The casual tennis fan may think the grass court season ends after Wimbledon, but the hardcore fan knows the tour turns to the grass at
Newport for the Hall of
Fame Championships. Newport may not be a particularly menacing
field even for a 250 level tournament, but there should still be plenty of
intrigue. The draw is led by the tour's
two best servers and tallest players- John Isner and Ivo Karlovic, and the rest
of the field will have to hope they bring their best return games to Newport.
The seeds in the top half are Isner, Adrian Mannarino, Bernard Tomic and Steve Johnson. 37 year old wild card Tommy Haas may have a shot to upset Mannarino, but he's playing just his third tournament back since coming back from a long injury layoff. Otherwise, it's a fairly weak half and hard to see the seeds having much trouble. Look for Isner to reach the semis, as he should get past the winner of the Mannarino/Haas match without too much trouble.
Waiting for Isner will be American Steve Johnson, who will be looking to get his season going with a strong run. Johnson's quarterfinal opponent Tomic may be the higher ranked player, but Johnson just beat Tomic in straight sets on grass a couple of weeks ago. He should be confident heading into the rematch, and will be comfortable now that he's back playing in the
United States. In the semis, the big serving Isner should be
too much for Johnson. Isner leads the
head to head 3-1, and Johnson has only taken one set in their last three
meetings. Also of interest for fans of
American tennis- 18 year old up and comer Jared Donaldson faces off against
American Austin Krajicek in the first round, and newly turned pro/NCAA runner
up Noah Rubin opens up against Tatsuma Ito of Japan.
The seeds in the bottom half are Karlovic, Jack Sock, Tim Smyczek and Sam Querrey. In the first quarterfinal on this half, look for Sock to power past fellow American Smyczek without too much trouble. In the bottom quarter, Querrey will likely half to take on Rafael Nadal conqueror Dustin Brown in the second round. Querrey's beaten Brown the last two times, and should be able to squeak past the entertaining Brown once again. In the quarters, look for Querrey to top the second seeded Karlovic, against whom he has a surprising 5-1 career record. In an all-American semifinals matchup, the more talented Sock should be able to overcome his older countryman.
In the finals, expect Isner to get revenge for his loss to Sock at last year's Hall of Fame Championships. That was the only time Sock has beaten Isner, although Sock has recently raised his level of play a good amount. Still, Sock will struggle to make inroads on Isner's serve, and may still be suffering some effects from an apparent knee injury that hampered him at
Isner generally has a busy and fairly productive run in the U.S. during the summer months, and he
should be able to start things off on the right note in Newport.