Tennis / Reaction / Pre Wimbledon Form

Pre-Wimbledon Form

After the two major Wimbledon warm-up events at Queen's and Halle we look at how important grass-court form is for Wimbledon success.

Sam Querrey

 

Sam Querrey landed his third title of the year last week at the Aegon Championships and remarkably his triumphs have all come on different surfaces (hard, clay and grass), while over in Germany Lleyton Hewitt rolled back the years with his seventh grass-court title after a victory against Wimbledon favourite Roger Federer.

Queen’s

The second edition of the AEGON Championships was notable for the large number of big upsets as Andy Roddick, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray all failed to even reach the quarter-finals which was the stage that saw the exit of top seed Rafael Nadal. The final eventually came down to an all-American clash between Sam Querrey and Mardy Fish with the 6’6” Querrey taking his third title of the year.

Looking ahead to Wimbledon, Queen’s is generally a good guide for success as the last eight winners at Queen’s went on to at least make the quarter-finals at the All England Club with two winners and two runners-up. In nine of the last 11 years a Queen’s finalist has made at least the semi-finals at Wimbledon and in six of those years one of the finalists was in the Wimbledon final two weeks later. These stats are more impressive when considering that one of the final spots has been taken by Roger Federer for the last seven years and he has never played Queen’s, preferring instead to prepare for Wimbledon at Halle.

Looking at players that have made at least the semis at Queen’s since 1990 and then head to Wimbledon, 40 of 75 (53%) go on to make the last 16 at SW19. This is broken down to 26/39 (67%) finalists and 14 of 36 (39%) losing semi-finalists. Furthermore, 38% (29/76) of losing quarter-finalists at Queen’s have gone on to appear in the last 16 at Wimbledon since 1990 with 10 (14%) making at least the semis.

Moreover, there have been 14 previous finalists at Queen’s who were seeded 5-8 and six have reached the semis at Wimbledon with two going out in the quarters, two more in the fourth round, one in the third round and three falling at the first hurdle. Also, none of the five previous unseeded finalists have got past the second round at Wimbledon, suggesting that while Queen’s success is important so is a decent ranking to start with.

This year’s final saw seventh seed Sam Querrey beat his unseeded compatriot Mardy Fish while the losing semi-finalists were eighth seed Feliciano Lopez and unseeded Rainer Schuettler.


Halle

Lleyton Hewitt snapped a 15 match losing streak against Roger Federer when he ended the Swiss’ unbeaten record at Halle that stretched back to 2002 and handed Federer just his second defeat in his last 78 grass-court matches. The losing semi-finalists were the big-serving pair of Ben Becker and Philipp Petzschner.

However, the correlation between a finals appearance at Halle and a strong showing at Wimbledon is a weak one with Federer almost the only man to back up his Halle results with significant performances when he gets to London. In the previous 17 seasons, 27 Halle finalists other than Federer have played Wimbledon and just four have made it as far as the quarter-finals while 14 have been knocked out in the first two rounds.

The weak form trends from Halle are demonstrated by the marked contrast in players going on to make the last 16 at Wimbledon having made the semis or better – just 19 of 66 (29%) have done so since 1993. This is broken down into 15 of 33 (45%) finalists and just four of 33 (12%) losing semi-finalists.

 

Non-Participants

Other players worth looking out for are those top-tenners who have failed to play a warm-up event on grass between the French Open and Wimbledon with Robin Soderling, Fernando Verdasco and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga all absent from the tour during this time. Other notable challengers who've failed to notch any competitive grass-court practice are Tomas Berdych, David Ferrer, John Isner and the injured duo of Ivo Karlovic and Ernests Gulbis. However, Berdych and Soderling will both be playing an exhibition tournament in London in preparation.

In the past seven years only Federer has progressed past the last 16 at SW19 having not played a prior grass-court tournament and while he won both times (2007 and 2009) on both occasions he showed signs of weakness as he was stretched to five sets in the finals by Rafael Nadal and Andy Roddick.

In fact in the past 20 years only 10 players have turned up to Wimbledon without a grass-court tune-up and reached the semis with Andre Agassi in 1992 the only other winner apart from Federer.


Our View

Lleyton Hewitt will definitely be a man to watch out for at SW19 given his return to form and the fact that he’s won more matches on grass than any other active player. However, given the poor record of Halle finalists, excluding Federer, at Wimbledon we would be wary of supporting the former champion when the draw comes out at the weekend.

Instead, given the strong record of seeded finalists at Queen’s Sam Querrey could be the man to spring the big surprises later this month, with Feliciano Lopez also a man to be wary of although a first round retirement in Eastbourne is not a promising sign for the Spaniard.

Also, Soderling, Verdasco and Tsonga while appearing to posess the tools to be dangerous on grass will probably be worth opposing.
 

 
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