TENNIS analyst Gavin Mair (@gavinnightmair) shares his best bets ahead of an eagerly anticipated Wimbledon.
Wimbledon | 3rd July – 16th July | BBC
Since 2003 the singles title has been won by one of the ‘Big 4’ players in men’s tennis. Roger Federer has won seven titles, Novak Djokovic three, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal have two apiece.
After a couple of seasons outside of the winner’s circle, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have returned with a bang to win the first two majors of this season. It doesn’t seem like Wimbledon will be crowning a new winner this year as the big four justifiably occupy the top four positions in the outright markets.
Both Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic have won titles during the grass court season and it is expected that both of these players make the semi-finals from the bottom half. The top half, however, is in greater doubt, as Andy Murray comes into the tournament with a hip injury, whilst Nadal tends not to enjoy his time on grass these days.
Personally, I understand why Roger Federer is the outright favourite at the best price of 9/4 with Boylesports on the eve of the tournament starts. His form this season has been exceptional and it will take a big effort from somebody to beat him.
The most likely candidate to do this, in my opinion, is Novak Djokovic, who in recent years has won more than he has lost against Federer. This year Djokovic has not looked the same player, whilst Federer looks rejuvenated. Djokovic is 11/2 outright with Sportingbet.
The outright prices do not tempt me, but I believe there is value to be had in the quarter winner markets.
Andy Murray is downplaying his fitness issues, but the chances are he is not in a position to win a third Wimbledon title this year.
It doesn’t help that the Scot has landed in a difficult quarter. He should coast through the first three rounds but he will have to be on his game to overcome the likely challenge of either Nick Kyrgios or Lucas Pouille.
I backed Kyrgios to win Queens Club a couple of weeks ago but he was forced to retire with an injury in the first round, and he has rated his current fitness at 60 to 65%. Kyrgios likes to feel sorry for himself and as he’s not in the right frame of mind he’s more likely to fall at an early hurdle than making it to the semis.
Lucas Pouille has never come close to beating Murray in what is an enjoyable matchup for the world number one. That is not to say that Pouille is not without a chance if Murray is lacking in match fitness. The Frenchman won in Stuttgart two weeks ago and is defending quarterfinal points from 2016. Pouille can certainly come through this quarter if Murray is out of sorts.
French Open runner-up Stan Wawrinka has won every Grand Slam except Wimbledon, and he is unlikely to secure the Career Grand Slam this year having been given a hellish draw that sees him face the prodigious Daniil Medvedev in the first round.
Fernando Verdasco can go on a run when the mood strikes, but he always flatters to deceive when he picks up a head of steam.
Another quarterfinalist from last year is Sam Querrey. The American is good on grass but I found his form underwhelming in the past couple of weeks.
The one player that does interest me in this quarter is Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who has played some great tennis this year already winning three titles. His form does not read too well of late but he has recently become a father, which allows for some leeway on the court. In 2016 he made the quarterfinal, and he made a semifinal in 2012.
Outside of Murray, I rate Tsonga as the best grass court player in this quarter and I think he could well advance to the semifinals, even if Murray is his quarterfinal opponent. Tsonga can be backed at 11/1 with BetStars to win the first quarter.
French Open champion Rafael Nadal has failed to make even the quarterfinal in the past five years. He has longstanding issues with his knees, and with his style of play he is vulnerable to many players that serve big and that can keep him running behind the baseline.
Nadal has performed really well this season but he should be opposed. One candidate stands head and shoulders above all the others to take advantage and that is Marin Cilic. The Croatian has played brilliantly on the grass in recent weeks and has been unlucky not to win a title for his efforts.
His Wimbledon form is also strong and this is a good opportunity for him to make the semifinals. He is the best price of 4/1 to do this with Ladbrokes.
There are other dangerous players in this quarter but I don’t rate them as highly as Cilic. Ivo Karlovic and Gilles Muller played out a grass court final in Rosmalen a couple of weeks back, but the best grass court players tend not to perform as well at Wimbledon.
The tournament organisers have taken criticism in past years for slowing down the surface to allow for longer rallies, but this has come to the detriment of the traditional serve/volleyer.
Kei Nishikori can play well on grass but he tends to spend more time on the injury table than on the court and has retired from matches in the last two years.
Roberto Bautista-Agut always floats under the radar, but he stays too far behind the baseline on this surface and can be overpowered. Steve Johnson is a capable grass court player but hasn’t been at his best in recent weeks.
I can not really see where the challenge to Federer will come in this quarter. If the Swiss is on his game he will have too much for his challengers.
Milos Raonic is the most likely candidate to upset the applecart but he has lost the edge that he had last year and will have played well if he makes it to the quarterfinal. Grigor Dimitrov has his supporters but he should not be taken seriously.
Alexander Zverev has shown a liking to grass so far in his career. However, the German was destroyed by Federer two weeks ago in Halle. You could potentially draw a parallel between that defeat to Federer, and the one he suffered to Nadal at Monte Carlo at the start of the clay season.
Zverev showed his potential by going on to lift the Rome Masters title a couple of weeks later, but it would be a stretch to see him contending at the deep end of Wimbledon right now.
This is Djokovic’s quarter and much like Federer, he should have little trouble in making it through.
The second highest seed is Dominic Thiem and he displayed last week in Antalya exactly why he shouldn’t be taken seriously on a grass court, losing handily to a player ranked in the 200s. Yes, Thiem was not playing his best level but he still looked frustrated at just how bad it was going for him.
Juan Martin del Potro could make things difficult for Novak, but Djokovic has beaten Del Po twice this season despite being far from his best.
The remaining seeds are unlikely to cause much damage. Tomas Berdych is not the player he once was, while I can’t imagine Richard Gasquet or Gael Monfils believing they can topple the Serbian on this surface.
Feliciano Lopez would need an excellent serving day against Djokovic to even compete with him and in all likelihood, the Spaniard’s backhand would be ruthlessly exposed by the three-time Wimbledon champion as it has been in all their other career meetings.
Wimbledon – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to win Quarter 1 (11/1 BetStars)
Wimbledon – Marian Cilic to win Quarter 2 (4/1 Ladbrokes)