Six men to watch at Queen's

Aegon Championships

The British grasscourt season has arrived. These are the men looking dangerous at this week's Aegon Championships

Grigor Dimitrov [BUL]

ATP Ranking: 12

Best Queen’s Result: 2014 Champion
2016 Grass Record: 2-3

R1 opponent: Ryan Harrison

Grigor Dimitrov won this tournament back in 2014 and in the same year went on to reach the Wimbledon semi-finals where he lost to Novak Djokovic. A self-confessed lover of grass, his game-style is well-suited to the surface – he has a particularly powerful forehand, excellent backhand slice and serve that can reach speeds of 137mph.

In January, the Bulgarian won his first title in two-and-a-half years – having beaten Milos Raonic in the semi-final, he triumphed over Kei Nishikori to take the Brisbane International trophy. He also made it to the semi-finals of the Australian Open where he eliminated Richard Gasquet and David Goffin before being beaten by Rafael Nadal.

Milos Raonic [CAN]

ATP Ranking: 6

Best Queen’s Result: 2016 Final  
2016 Grass Record: 10-2

R1 opponent: Thanasi Kokkinakis

Last year, Milos Raonic reached a milestone in his career. He became the first Canadian man to reach the singles final at Wimbledon and even beat Roger Federer en route to his final clash against Andy Murray. By the end of 2016, he was at a career-high No.3 ranking.

Out of the six men on our list, Raonic has scored the most aces against his opponents in 2017, which will serve him well on the grass courts at Queens.

However, having lost out to Murray in both Queen’s and Wimbledon last year, the 26-year-old will no doubt be more motivated than ever to have another attempt at beating the world No.1.

A right leg injury has seen the Canadian drop out of tournaments earlier in the year but from the looks of Roland Garros, he is back to full health.

Marin Cilic [CRO]

ATP Ranking: 7

Best Queen’s Result: 2012 Champion
2016 Grass Record: 7-3

R1 opponent: John Isner

In 2012, Marin Cilic won the Queen’s title and thus far, out of the 17 titles the Croatian has claimed, it is his only grasscourt trophy.

Cilic arrives at the tournament after a career-best 12-4 record on clay at the French Open, and with his first Roland Garros quarter-final under his belt. On grass, he has a 48-23 win-loss record and between 2014-2016 had three quarter-final finishes at Wimbledon.

At 6’6”, Cilic has a powerful serve that saw him plant 155 aces against his opponents on grass last year – the only players in the draw that scored higher on this front were Muller (343) and Raonic (219). Along with his hard and flat ground strokes, Cilic has a game suited to the surface.

Kyle Edmund [GBR]

ATP Ranking: 44

Best Queen’s Result: 
2016 Grass Record: 2-3

R1 opponent: Qualifier

In the most recent Grand Slams, Kyle Edmund has impressed and his performances are improving year-on-year: at the US Open he reached the fourth round where he lost to Djokovic; at the Australian Open he reached the second round; and at the French Open he lost out in the third round to Kevin Anderson.

For the first time, the British No. 2 player is in the draw without a wildcard at Queen’s and instead has been added to the main draw after Diego Schwartzman withdrew through injury.

At last year’s tournament, Edmund took a set of Andy Murray in the quarter-finals but ended up losing out to the fellow Brit 4-6 6-3 1-6. Known for his dominant forehand, Edmund will be hoping his aggressive play with keep his opponents chasing the ball around the court.

Steve Johnson [USA]

ATP Ranking: 25

Best Queen’s Result: 
2016 Grass Record: 11-4

R1 opponent: Nick Kyrgios

For Steve Johnson, emotions have been running high as of late – just weeks after the death of his father the American beat Borna Coric in the second round of the French Open. On match point, Johnson leaned on the net in tears.

In 2016, the 27-year-old won his first ATP singles title and was crowned champion at the Aegon Open Nottingham. A week later at Queen’s, he lost out to Marin Cilic in the quarter-finals.

With the seven-time Wimbledon champion, Pete Sampras, as his idol, Johnson has big aspirations for this next period of his tennis career, playing without his father and mentor but on one of his most successful surfaces. 

Gilles Muller [LUX]

ATP Ranking: 28

Best Queen’s Result:
2016 Grass Record: 13-5

R1 opponent: Nikoloz Basilashvili

This year’s one to watch is Gilles Muller, a man who hit a career-high of 51 aces and saved four match points against world No. 99, Santiago Giraldo, in the first round of Wimbledon last year.

At 34, critics may claim he is past his prime but on grass, age is but a number for this Luxembourger – of the 817 service games he has played on the surface, he has won 88%, putting his winning record on par with the likes of Cilic and Dimitrov.

Earlier this year, he won his first ATP title at Sydney International, moving him up the rankings from No. 34 to No. 28. And in last year’s Queen’s Club tournament, he saved 10 match points to beat John Isner in the second round. This 6’4” left-hander has excellent hands at the net and will be a dangerous opponent.

Posted by: tennishead

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