WILL anyone stop Serena at Wimbledon? Mark Stinchcombe (@markstinchcombe) previews the women's draw for us at SW19.
Wimbledon Women's Singles | 27th June – 10th July | BBC
Similar to the Men's betting heat with Novak Djokovic – the main question is can Serena Williams win a 22nd Grand Slam? Given her trials and tribulations over the last 12 months, 13/8 isn't a price which holds any appeal.
The weight of history of tying Steffi Graf's Open-era record of 22 titles seems to be hanging heavily over her and the pressure proving too much. Last September at the US Open she had a dream draw, and it was even more hers to lose with Victoria Azarenka and Simona Halep losing in the latter stages, but despite taking the 1st set 6-2 against Roberta Vinci, she lost the match as a 1/25 shot.
In Australia at the beginning of the year she cruised to the final without dropping a set but then slumped to a loss to Angelique Kerber when 1/7.
At Roland Garros, injury may well have played it's part, but it was still another slam final defeat. Even Indian Wells, often seen as the unofficial fifth Grand Slam, she again lost in the final with an erratic performance with history beckoning, having not won the tournament for 15 years, only returning to California for the first time since winning the year before.
Basically Serena looks very opposable, but almost like the Mens, where do we even begin? Maria Sharapova is serving a drugs ban, Viktoria Azarenka is injured and Simona Halep isn't playing anywhere near consistently enough as she was over the last three years.
The obvious candidate is Garbine Muguruza. Runner-up to Serena here last year, she exacted revenge by winning the French Open last month but then 10 days later lost as number one seed in her home tournament on the grass of Mallorca, in straight sets as a 1/6 fav.
You could argue motivation might not have been high after the French but it was a sizeable break and there's a feeling there's potentially extra pressure now she has gone from the hunter to the hunted. Either way I wouldn't want to entertain her at 11/2 when I feel a more adept grass-courter could take advantage.
With everyone beating everyone on the WTA tour, it's very difficult to suggest alternatives. Angelique Kerber has the most wins with 28 this year but most of those have been accumulated on hard courts and her 2/7 defeat against Carla Suarez-Navarro in Birmingham last week goes hand-in-hand with her Wimbledon record (R3-QF-R2-SF-R1-R3-Q-R1-R1), i.e. unpredictable.
Madison Keys is 14/1 third favourite which just goes to show the level of competition. Winner of Birmingham last week, her second grass court title, though her average price was 4/11 despite the fact she faced only one top 25 player in Suarez-Navarro which just goes show the market isn't overly convinced by her, something I share.
I find her difficult to trust and don't think she has the mental capacity to overcome negative situations and problem solve by herself consistently.
Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova is joint third favourite but it is just 15-14 for the year and her last set of tennis involved being bagelled by Johanna Konta in Eastbourne.
Karolina Pliskova has played herself into form at the right time with making the final in Eastbourne and winning Nottingham (if you ignore the 1st round Birmingham exit sandwiched in-between). However, her slam record is awful: R1-R3-R1- R2-R2- R3-R3- R2-R2- R2-R1- R2-R1- R1-Q2- R1-R1.
Quarter-finalist last year, Coco Vandeweghe is another in good form, winning Hertogenbosch and making the semi's in Birmingham. Her serves a real weapon, especially on grass, and she's hit the third most aces on tour so far this year.
However, she's another who finds consistency hard to come by, having never made it past the 3rd round of a slam bar last year, where she massively let herself down against a vulnerable Sharapova.
With a lack of options, I was surprised to see Eastbourne winner Dominika Cibulkova at a three figure-price and she gets the nod at 150/1. 31-11 for the year, the former Australian Open finalist Cibulkova has won two titles this year and made the finals of two others across all surfaces.
She's picked up wins over Radwanska x2, Pliskova, Wozniacki, Konta and Garcia and her return game is clearly paying dividends picking up 45% of them (the same amount as Serena – 5th most), while being aggressive on break point with the third best conversion rate (55%).
She's in quarter two and her probable draw reads Lucic-Baroni, Gavrilova, Konta, Radwanska and Kvitova which really isn't daunting so the 18/1 about winning her section looks a worthy investment.
With the noticeable absentees and an easier half, Serena's probable draw reads Sadikovic, McHale, Mladenovic, Kuznetsova, Vinci, Radwanska, Muguruza.
With her healthy head-to-head record against these players and her ability to seemingly sail through to finals this year having not dropped a set when reaching the Australia Open, Indian Wells and Rome finals, it seems sensible to back Serena to win the tournament without dropping a set at 5/1 given she's done it here three times before. If she makes the final, options can be re-assessed given her recent final fragilities.
Wimbledon 2016 Women's Draw – Dominika Cibulkova each way (150/1 BetBright)
Wimbledon 2016 Women's Draw – Dominika Cibulkova to win second quarter (18/1 SkyBet)
Wimbledon 2016 Women's Draw – Serena Williams to win without dropping a set (5/1 Paddy Power)