IT'S a busy opening day at Wimbledon. Mark Stinchcombe (@markstinchcombe) has scoured the fixtures for the best bets.
Novak Djokovic v James Ward | Monday 13:00 | BBCi
Reigning champion Novak Djokovic begins the defence of his title on centre court against Brit James Ward. Djokovic enters without playing any grass-court matches (Boodles is an exhibition really) and that's just the way he likes it, especially this year with all the energy exerted in finally winning Roland Garros.
He couldn't ask for a better opponent to start things off with James Ward suffering a torrid year. He's just 11-16 for 2016 and that's with the majority of his games qualifiers or in challenger events. His four main tour matches on grass so far have been:
– Nottingham R1: Malek Jaziri 6-1 3-6 6-4
– Queens R1: Gilles Muller 6-4 6-4
– Stuttgart Q-QF: Radek Stepanek 6-2 6-1
– Stuttgart Q-R16: 7-6 7-5 Jan Hernych
Confidence looks to be at rock bottom, pretty much since being dropped from the Davis Cup team and the death of his coach at the turn of the year. His reaction to his draw won't give the loyal Brits on centre much confidence and even the locker room gives him zero hope with Sam Groth's rather honest assessment “Wow, what a s*** draw!”
With the handicap line set at 9.5 it looks one the World Number 1 can take advantage of in a 6-4 6-2 6-1 sort of victory. A couple of years ago Ward lost 6-2 6-2 6-1 to Mikhail Youzhny in the opener and Novak has began with 1st round victories of 13, 11 and 12 games in recent years here.
Lukas Rosol v Sam Querrey | Monday 13:00
Pretty much whenever Lukas Rosol is mentioned (especially here at Wimbledon), that brilliant victory over a very much peak Nadal in 2012 is mentioned. So let's get that out of the way immediately as Rosol's grass court record is actually poor going just 11-18.
He faces Sam Querrey in the 1st round and looking at the match odds, the 1/4 on the American looks a little short. He does the majority of damage with his serve, notably on grass, but six of his eight visits to Wimbledon have seen him exit at round two or earlier and his slam record is woeful, particularly recently, progressing to a 3rd round just once in the last nine, losing as a heavy favourite more than once.
So I think he's worth taking on but rather than back Rosol to win, I'll take advantage by backing over 39.5 games. Rosol's eight matches here average 43.5 games, with 10 tie-breaks, and since 2012, Querrey's eight matches average 49.5 games with 12 tie-breaks. Both men hold serve well whilst struggle to break down their opponents.
Janko Tipsarevic v Gilles Simon | Monday 13:00
After a stop-start two years for Janko Tipsarevic it looks like he's finally returned to the tour on a permanent basis having competed in seven tournaments since April.
I nearly backed him at 3/1 to beat Grigor Dimitrov in the 1st round of Queens given the Bulgarian's alarming ability to lose and the Serb came through in three sets.
He followed that up with a defeat to Cilic which is by no mean a disgrace, and although it's only Boodles, for him it's probably a bit more given all his layoffs, he beat both Juan Monaco and Nicolas Almagro in straight sets.
Gilles Simon is having a bad year going just 18-16 and is very much a confidence player, which makes his last couple of matches particularly worrying.
Bagelled by Del Potro in Stuttgart, he then seemingly forgot how to toss a ball in defeat to Kyle Edmund at Queens. I fancy both to grab a set here, rather than playing the over 35.5 games, with a heavy set loss possible for either. In their nine previous completed matches, none at a slam, six have gone the distance.
Novak Djokovic v James Ward – Novak Djokovic -9.5 games 4/5 (BetVictor)
Lukas Rosol v Sam Query – Over 39.5 games 10/11 (BoyleSports)
Janko Tipsarevic v Gilles Simon – Over 3.5 Sets (4/5 Bet365)