Confidence: it’s a funny old thing. Especially in sport, where a player oozing with it, Roger Federer, finds himself as the 9/4 favourite over the field. Novak Djokovic, running a little low on machismo right now, is fancied as a mere 6/1 also-ran.
Are those odds accurate? Absolutely. Federer turned back the hands of time to win the Australian Open back in January, and kicked off his grass court campaign with victory at Halle. The 35-year-old is proving that you can never right off a class act no matter what their age.
Djokovic, meanwhile, is floundering. Without a title anywhere since the start of the year, the Serb hasn’t won a major since the French in 2015. After completing the career Grand Slam there, perhaps he inevitably took his eye off the ball.
But there are some promising noises coming out of the Djokovic camp, particularly the news that he will be coached and mentored by Andre Agassi at Wimbledon; no stranger to success at SW19. The former world number one has said he is ‘excited’ by the link up with Agassi, and their first assignment at the French Open – whilst ending in defeat in the quarter-finals – was a promising start. Djokovic has ‘only’ made four finals in thirteen attempts at Roland Garros, so success there does not come readily anyway.
It’s at Wimbledon where he really flourishes, and while his demons may just have originated from there 12 months ago after a third-round defeat to Sam Querrey, few are as comfortable on the London grass as the Serb.
Encouraging enough at Nottingham this week, where he is into the semi-finals at the time of writing, the air of invincibility surrounding Djokovic has gone. He must play better to recapture his Wimbledon crown, but with Andy Murray struggling with injury and Rafa Nadal unlikely to challenge on grass, he has every chance.
A price of 6/1 for a 12-time major winner? We’ll take it, thanks very much.
You can still find bits and pieces of 20/1 with some books regarding Marin Cilic, and that looks excellent value to us.
His grass court form has been tremendous in the past two years. In 2016 he went down in a five-set thriller to Federer at Wimbledon and in the semis at Queens to Murray – no shame in that.
And in 2017 he lost out in the last four at Hertogenbosch, and tasted defeat in the final at Queens, but both on tiebreak verdicts against Ivo Karlovic and Feliciano Lopez respectively.
His all-round game has picked up this year – proven by the fact he won a clay court title back in May, and lest we forget this is a former major winner; Cilic landed the US Open in 2014. With question marks against most of those at the head of the market, the Croat has to be considered excellent value at the price.
Opportunities Abound in Ladies Draw
With Serena Williams off having a baby, the ladies draw is more open than it has been for some time.
Her sister Venus has this week been embroiled in an awful situation: being found at fault for a car crash which killed a 78-year-old man. She won’t face criminal charges, but just how that will impact upon her mental state heading into the tournament is anybody’s guess.
So, as we say, there is an opportunity for somebody to step up to the plate. The most obvious candidate would be world number one Angelique Kerber, but 2017 has not been a good year for the two-time major winner. At the moment, she simply isn’t playing well enough you would think to triumph at SW19.
You could happily make a case for Johanna Konta (12/1), the Brit hopeful who has improved incredibly in the past 18 months or so. She looks primed for a major victory.
But how will she cope with the pressure in front of an adoring Wimbledon faithful? She would be the first British winner of this title since 1969, and for somebody yet to win a Grand Slam event that is an awful lot to take on. For that reason, rather than her tennis game, we’re giving her a swerve.
But it’s easy to get behind the powerful Karolina Pliskova (11/2) given her run in the past year or so. A finalist in her sole start on grass this term at Eastbourne, that follows runs to the semis at the French Open and quarters and title wins in Brisbane and Doha.
Pliskova’s career is in the ascendancy, and she could cap that rise with a first Grand Slam title in a fortnight’s time.