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Wednesday, 16 January, 2019

Murray has plenty of challengers to Queen's throne

Last year's runner-up could go one better

Andy Murray of Great Britain poses with the Queen's Club trophy
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BBC & Eurosport, from midday Monday

Andy Murray has established himself as the king of Queen's Club, lifting the title five times since 2009, but the champion may lose his throne to big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic, who pushed him hard in the 2016 final.

The world number one arrives at the tournament in good heart having turned his performances around with a run to the last four in Paris.

He is in a far better place mentally and physically than three weeks ago and is entitled to expect a good week. However, the Scot has looked far from invincible in the first half of the year and is an opposable favourite.

Another Murray v Raonic final looks possible but there are plenty of other contenders in a competition featuring eight of the top 20 players.

The biggest obstacles to Murray reaching the final are Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Marin Cilic – his possible quarter-final and semi-final opponents.

Tsonga has a poor record against the Scot, winning just two of 14 matches. However, he took Murray to five sets in a Wimbledon quarter-final last year and the shorter best-of-three format may give the Frenchman a better chance on a surface he clearly enjoys.

Cilic could also cause Murray problems, although it is far from guaranteed that he will get through the early rounds. The Croatian takes on big-serving John Isner first and could face rising star Nick Kyrgios in the last eight.

If Cilic plays Murray he would be the clear outsider, having won just three of their 15 contests. Murray has won both of their meetings at Queen's, including last year's semi-final, although both went to three sets.

Cilic can be a frustrating player to watch but has the power to do some damage on a fast court and, at his best, could be tricky for Murray to contain.

Losing French Open finalist Stanislas Wawrinka is the top-ranked player in the bottom half of the draw and a potential semi-final opponent for Raonic.

However, the Swiss has never won a grass-court title and had a poor time on the surface last year, losing in the first round at Queen's Club and in the second round at Wimbledon.

In four visits to Queen's he has won just four matches and an early exit looks possible again after he was handed a tough opener against Feliciano Lopez – an excellent fast-court player and the Queen's Club runner-up in 2014.

The winner of Wawrinka or Lopez would face a qualifier in the second round before gearing up for a likely quarter-final against Tomas Berdych.

Reaching the last eight is eminently possible for Berdych, who takes on Steve Darcis in the first round and could face either Kyle Edmund or a qualifier in the last 16.

The Czech has the potential to go much further if he can get back to the standard he produced on a run to last year's Wimbledon semi-finals.

Berdych has performed in fits and starts for the last year but defeated Raonic on his way to the Lyon final last month and looks each-way value this week.

A more obvious candidate to come through the bottom half of the draw is Raonic, the bridesmaid of last year's grass-court season with runners-up efforts at Queen's Club and Wimbledon.

Raonic's powerful serve and penetrating ground strokes are ideally suited to fast courts but he looked nervous at times during last year's Wimbledon final and was unable to match Murray in the decisive moments.

The experience should have done him the power of good and after a solid start to the year, reaching finals at Delray Beach and Istanbul, he is ready to contend on his favourite surface.

His biggest challenge would be overcoming Murray if they were to meet in the final. Psychologically it would be a tough one for Raonic, who has lost his last eight matches against the Scot.

However, he pushed him all the way in their last meeting – a 7-5 6-7 6-7 defeat at the 2016 ATP Tour Finals – and would have an equally good chance on grass.

M Raonic
2pts 6-1 Betfred
T Berdych
1pt each-way 14-1 bet365, Betfred, Hills

Another Murray v Raonic final looks possible but there are plenty of of other contenders in a competition featuring eight of the top 20 players
E.W. Terms
Sky bet