A handful of men's tennis' top stars will descend on the Queen's Club in London this week for the 2014 AEGON Championships, an ATP World Tour 250 series event and one of the premier Wimbledon tune-up tournaments.
While there hasn't been a repeat champion at the Queen's Club in West Kensington since Andy Roddick won three straight titles from 2003 to 2005, Great Britain's Andy Murray will look to secure back-to-back crowns this June as the No. 3 seed in the men's singles draw.
Following his disappointing semifinal exit at the 2014 French Open last week, Murray admitted he's looking forward to the grass-court season, which presents much different challenges than the clay, per The Guardian's Kevin Mitchell:
It’s completely different because it is impossible for the ball to bounce that high [on grass]. It is also easier to get free points on your serve and grass favors the person who hits the flatter ball. It is completely different.
As a three-time winner on the Queen's Club grass and the reigning Wimbledon champion, Murray will be the favorite to hoist the trophy this weekend. However, the two-time Grand Slam winner and world No. 5 could potentially face tough obstacles in top seeds Stanislas Wawrinka and Tomas Berdych.
Adding to the challenge of getting through a difficult draw, Murray has just begun a new coaching partnership with former women's world No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo. Murray announced the hire at Roland Garros, with the Frenchwoman admitting that the Scotsman's interest was "a bit of a surprise," per BBC Sport:
"I guess it is a big story and a step forward [for female coaches] but that is not my big concern right now. I'm happy about the new challenge. I want to help Andy, it is the only thing I have in mind right now."
In addition to top-10 players Wawrinka and Berdych, 2012 champion Marin Cilic and 2011 finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga are contenders to watch for this week. Both players have achieved success at this venue in the past and possess big-time grass-court games.
Regardless of who claims the title in Sunday's final, this week's tournament is sure to have a significant impact on the upcoming Grand Slam at Wimbledon. After all, Murray's win at the Queen's Club a year ago propelled him to his breakthrough performance at the All England Club last summer. And we've seen other AEGON Championship winners go on to win Wimbledon as well, including Rafael Nadal in 2008 and Lleyton Hewitt in 2002.
For Murray and the other contenders taking part in this year's draw, the grass-court preparation will be key ahead of the season's marquee fortnight.