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Following the action at the 2014 French Open, the ATP Tour starts the transition to the grass court swing of the season, starting with the Gerry Weber Open.
This tournament is held in Halle Germany, and with the grass swing of the season being pretty short, this is only one of five tournaments on the surface which players will have the chance on which to get their footing ahead of the big Wimbledon Championships Grand Slam in June. This being the first time that players play competitive on grass for the season, it is a tournament which can throw up surprises.
Transitions from one surface to another is not an easy thing, because the mechanics of the game, in terms of footing, speed of the ball and the bounce of the ball are all completely different between one surface and the next. The Gerry Weber Open was contested in its inaugural year back in 1993 and in the years since, the great Roger Federer has become the most successful player at the tournament, and the Swiss superstar will be heading back to Germany to defend his title after beating Mikhail Youzhny in last season’s final.
Federer holds a fantastic 45-3 record at the German tournament, which includes having landed the title six times before. He has been the star of the Halle show overall, but has only won it once in the last five years. But his surge to the title again twelve months ago and with him being one of the greatest grass court players in the history of the game, then he will have plenty of backing to defend his title. Federer won this tournament for four consecutive years between 2003 and 2006 inclusive.
The Gerry Weber Open is an ATP World Tour 250 level event, so it doesn’t always attract a lot of top players. However, this time around, there is a big duo at the head of the field as Rafael Nadal has put himself back in the running. While the great Spaniard has a good record on grass, a surface on which he has won three career titles (including two Wimbledon Grand Slam titles) he hasn’t ever impressed at Halle before. Nadal has put in two previous appearances and failed to make it past the quarter finals on both occasions.
The thing to consider is that Nadal had a longer run at the French Open before heading to Germany, than Federer did. Federer was knocked out in the fourth round at Roland Garros by Latvia’s Ernests Gulbis, and that is in comparison to Nadal’s long run to the final of the French Open. Still, they will be the big names in the 2014 Gerry Weber Open field and the betting may not extend too far beyond them. The other leading seeds in the field will be Canada’s big-serving Milos Raonic, Frenchman Richard Gasquet, and two-time winner Tommy Haas.
Raonic will be heading to Germany on the back of his most successful clay court swing over, and he is back for the fourth time in the Halle field. His best finishes at the event were quarter final slots in 2011 and 2012. Japan’s Kei Nishikori suffered a shock first round exit at the French Open after a semi-final appearance at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Miami, a title win in Barcelona and a loss in the final of the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Madrid. He will be looking to put in a big bounce back performance and could be the best dark horse shot of the field this year.