It has been easy to miss what with that football tournament going on in Russia, but Wimbledon 2018 started on Monday!
You probably caught the news that Andy Murray will not be playing as he steps up his comeback from injury, but there are still plenty of interesting narratives for punters to follow.
Can two of the all-time greats, Roger Federer and Serena Williams, add yet another Wimbledon title to their collections? Will Federer have to overcome Rafa Nadal in a repeat of their legendary 2008 final? Can a new British hero emerge?
Both the men’s and women’s draws are stacked with quality, so where does the pick of the betting value lie?
The Men’s Singles
Federer is the 6/4 favourite to win a ninth Wimbledon singles crown and equal the record set by Martina Navratilova.
And why not? The Swiss ace, despite turning 36, is still a precision engineered tennis machine, and if anything his game at SW19 has improved since he decided to stop playing the clay court season.
A winner at Stuttgart and finalist of Halle, Federer has quickly gotten his grass court game into gear, and with his experience on the show courts he is going to take some stopping in the next fortnight.
The 36-year-old even has the benefit of a kind draw, as if he needed it. He holds a 13-1 head-to-head lead over the biggest danger in his section, Ivo Karlovic, while Sam Querrey or Kevin Anderson could lurk in the quarter-finals. A repeat of last year’s final against Marin Cilic could be the a semi-final to savour.
In the bottom half of the draw, Rafa Nadal is expected to reach the final by the bookmakers. But his poor record on grass in recent years makes him vulnerable….
Juan Martin del Potro enjoyed a fine hard court campaign, but like Nadal you wonder if the slicker grass surface really suits his game.
Alex Zverev is a supreme young talent, but that has not translated to majors yet: the German has just one Grand Slam quarter-final to his name.
Nick Kyrgios is a player of incredible gifts, and his service motion is as good as anybody’s in the game. But it’s that temperament, or lack of it, that gets him into trouble, and until he finds a sense of perspective about tennis you suspect the Aussie will never realise his potential.
There’s one name we have forgotten: that of Novak Djokovic, something of a forgotten man of the sport.
The Serbian has had his own injury problems to contend with, and so it was good to see him reach the final at Queen’s a couple of weeks ago.
Whether his body can withstand the rigours of a fortnight of tennis in a heatwave remains to be seen, but Novak appears to be the best placed to thrive in the bottom half of the draw.
The Women’s Singles
Six of the women’s top 32 seeds have already departed the competition following a hectic first Monday.
Petra Kvitova is the favourite with the bookmakers’ favourite, and that’s no surprise given that she has won three of the last four tournaments she has entered.
But the Czech ace is in the stacked top half of the draw, which also features defending champion Garbine Muguruza, the top seed Simona Halep, Johanna Konta, Maria Sharapova and Angelique Kerber. It’s a path laden with obstacles.
Punters are perhaps best off focusing on the bottom half, particularly with US Open champion Sloane Stephens and Elina Svitolina already knocked out.
Serena is the most likely at 5/1, but her lack of significant match practice could come back to haunt her.
So maybe Caroline Wozniacki, despite her relatively poor record at SW19, represents value at 16/1. She won a grass court event at Eastbourne last week, and of course is now a major champion after landing the Australian Open earlier this year.
With England obviously going to win the World Cup, it would be nice if an Englishman/woman could make it a wonderful summer of sport for the Brits.
A semi-finalist last year here, Johanna Konta is our best hope after finding a bit of form lately. But again, she is in that tough upper section of the women’s draw, and there are simply too many obstacles for her to overcome to be considered smart betting value.
Can Kyle Edmund cope with being Great Britain’s number one in the absence of Andy Murray? It’s a fair question, but the signs are good for a 23-year-old who has improved markedly in the past year or so.
He could meet Djokovic in the third round, but Edmund triumphed in their last meeting just a few weeks ago, so there would be no fear there.
If the Brit could get past Djokovic, should they meet, then a path to the semi-finals which includes the likes of Thiem, Verdasco, Kyrgios and Zverev isn’t all that daunting, in relative terms, and so maybe a small each way flutter at 100/1 on a new British hero to emerge isn’t all that daft.