And just like that, we leave the red dirt behind us, and move on to the green grass, in the lead up to the next major, Wimbledon…which is just a few weeks away.
So what’s on the schedule for this week?
Stuttgart 250, Germany:
It’s still a bit odd to get used to a grass tournament here, but it has been 8 years since the switch from clay. In that time, there’s been some high profile winners…Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem, and Matteo Berrettini (twice) have all had success here.
Berrettini is back this year, along with Stefanos Tsitsipas and Taylor Fritz, who are the two highest ranked players. Plenty of eyes will be on Australia’s Nick Kyrgios though, as he takes to the court for his first match of the year. It will be fascinating to see what shape he is in, with a tough first round opponent in China's Yibing Wu and whether he can be any threat at all by the time Wimbledon rolls around. Christopher O’Connell will also be appearing in Germany this week against local Daniel Altmaeir who took the big scalp of Jannik Sinner at the French Open
s’Hertogenbosch 250, The Netherlands:
An event that’s been on the calendar for decades now, has seen plenty of Aussie success in its history. Patrick Rafter won it 3 years in a row, before Lleyton Hewitt made it 4 consecutive Aussie wins. But that was over 20 years ago.
The tournament opened up last night AEST with Rinky Hijikata getitng a first round win, while Jason Kubler was knocked out. We will also have representation from Alex de Minaur, Jordan Thompson and Alexei Popyrin.
Daniil Medvedev will be hoping to get back to winning titles, after his first round exit in Paris, while Jannik Sinner will also be an interesting watch.
It would be remiss not to mention Milos Raonic, who is back for his first event in two years. The big serving Canadian is using his protected ranking to hopefully find some of his old form.
s’Hertogenbosch 250, The Netherlands:
The women are also in The Netherlands this week. A strong field has assembled, with Veronika Kudermetova, Luidmila Samsonova, and Victoria Azarenka, all top 20 players with genuine Wimbledon aspirations. Kimberley Birrell and Priscilla Hon will be the Aussie participant in the singles event. It’s great to see Kim getting direct entry into these bigger tournaments. She’s drawn a WC in round 1, so hopefully she can take advantage. Hon has a tougher task against 5th seed Elise Mertens.
Nottingham 250, Great Britain:
Another traditional event on the tour, Nottingham always draws a great field, and big crowds. Maria Sakkari is the only top ten player in the field, and recent form would suggest she’ll have her work cut out for her if she wants to take home some silverware.
She’ll also have to overcome a good group of players, including Brazilian, Beatriz Haddad Maia, fresh off her stunning run in Paris. Add Donna Vekic, Magda Linette, and Shuai Zhang, and it should be a good week. Australia’s Olivia Gadecki qualified for the main draw, and will take on Linette in round 1.
Valencia 125, Spain:
We also have a 125 event on the menu this week in Spain. World number 40, Egyptian, Mayer Sherif takes the top seeded position, while Austrian Julia Grabher takes her place at the bottom of the draw, seeded second.
ATP Challenger Tour:
Perugia 125, Italy:
The 6th oldest tournament on the Challenger Tour, has drawn a quality field. The biggest name is Austrian, Dominic Thiem, who will enter here as the 4th seed, and still looking for consistency in his tennis. Argentina’s Pedro Cachin goes in as the top seed, but the danger might be Italian, Matteo Arnaldi, who is slowly but surely rising up the rankings, and is about to get back into the top 100.
Nottingham 125, Great Britain:
Held in conjunction with the women’s 250 event, the men’s holds plenty of interest too. Britain’s Andy Murray is the player all the locals will be keen to see do well. As the top seed, there’s every chance he’ll be around on the weekend. For the Aussies, Thanasi Kokkinakis and Aleksandar Vukic have both drawn qualifiers in their first round, and have a nice chance to go deep this week.
Bratislava 100, Slovak Republic:
Last year saw Alexander Shevchenko rip through the field to take the title. At that stage he was ranked 237. A year on, and he’s the second seed, ranked 87. Only home town player, Alex Molcan is higher ranked, just one place above, at 86. Thirty-nine year old, Fernando Verdasco claims a WC, with his current ranking of 306, outside the direct entry cut-off.
Lyon 100, France:
Felix Auger-Aliassime won back to back titles here in 2017/18, so will someone emerge from this event, to rise up into the top ten in a few years?
Quentin Halys has shown glimpses of form that might suggest he should be higher than is current ranking of 88. He’ll be the top seed here, and while there’s some depth behind him, he should clearly be the favourite to take this out.
Palmas del Mar 75, Puerto Rico:
The only hard court event of the week, sees a host of Australians vying for points. Adam Walton, Marc Polmans, Alex Bolt, Dane Sweeny, and Tristan Schoolkate will all fancy their chances of winning some matches, in what is not an enormously strong field on paper. However, probably the biggest story of this event, is the return of Japan’s Kei Nishikori, who has spent almost two years on the sidelines.
Five W60 events this week, which gives the women plenty of options to play. Italy, France, Spain, Czech, and the USA play host.
For the Aussies, Astra Sharma will play in Italy. Jaimee Fourlis will be the top seed in Spain,
and is joined by Destanee Aiava and Alana Parnaby.
Seone Mendez will be the sole Aussie on court in the Czech Republic.
As always, there are lots of other Aussies playing at ITF 25K, 15K level and Junior level. Follow us on Twitter all through the week for the latest daily scores.