SO close to a 400/1 winner in the French Open, Mark Stinchcombe (@markstinchcombe) returns with his Wimbledon Ladies picks.
Wimbledon Women's Singles | 29th June – 12th July 2015 | BBC
As usual, with any women's tournament containing Serena Williams, the championships is on her racket. She contrived to beat herself in nearly all of her matches at the French Open but somehow managed to find a way to win every time.
That hasn't always been the case though, including here, despite winning four of the last seven grass court majors. Third and fourth round exits in the last two years to Alize Cornet and Sabine Lisicki can only be described as bizarre performances. She won the first set against Cornet 6-1 and the second against Lisicki by the same score, yet still lost both matches when priced at 1/16. Her 2011 fourth round defeat to Marion Bartoli can be ignored somewhat having only just come back from injury.
4/1 on two time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova is a pretty poor price in my opinion, although understandable having made the quarters or further in her last five visits here. She's very inconsistent and can often struggle against good defenders who force her to play that extra shot frequently extracting an unforced error.
Case in point being against Timea Bacsinszky earlier this month at the French Open. Petra comfortably won the first set 6-2 but got bagelled out of nowhere in the second and went on to lose the match.
She's only lost seven matches this year but she's been big favourite in all of them, at an average of 2/5, which just goes to show there's value in opposing her if you can pick the right match-up (three defeats to Carla Suarez Navarro, two against Bacsinszky).
Since Wimbledon last year she's not been past the fourth round in a major and I don't think she's to be trusted. She also pulled out of Eastbourne this week citing a viral illness so comes in having played no grass court matches.
2004 winner and 2011 finalist Maria Sharapova might look a big price at 10/1 but delve a little further and we can see why. In the same half as Serena, she's only been to the quarters or further once in the last eight years, suffering three second round exits. Apart from the defeat to Serena in 2010, she's been beaten as heavy favourite each time at average odds of 2/9.
She faces Johanna Konta in round one which will be no gimme with the Brits improved grass court form beating Ekaterina Makarova and Garbine Muguruza this week, as well as taking a set off Karolina Pliskova.
There's also a potential re-match in the third round against Daria Gavrilova who beat Maria in straight sets in Miami and who's won 41 of her 52 matches this year.
Fourth favourite Victoria Azarenka comes into this tournament with far from ideal preparation. After just one match in Birmingham last week, she was forced to withdraw with a foot injury. She's still a long way from her best form since her previous long-term injury and has made the quarters or further just twice in nine tournaments this year.
Her return has not been helped by her fall down the rankings often meaning she has take on a top player a lot earlier than usual and isn't able to play herself into the tournament. In the same quarter as Serena, and with two second round exits in the past two years, she's not to be fancied.
Sabine Lisicki is always artificially too short for Wimbledon because of her record here due to her serve and big ground strokes, quarters-final-quarters-semi-quarters, despite what she has done the first half of year coming into the tournament.
She's had a truly dreadful year winning just 50% of her matches perfectly encapsulated by her 6-0 6-0 defeat to Zarina Diyas as 2/7 favourite in round one of Stuttgart.
Of course she's more comfortable on grass, Sabine set the world record for the number of aces in a singles match, serving 27 v Belinda Bencic last week in Birmingham although then lost in straight sets to Angelique Kerber in the semi-final. She's been drawn in a tough quarter with Simona Halep, Kerber again and Caroline Wozniacki amongst others, and they should expose her weaknesses.
Nicely enough these three come next in the betting. At the beginning of the grass court season I had last year's semi-finalist Simona Halep pencilled in at a huge 20/1 (now 22/1) despite her poor clay court season. But a disappointing defeat to Kristina Mladenovic including a second set bagel and being drawn in this section curtails that.
Angelique Kerber was 66/1 after the French Open but after winning Birmingham is now as short as 20/1 which is much more realistic. Quarter and semi-finalist here in the last three years, Kerber has also been runner-up at Eastbourne twice to prove she is clearly a capable grass courter. Like Kvitova, she too pulled out of Eastbourne with a viral injury.
I'm always happy to oppose Wozniacki at Slams with her lack of offensive weapons and it's no different here. She's never made the quarters or further in any of her nine visits and pulled out of her match with Belinda Bencic on Friday with a back injury posing questions about her fitness.
Agnieszka Radwanska always seems to go well at Wimbledon, making the final and semi's on two occasions alone. Making the final of Eastbourne should do her confidence good as well. However, there's no shying away from the horrible year she's had. She's already lost 15 matches (she lost just 19 each year from 2011 – 2013) and that semi-final loss, including a bagel, to Monica Niculescu in Nottingham would further put me off.
I see no reason to not put Timea Bacsinszky up again at 150/1 after her performances at the French Open. She's won 32 of her 39 matches this year and sits ninth in the WTA Road to Singapore leaderboard. She won eight of her 10 grass court matches last year (albeit a number of qualifier and ITF matches) and with a very good defence and ability to hit winners off her backhand side, I think she's worth another each-way shout.
On the subject of good French Open performances, runner up Lucie Safarova looks generously priced at 50/1. Semi-finalist here last year as well, her leftie serve and cross-court forehand is a real weapon on grass. She's in the opposite half to that tough third quarter and Kvitova as well as away from Serena in the second quarter.
French Open – Timea Bacsinszky each way (150/1 Sportingbet)
French Open – Lucie Safarova each way (50/1 Sportingbet)
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