June 24, 2021

Home Turf

The grass court season is such a short part of the overall tennis calendar that it's easy to forget who really thrives on it. And while, of course, the favorites at Wimbledon certainly can dominate the headlines, there are some more under-the-radar players who've had their best results on the surface. And they're doing their best to remind us of that in the final days before the next Grand Slam.

Camila Giorgi is one of those players. The 29-year-old first caught my attention back in 2012, when as a qualifier she stunned Flavia Pennetta in her first round. Ranked #145 at the time, she made it all the way to the fourth round, but had even better results several years later when she reached the quarters, even taking a set off Serena Williams, in 2018. She's stuggled to stay consistent though and currently sits at #75 in the world. But this week in Eastbourne she's getting her groove back -- after an opening round upset of Karolina Pliskova she stunned top seed Aryna Sabalenka earlier today, eliminating the last seed standing and setting up a semi with Anett Kontaveit. She's still got a ways to go if she wants to pick up her third title, but she's looking fresher than she has in a while and could keep her run going.

Angelique Kerber has, of course, had even more success on grass. The former world #1 won the most recent of her three Major titles on these courts in 2018 and had reached the semis and final before that. But she's been a little more quiet recently, losing the opening round in each of her last three Slam showings and falling slowly out of the top 25. Still, she's bringing her A-game this week -- as the fourth seed at the inaugural Bad Homburg Open, she dropped just two games in each of her first two matches here. With most of play cancelled for today, she might have to endure a double-header on Friday, but first she'll have to get through former French Open semifinalist Amanda Anisimova, whose own recent struggles have dropped her out of the top eighty. If Kerber plays like she has been, though, she might be able to make quick work of her coming opponents.

Meanwhile in Mallorca we may be seeing the resurgence of one recently left-for-dead. One-time top-ranked American Sam Querrey, who's more known these days for breaking COVID protocols than for notching big wins on the court, has fallen well below his top ranking, spending much of the last few years in the low double digits. Still, he's one of few active players from the U.S. -- male ones, anyway -- with a title on the lawn, and his semi showing at Wimbledon in 2017 -- where he beat then-#1 Andy Murray in his third-straight five-setter that tournament -- was by far his best shot at taking home a Major title. He'd won just two matches this year before the grass season, but made the semis in Stuttgart and this week beat third seed Roberto Bautista Agut earlier today. Up next he's got also unseeded Adrian Mannarino, who's been strong himself this season, but I, somewhat surprisingly, like his chances to get to the final.

So what does this recent strength mean for these guys when they head to the big stage next week? Well it's certainly too soon to call for them to make a play for the titles, but at the very least they could be primed for an upset or two. And if they can make the most of the short time on grass, it might just give them all a shot at a second life.

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