Benneteau vs Stakhovsky 03.07.17

Wimbledon, London, UK, Grass Courts, ATP World Tour

It’s finally here…today sees the start of the best Grand Slam tennis tournament of the year…the mighty WImbledon (SW19). A tournament steeped in tradition, Wimbledon was first played at The All England Lawn Tennis Club in 1877, originally as purely a men’s event, with competitive women’s play being added in 1884. The grounds house 18 tournament grass courts, the largest of which being the famous Centre Court. Centre Court houses over 15,000 spectators , and is the fourth largest tennis stadium in the world, it’s retractable roof was built in 2009 and opens/closes in under 10 minutes. The other ‘show’court’ is court number 1, this currently houses around 11,500 people and will also have a retractable roof from 2019.

Both the men’s and women’s singles tournaments will consist of 128 players. The world’s top 104 players gain direct entry into Wimbledon based on their ranking, there are then 8 wild card entries (invitational by the tournament organisers), with the remainder made up of qualifiers. Prize money for this years tournament has risen by 12.5% to £31.6 million. The winner of both the men’s and women’s singles take home £2.2 million, with First Round losers taking home £35,000.

In the open era Pete Sampras and Roger Federer are the most prestigous winners of the tournament, both having lifter the trophy here on 7 occasions. Reigning champion on the men’s side is our very own Andy Murray, who defeated Milos Raonic 6-4 7-6 7-6 12 months ago. On the women’s side the reigning champion is Serena Williams, who defeated current world number 1 Angelique Kerber 7-5 6-3 to take the crown last year. Williams will not be playing here this year, having recently given birth, however Murray will be gunning to retain his title and begins his defence on Centre Court later today.

We are going to kick the week off by taking a look at an interesting looking Round 1 encounter between French world number 81, Julien Benneteau and Ukranian world number 122, Sergiy Stakhovsky. Not a ‘glamour tie’ on paper, but with both favouring the grass as a playing surface, and both having displayed plenty of good form on the green so far this year, it seemed like an intriguing place to start our Wimbledon match previews.

Previous Meetings:

These two have met on three occasions, all on hard courts, with Stakhovsky winning twice. Their first meeting was in Miami, USA in 2010, the Ukranian winning 6-3 7-6. Following this was another meeting on the hard courts of America, this time in Winston-Salem, with Benneteau the victor 3-6 7-6 6-2. Their most recent encounter was in Sydney, Australia in 2014 where Stakhovsky won comfortably in straight sets again, 6-3 6-2.

Stakhovsky has never failed to win at least a set against Benneteau in three previous meetings today, this could well bear some relevance when looking further into the way this match is going to pan out. Both have had strong starts to their grass court seasons, Benneteau has won 6 of his 9 matches on grass, Stakhovsky has won 7 of his 9, so expect a pretty high quality match here.

Serving Stats:

Benneteau’s recent grass court mean serving stats look like this; he’s won 64% of his service points and held serve 84% of the time.

Stakhovsky’s recent grass court mean serving stats look like this; he’s won 71% of his service points and held serve 91% of the time.

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Stakhovsky does have the better serve of the two players, however it is worth noting that Benneteau’s stats include matches against Zverev, Dimitrov and Mahut, all of whom return better than most of the opponents Stakhovsky’s stats have been drawn from. That being said the Ukranian is hitting an average of over 1 ace per service game to Benneteau’s 0.75 per service game, so expect Stakh to win more free points off his serve today.

Returning Stats:

Benneteau’s recent grass court mean returning stats this week look like this, he’s won 38% of his return points, 43% of his break points and opponents have held 77% of the time against him.

Stakhovsky’s recent grass court mean returning stats this week look like this, he’s won 34% of his return points, 41% of his break points and opponents have held 82% of the time against him.

Benneteau certainly has the more consistent return of serve of the two, with the stats above holding even greater value given the fact that the Frenchman has faced some big servers on grass already this year. Both players will often look to take full swings off the return and look to get the ball deep, however Benneteau will at times block the return back, especially off his backhand side. Stakhovsky will look to be pretty aggressive off the return, especially if Benneteau’s first serve % is low.

Groundstrokes:

Benneteau is solid off both wings, he likes to push the ball deep and into the corners, and then finish points at the net at any given opportunity, a great play on a quick grass court. Stakhovsky will be the more aggressive of the two players off the ground, especially if given time on the ball, something he might well get against Benneteau today. The Ukranian also will venture to the net often, especially off his first serve. Look out for the Stakhovsky backhand down the line today, if firing this can be a very dangerous shot.

Summary:

A really tricky one to call this, both love playing on grass and both have a strong win-loss record on the surface so far this year. Stakhovsky has the better serve, Benneteau the better return and there is little to chose between them off the ground, Stakh will certainly be the aggressor in a majority of the rallies, however Benneteau will defend stoutly and get plenty of balls back into play. I’m expecting a minimum of four sets, maybe more, given Stakhovsky’s winning head to head record against Benneteau and the Ukranian’s superior fitness, I have to side with him in the longer best of five set format here. This is by no means a shoe-in though, and if Bennteau is serving well and finding consistency off the ground then he can certainly come out of this with the W.

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