Rafael Nadal proved to be invincible on the French clay but how will he fare on the British grass?
The freshly-crowned 10-time Roland Garros champion was to get his first taste of grass at the Aegon Championships at Queen’s Club in London. The event, which runs June 19-26, is one of the most prestigious events in tennis, and the most regarded grass-court title other than Wimbledon. However, Nadal withdrew from the event two days after his win at Roland Garros, stating, “After speaking to my team and doctor, I have decided my body needs to rest if I am going to be ready to play Wimbledon.”
Nadal will now have a three weeks off to rest after his ferocious run through seven straight-set wins en route to the title in Paris. The Spaniard has traditionally placed the bulk of his efforts into the clay court season, from April until June, where his productivity declines in the last six months of the year, when play is on faster services.
However, Nadal has won four career titles on grass – two at Wimbledon in 2008 and 2010, the Queen’s title in 2008 and also in Stuttgart in 2015.
Success at Queens has translated into success at Wimbledon as seven different players have completed The Queen’s Club-Wimbledon title double in the same year, including Nadal in 2008, and also John McEnroe (1981, ’84), Jimmy Connors (’82), Boris Becker (’85), Pete Sampras (’95, ’99), Lleyton Hewitt (2002) and Andy Murray (2013).
The top-ranked Murray, the defending Queens and Wimbledon champions, will be the favorite to win the title again. Last year, Murray became the first player to win five Queen’s Club titles when he defeated Milos Raonic in the final.
Murray has struggled of late, but left the French Open in a positive frame of mind with a semifinal finish, falling to Stan Wawrinka in five sets, failing to put away the Swiss in a fourth-set tiebreaker that would have put him into the final in Paris for the second-straight year.
Murray will be tested by an extremely talented field that also includes Wawrinka, who has enlisted former Pete Sampras and Roger Federer coach Paul Annacone to help him with his grass-court preparations for Wimbledon, the only major tournament he hasn’t won. Remember that both Federer and Sampras have won Wimbledon seven times each!
The hard-serving Raonic, who also lost in last year’s Wimbledon final to Murray, will also be a contender in the Queens field as well as the talented and hot-headed Nick Kyrgios and Grigor Dimitrov, a former Wimbledon semifinalist.