By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd
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Milos Raonic narrowly pipped Gilles Simon to the prestigious top seeding berth, but it is the no3 seed Philipp Kohlschreiber who appears to be the most probable player to win the 2013 AEGON International.
German ace Kohlschreiber made 20102 his breakthrough year, finishing in the world’s top for the first time since turning professional in 2011 and reaching the Wimbledon quarter-finals following four opening round defeats in seven seasons at SW19 – on top of a victory on grass at Halle in Germany over Rafael Nadal.
His 2012 win-loss grass record of 9-3 speaks volumes, and being one of the four seeds – all within the world’s top 20 – to be gifted a bye into the 2nd Round should ease his way through the field.
However, this is the strongest ever set of players in the Men’s draw with the no8 seed of Italian Fabio Fognini ranked at world no31.
There are two mouthwatering 1st Round clashes to relish, Bernard Tomic against British wildcard James Ward and Jarkko Nieminen facing Spaniard Feliciano Lopez.
Tomic, a 2011 Wimbledon semi-finalist sensation as a tenacious teenager, has struggled ever since his father/coach John was involved in an alleged assault with his former practice partner at this year’s Madrid Masters.
The giant Australian fell in the 1st Round at Queen’s last week, which made it four ATP Tour defeats on the bounce. Yet his game is suited to fast surfaces and he has the ability to win this event if his confidence crisis doesn’t continue, which is seemingly due to his father’s coach accreditation ban by the ATP until October’s court hearing in Madrid.
British no2 Ward, who is playing in his fifth successive Eastbourne tournament and reached the 2010 quarter-finals, hovers just outside the world’s top 200 but produces his best on grass and in front of his home crowd.
The Londoner’s wildcard entry at Queen’s resulted in just the one match, beaten in three sets by Croatian Ivan Dodig. And wildcard Ward has a real shot at causing an upset if Tomic’s recent injury and personal circumstances take over from the natural ability that the Australian obviously possesses.
Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen tasted a 2nd Round reversal at Queen’s last week, one victory less than Lopez on the grass court in London.
Nieminen has picked up six wins in eight contests against Lopez, including their only grass court meeting – 2012 Wimbledon.
With totally different styles of play the result is in the balance, Nieminen is a firm favourite to progress and face no4 seed Monaco of Argentina although Lopez
(1)Milos Raonic (CAN) bye
Denis Istomin (UZB) vs Ivan Dodig (CRO) [head-to-head1-0]
Viktor Troicki (SRB) vs Martin Klizan (SVK) [1-0]
Grega Zemlja (SLO) vs (8)Fabio Fognini (ITA) [1-2]
(4)Juan Monaco (ARG) bye
Jarkko Nieminen (FIN) vs Feliciano Lopez (ESP) [7-2]
Albert Ramos (ESP) vs (qualifier)James Blake (USA) [1-0]
Fernando Verdasco (ESP) vs (6)Alexandr Dolgopolov (UKR) [1-0]
Raonic is aiming to recover from last week’s reversal to France’s Gael Monfils on grass in Germany. Not only has Monfils since withdrawn injured from Wimbledon, but the giant Canadian arguably produced some of his worse tennis in recent seasons.
With a new coach to guide him, Raonic needs to return to winning ways and utilise his array of weapons on fast surfaces.
If Raonic can dispatch the winner of Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin or Dodig, then he should have few problems in getting past no8 seed Fognini, Slovenian Grega Zemlja, Slovakian Martin Klizan or Serbian Viktor Troicki to book a semi-final berth.
Monaco has a much tougher task to progress. He faces the winner of the Lopez/Nieminen contest, and if successful would take on either Spaniard Albert Ramos, American qualifier James Blake, Spain’s Fernando Verdasco or Ukraine’s Alex Dolgopolov in a battle for a last four place.
Lopez is arguably one of the best grass court players in the draw, with three quarter-final appearances at Wimbledon. And SW19 was a happy hunting ground for the veteran with Monaco one his victims at the 2012 London Olympics.
(7)Andreas Seppi (ITA) vs (q)Guiliame Rufin (FRA) [1-0]
Paul-Henri Mathieu (FRA) vs (q)Ryan Harrison (USA) [1-0]
Radek Stepanek (CZE) vs Marinko Matosevic (AUS)
(3)Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) bye
(5)Kevin Anderson (RSA) vs Julien Benneteau (FRA) [1-2]
Bernard Tomic (AUS) vs (WC)James Ward (GBR)
(WC)Kyle Edmund (GBR) vs (q)Kerry de Schepper (FRA)
(2)Gilles Simon (FRA) bye
Simon, dethroned as the top seed by Raonic’s late wildcard entry, should ease into only his second quarter-final at Eastbourne as he has a strong chance against either British wildcard Kyle Edmund or a French qualifier Kerry de Schepper in the 2nd Round.
Kevin Anderson appears to stand in the way of Simon progressing to the semi-final stage. But the South African giant has to fend off France’s experienced Julian Benneteau in the 1st Round with the winner of Tomic/Ward next up.
Andreas Seppi, the only former Devonshire Park champion in the draw, should have few difficulties in reaching the quarter-finals. The Italian has French qualifier Guiliame Rufin in the 1st Round, the winner will play either France’s Paul-Henri Mathieu or American qualifier Ryan Harrison.
Kohlschreiber, a quarter-finalist at last week’s grass court event in Germany, has a 2nd Round clash against Australian Marinko Matosevic or Czech Republic’s Radek Stepanek. And Kohlschreiber should soar to the semi-finals with ease.
Raonic vs Lopez
Kohlschreiber vs Simon