran Finn’s game is still in good shape, as he showed against Djokovic in Paris when he should have won a set and although he wouldn’t count grass as his best surface these conditions should suit.
Nieminen doesn’t have the best of records against big servers, but he has beaten the likes of Milos Raonic, Marin Cilic, and Feliciano Lopez (on grass) and he’s won his two career matches against Copil.
The Finn has a 65-8 record against opponents ranked outside the top-190, like Copil, and he should win this one at what looks a touch of value at around 1.50 today.
Vasek Pospisil vs Marinko Matosevic
You take your chances with ‘Mad Dog’ always, but he looks a viable outsider in this 15:30 UK time clash in Stuttgart against Pospisil here.
Pospisil has been inching back from a nasty ankle injury and he’s played only one match in singles since he fell in Madrid causing the damage.
The Canadian has played a few matches in doubles, but it’s hardly the same in terms of physicality and court coverage, and it’s asking a lot for him to come out and win as favourite in only his second match back.
He also has a poor record on grass, with an 11-16 record at all levels and that falls to 5-10 at main level.
Again, the assumption here is that his big serve will mean he wins on grass, but that hasn’t been the case so far in his career and Matosevic has some fine wins on grass to his name.
Richard Gasquet, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Cilic, and Fernando Verdasco have all been beaten by Matosevic on grass and in this first career meeting between the Aussie and the Canadian the former looks the value.
Matosevic’s form of late has been poor, but that’s to be expected on clay, and he’ll be up for this one – or should be – on a surface he clearly is effective on.
In best-of-three matches on grass his last eight have ended in two sets, win or lose, and the 3.95 about a 2-0 win for Matosevic looks a good long shot today.
Value bet: Back Nieminen to beat Copil at 1.50
Long shot: Back Matosevic to beat Pospisil 2-0 at 3.95