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ATP Eastbourne 2018 draw preview and matches to watch: Wildcards Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka to clash in the first round

Hannah Wilks in ATP Tour 23 Jun 2018
  • Diego Schwartzman and British no. 1 Kyle Edmund lead the Nature Valley International 2018 draw
  • Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka to face each other in the first round
Stan Wawrinka will face Andy Murray in the first round of the 2018 Nature Valley International (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images)

Grand Slam champions Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka will meet in the first rounds of the Nature Valley International: ATP Eastbourne 2018 draw analysis and tips.

There’s just one week left before Wimbledon begins on Monday 2 July and plenty of the ATP World Tour’s stars are headed to the Nature Valley International, being played at Devonshire Park in Eastbourne once again from 24-30 June.

With defending champion Novak Djokovic not returning, Rio Open champion Diego Schwrtzman and British no. 1 Kyle Edmund lead the draw, with surprise French Open semifinalist Marco Cecchinato also playing for the first time after his breakthrough run in Paris.

But the field received a major boost – in both senses – when multiple Grand Slam champions Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka took wildcards into the 250-level event as both continue their bids to be fit for Wimbledon … Only for the draw, when it took place, to pair them off as first-round opponents, with the winner to face Edmund.

If nothing else the draw guarantees drama from the get-go- we break it down and predict the winner of the 2018 Nature Valley International. 

Top quarter

Diego Schwartzman (ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Projected quarterfinal: Diego Schwartzman (1) vs Marton Fucsovics (8) (0-0)

Returning to action for the first time since reaching the quarterfinals of the French Open (where he was the only player for the entire tournament to take a set from eventual champion Rafael Nadal), world no. 11 Diego Schwartzman is in the interesting position of heading the draw at a grass-court event while having never won an ATP World Tour-level match on grass – the petite Argentine is 0-6 on turf.

Schwartzman could face Lukas Lacko – who has made the third round of Wimbledon twice and plays quite well on grass – after a first-round bye, so an early exit for the top seed wouldn’t be much of a surprise. Eighth seed Marton Fucsovics, who recently won a title on clay at the Geneva Open, is more comfortable on grass having won the Ilkley Challenger last year, but British wildcard Cameron Norrie still has a shot at the first-round upset and Ryan Harrison, the voluble, volatile American who has made the semifinals at Eastbourne before (albeit six years ago), could be a tricky second-round opponent for either. It’s a soft quarter with plenty of opportunity for a qualifier/lucky loser.

Semifinalist: Lacko

Second quarter

Marco Cecchinato (Photo by Eric FEFERBERG / AFP) 
Projected quarterfinal: Marco Cecchinato (4) vs Leonardo Mayer (5) (1-0)

An interesting storyline here as the break-out star of the French Open on the men’s side, Italy’s Marco Cecchinato, returns to competition. As far as I can tell, Cecchinato has only played one ATP World Tour-level match on grass in his career (and lost it 2-6, 2-6, 0-6) so maybe we shouldn’t expect too much from the Roland Garros semifinalist – especially as he could meet fellow Italian Andreas Seppi, who does play well on grass and has twice made the Eastbourne final, winning it once, in the second round. 

Seppi meets the dangerous Denis Istomin in the first round but has a 7-3 record against the Uzbek. This quarter is packed with some good players, however: Fifth seed Leo Mayer has made the second week of Wimbledon before (beating Seppi, no less), but he opens against Gilles Simon, Eastbourne runner-up in 2013, and big-serving Gilles Muller of Luxembourg, who has made numerous grass-court finals in his career as well as the quarterfinals of Wimbledon last year, is a potential second-round opponent. Seppi vs Muller for a place in the semifinals

Semifinalist: Muller

Third quarter

Denis Shapovalov  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Projected quarterfinal: Steve Johnson (7) vs Denis Shapovalov (3)

Rising Canadian star Denis Shapovalov is sure to be a draw for the crowds, but how will he fare in Eastbourne? He’s only won one ATP World Tour-level main-draw match on grass in his (young) career – against Kyle Edmund, in fact – and is 0-2 in Stuttgart and at Queen’s so far in 2018, although he kept things very competitive against Muller at Queen’s Club. 

With a bye in the second round, ‘Shapo’ will open against Taylor Fritz or Jared Donaldson, and I’d actually back him against either young American, although I can also imagine the windy conditions in Eastbourne playing some havoc with his timing on the backhand in particular.

In the top part of this quarter, Steve Johnson – who actually won this tournament when it was held in Nottingham in 2016 – is a potential title contender. He opens against Daniil Medvedev, who has done little since winning his maiden title in Sydney, and if he can get past serve-and-volley player Mischa Zverev – whose record on grass somehow isn’t as good as you feel it should be – he could go deep. The winner of that potential Johnson-Zverev second-round clash looks like the semifinalist.

Semifinalist: Zverev

Fourth quarter

Kyle Edmund (Photo by Patrik Lundin/Getty Images for LTA)
Projected quarterfinal: David Ferrer (6) vs Kyle Edmund (2) (2-2)

Forget the seeds: This quarter is all about the wildcards and the first-round meeting between Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka.

There’s a fine irony in the fact that Murray, who has played just one match since last year’s Wimbledon and took the wildcard into Eastbourne looking for more matches after his first-round Queen’s Club defeat to Nick Kyrgios, managed to draw the only man with a lower ranking than him in the field – and that man turned out to be fellow three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka.

Grass is probably Wawrinka’s weakest surface – Wimbledon is the only Grand Slam he hasn’t won – but the Swiss star, who had two knee surgeries last autumn, is considerably further on in his comeback than Murray, although far from his best. The two have quite a history against each other, with Murray leading narrowly 10-8 and 2-0 on grass, although their solitary Wimbledon meeting in 2009 went all the way to five sets.

I simply can’t imagine Murray winning this, after having played so little tennis recently, let alone tennis against opponents of the class of Stan Wawrinka. The Swiss should move on to face Kyle Edmund in the second round and I think he’ll win that one, too, with Edmund not really at his best on grass. 

With David Ferrer and Mikhail Kukushkin the only named players in the top section of the draw, Wawrinka could be an excellent pick for the semifinals.

Semifinalist: Wawrinka

Semifinals: Muller d. Lacko
Wawrinka d. Zverev

Final: Wawrinka d. Muller  

Nature Valley International tennis is live from Eastbourne from 24-30 June. Click here to find out how to watch live tennis action online

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ATP Eastbourne 2018 draw preview and matches to watch: Wildcards Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka to clash in the first round

ATP Eastbourne 2018 tennis is live from Eastbourne from 24-30 June with top seed Diego Schwartzman and British no. 1 Kyle Edmund joined by wildcards Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka

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