Canada’s Milos Raonic returns the ball to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France during their match at the ATP tennis event in Stuttgart, Germanany Wednesday June 12, 2019. (Silas Stein/dpa via AP)
Canada’s Milos Raonic returns the ball to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France during their match at the ATP tennis event in Stuttgart, Germanany Wednesday June 12, 2019. (Silas Stein/dpa via AP)|Associated Press

Tennis Friday: Abrams picks quarter matches at the Mercedes Cup and Libema Open – Berrettini, FA2, Raonic, de Minaur and Goffin

Matches start at 5 am EDT in Stuttgart and ‘s-Hertogenbosch

Neal Abrams

Neal Abrams

The European clay court season is over and the players of the two professional tours have scattered around the globe. Most of the top women have decided to take this week off, although there are two minor tournaments being played. I had interest in one of them to see how American Amanda Anisimova would rebound after reaching the French semis, but she pulled out of the competition with some sort of phantom illness or injury. However a good deal of the men have congregated in one of two ATP 250 tournaments—the Mercedes Cup played in Stuttgart, Germany, and the Libema Open, in s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands, both small 32-draw events played on grass courts.

Because all of the players are trying out their grass court games for the first time after the clay court season, there have been some interesting matches with unusual results providing some news that wouldn’t have seemed likely a couple of weeks ago. For instance, in The Netherlands, Stefanos Tsitsipas went out to Nicolas Jarry and in Stuttgart, Dustin Brown took down Sascha Zverev, Jan-Lennard Struff topped Denis Shapovalov, Denis Kudla knocked off Gael Monfils, and most surprising, Matteo Berrettini beat both Nick Kyrgios and Karen Khachanov.

So here are my picks for tomorrow’s quarterfinal matches at these events:

Mercedes Cup
Stuttgart, Germany

Matteo Berrettini over Denis Kudla
I don’t care what surface they’re playing on, any player who beat both Nick Kyrgios and Karen Khahanov successively is playing well enough to beat Denis Kudla. If I had started to make picks at the beginning of the tournament I wouldn’t have picked either man to be in the quarters, but now that they’re there, it looks to me like it’s Berrettini’s match to lose

Felix Auger-Aliassime over Dustin Brown
Dustin Brown is a pure joy to watch play on grass. He plays the game the way it’s supposed to be played: he chips and charges, he serves and volleys, and he dives for anything near him, which provides many happy highlights. He’s already taken out Zverev and John Millman, neither of which would I have picked. But FA2 looks awfully good on the slippery stuff. He’s beaten Gilles Simon and Ernests Gulbis, both in straight sets, and looks pretty at home playing on grass. I like the Canadian teenager to stop Brown’s run.

Milos Raonic over Marton Fucsovics
Milos Raonic, another very tough Canadian, won two third set tiebreakers from both Jo-Willie Tsonga and Alexi Popyrin, two pretty accomplished grass court players. Raonic’s serve is a severe weapon on the grass, as is his biting slice backhand. I don’t see him losing to Marton Fucsovics, no matter what the Hungarian throws at him. Raonic may not be terribly exciting to watch as he bludgeons his opponents on the green stuff, but he sure is effective.

Libema Open
s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands

Alex de Minaur over Jordan Thompson
Both of these Aussies are fine grass court players, having grown up and being exposed to that game at a very early age. Thompson must be playing well as he took out two young Americans who are good players: Tommy Paul and Frances Tiafoe. But de Minaur is a better player and holds a 2-0 career advantage over Thompson. I expect that dominance to continue.

David Goffin over Adrian Mannarino
What is Adrian Mannarino doing in the quarters of the first grass court tournament of the season? Well he fought through a tough second round match with Fernando Verdasco, after dropping the first set 6-1, so he must like the surface. But Goffin is playing well—having not dropped a set yet in two matches, and is the better player, holding a 4-0 career advantage over the Frenchman. I expect Goffin to get through this one and contend for this title.

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