The grass court season got underway today in Birmingham and there were some interesting results as last year’s champion, Melanie Oudin fell to Ajla Tomljanovic in the first competitive match to grace the new Ann Jones Centre Court. In other results, the grass lovers came out to play as Tsvetana Pironkova snapped a five-match losing streak with a 6-2 6-1 win over Lauren Davis and former champion, Magdalena Rybarikova beat the Brit, Melanie South in straight sets.
At Queens, Daniel Evans was a winner on day one as he opened up the tournament with an impressive 6-3 6-1 victory over Guido Pella. James Ward was not as fortunate as he lost a tough three setter to Ivan Dodig having had match points, 6-7(8) 7-6(2) 7-6(2). In Halle, my one unseeded tip to make the quarter-finals, Daniel Brands fell at the first hurdle to Jan Hernych, 6-4 6-2. The dream doubles pair of Roger Federer and Tommy Haas also lost in the first round to Jurgen Melzer and Philipp Petzschner.
2nd Round matches start at both Birmingham and Queens tomorrow along with the rest of first round action. Let’s take a look at the ones to watch for Tuesday…
1. Xavier Malisse v Juan Martin del Potro
Juan Martin del Potro makes his return to the court having struggled throughout the clay court season with a virus, which sidelined him from Roland Garros. Del Potro first faces Xavier Malisse, who came through a 2 hour 11 minute opener with Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, 6-4 5-7 6-4. This will not be an easy opener for del Potro as Malisse has already played a match and has real grass court pedigree having reached the quarter-finals of Queens last year and being a former Wimbledon semi-finalist. I think this is a potential banana skin for the huge Argentine and I am going to take a risk and go for Malisse to prevail.
Prediction – Malisse to beat Del Potro in 2 tight sets
2. Jamie Hampton v Madison Keys
An all-American tie in Birmingham has been shunted out on to court 2 in Birmingham, but would actually be my top match to watch if I was visiting tomorrow. Jamie Hampton knocked out the number 10 seed, Hsieh Su-Wei with a convincing 6-3 6-2 victory, meanwhile Madison Keys had to fight her way into the second round coming from a set down and taking 8 match points to defeat Lesia Tsurenko, 3-6 6-3 7-6(3). This is the first time Keys is playing the grass court season and I thought she would be suited to the grass, but I read on Twitter that she really struggled today. Keys won their only previous match, but I like Hampton’s form at the minute and think her versatility will shine through.
Prediction – Hampton to beat Keys in 3 sets
3. Lleyton Hewitt v Grigor Dimitrov
Perhaps the best of the second round matches at Queens will see one of the hottest prospects play one of the most experienced guys left on the tour as Grigor Dimitrov takes on Lleyton Hewitt. Both players came from a set down in their first round matches to progress to this clash. Dimitrov edged past Dudi Sela in an entertaining opener, 4-6 6-2 7-6(4), meanwhile Hewitt edged beat Michael Russell. Dimitrov struggled to find his range against Sela, who has proved his grass court predentials before beating Andy Roddick at Queens in 2010. Hewitt showed his dogged determination at the French Open when he nearly came back from a hefty deficit in a fifth set decider against Gilles Simon. Hewitt will be a mean match for Dimitrov, but I would still back Dimitrov to come through this one.
Prediction – Dimitrov to beat Hewitt in 3 sets
Best of the rest: 2nd round Birmingham predictions
Paszek to beat Riske in 3 sets
U.Radwanska to beat Vekic in 2 tight sets
Barthel to beat Dolonc in 2 tight sets
Best of the rest: 2nd round Queens predictions
Querrey to beat Bedene in 2 sets
Dodig to beat Cilic in 3 sets
Paire to beat Kudla in 2 sets
Dolgopolov to beat Giraldo in 2 tight sets