<![CDATA[BY: Craig Simpkin
Fourteen-time Grand Slam winner Rafa Nadal has sensationally crashed out of the Queen’s Club Championship in the first round after a 3-6, 7-6, 4-6 defeat to Alexander Dolgopolov.
The tournament is a great way for the players to sharpen up their grass court game in time for the third Grand Slam event of the year, Wimbledon.
But the Spaniard, who entered the tournament as the fifth seed and 6/1 third favourite for the title, was outclassed throughout by his Ukrainian opponent and looked in the doldrums during the second set. But he managed to regroup and take the decisive tiebreak.
And then he led 4-2 in the third, but a string of errors allowed Dolgopolov to take advantage and then see out the match.
There were no such problems for Great Britain’s Andy Murray, who cruised through 6-4, 7-5 against Y.H Lu. The number one seed rarely looked in any danger as he slowly went through the gears to set up a second round date with Fernando Verdasco.
He will be joined in the last 16 by recent French Open champion and second seed Stan Wawrinka – the Swiss ace overcoming last year’s Wimbledon quarter finalist Nick Kyrgios in straight sets. At 4/1 he looks great value for this title.
The reigning Queen’s Club champion Grigor Dimitrov is also into the last 16 after defeating Sam Querrey in a ding-dong battle, and can be backed from 8/1.
The big serving John Isner bludgeoned his way to a straight sets win over Jared Donaldson, and at 20/1 looks a dangerous unseeded floater in the draw.
Halle of Fame
Another grass court tournament is currently taking place in Halle, Germany, and number one seed and seven-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer is safely through to the last 16 there with a 7-6, 3-6, 7-6 victory over Philipp Kohlschreiber. The Swiss ace is priced at 11/8, and there seems to be little competition in the draw to stop him lifting the trophy.
His main rival for the crown appears to be the number two seed Kei Nishikori, who overcame the tricky Dominic Thiem in straight sets. The Japanese star doesn’t appear that comfortable on grass however, so there may be each way value betting to be had elsewhere on other candidates to reach the final.
The number four seed Gael Monfils (14/1) looked in good form in his straight sets win over Lukas Rosol, whilst the monstrous serve of Ivo Karlovic (25/1) was pushed all the way by Santiago Giraldo but the Croat eventually prevailed in three sets.
All in all, a lot of top performers look in good touch heading into Wimbledon, so it will be interesting to see whether defending champion Novak Djokovic’s decision to have a rest before the event pays dividends or not.