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Queen's Club Championships preview: A tall order for two-time defending champion Berrettini

With Wimbledon looming, the grass-court swing turns up another notch on Monday with the long-standing Queen's Club Championships getting underway.

Despite having been plagued by recent injuries, defending champion Matteo Berrettini returns to the English capital hoping to bring up a hat-trick of Queen's Club successes, but it is a competitive field also featuring Spanish superstar Carlos Alcaraz.

The world number two tops the seedings and is joined in London by Holger Rune, Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe while British number one Cameron Norrie will be carrying the home hopes.

With doubts surrounding the well-being of Berrettini, the champion in back-to-back years, Italy may be relying on Lorenzo Musetti to get the job done while the eight seeding spots are completed by Alex de Minaur and Francisco Cerundolo.

The 32-runner event also features Andy Murray and Milos Raonic, who competed in the 2016 final which was won by the Briton.

WhatQueen's Club Championships
WhereThe Queen's Club, London
WhenMonday 19th June - Sunday 25th June
How to watchbet365 Sports Live Streaming, BBC, Eurosport

Berrettini up against it in his hat-trick bid

Berrettini has delighted the Queen's Club crowd in successive seasons, defeating Norrie in the 2021 final before defending his crown last year against Filip Krajinovic.

However, hopes of the Italian repeating the feat with a hat-trick win look slim given injuries have hampered the recent progression of the 27-year-old.

Grass is the favoured surface of Berrettini, who highlighted his strengths on the turf when finishing runner-up to Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon two years ago.

But Berrettini missed the recent French Open and his return on the grass in Stuttgart last week was sad to see as he limped to a 6-1 6-2 defeat to compatriot Lorenzo Sonego. 

It means he has played only 16 competitive matches this calendar year.

Having now slipped to 20th in the world rankings, Berrettini may need some time before he is seen back at his best and he could be vulnerable in his opening game with Finland's Emil Ruusuvuori.

Alcaraz out to show his grass-court credentials

Alcaraz was usurped as world number one by Djokovic after the Serb's French Open triumph, but the Spaniard remains tennis' rising star.

The 20-year-old has already won 10 titles on the ATP Tour but none of those victories have come on grass, which leaves him with something to prove at Queen's Club.

So good is Alcaraz, that he should be able to adjust to the surface in time, but he has yet to go beyond the fourth round in his two previous trips to Wimbledon.

This field isn't quite as strong as he will be faced with at the All England Club but there is still some depth to it with Tiafoe and Norrie particularly dangerous in his top half of the draw.

It is also worth remembering that Alcaraz struggled with cramping during his French Open semi-final defeat to Djokovic most recently, so he could be best watched for now, especially on what currently looks his most vulnerable surface.

Norrie spearheads strong British challenge

Six of the 32-strong field at Queen's Club are set to consist of British players with Norrie joined in the line-up by Murray, Evans and wildcards Liam Broady, Jan Choinski and Ryan Peniston.

Murray is a five-time winner of this event but he hasn't taken the London title since 2016 so it is now Norrie who will be the leading hope for Great Britain.

Seeded five, Norrie opens up against Miomir Kecmanovic and having finished runner-up to Berrettini two years ago, will be hoping he has what it takes to go one better.

Norrie is consistent and progressing all the time and he showed how dangerous he can be on the grass when making the semi-final of last year's Wimbledon, losing to eventual champion Djokovic in four sets.

While he looks a leading title candidate, 36-year-old Murray faces a tricky opener against Australian seventh seed Alex de Minaur.

The same can be said for current British number two Evans, who gets his campaign underway against American ace Sebastian Korda.

Of the wildcards, Broady is the most seasoned and made the third round of Wimbledon last season, which gives him some hope against French veteran Adrian Mannarino.

Peniston, up against another French player in Ugo Humbert, and Choinski, who is squaring up with Italian sixth seed Musetti, may struggle to land a blow.

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