Load up on strawberries and cream and prepare for the never-boring chants of ‘come on Tim!’ and ‘new balls please’….Wimbledon is just one week away.
That means the great and the good of the grass court are sharpening their game ahead of the third major of the year, with Roger Federer – incredibly the bookmakers’ favourite to take the title at SW19 – tuning up rather nicely with victory at Halle last week. He was joined in the winners’ enclosure by Feliciano Lopez, who took down Marin Cilic at Queens Club in a high octane show of big serving.
With one week to go time is running out for those out of form to find their touch again….so it’s no wonder that Novak Djokovic has broken with tradition and will play a grass court warm-up prior to his attempt to get his hands on the Wimbledon crown once again.
The Serb never normally plays a warm-up event ahead of SW19, and that in itself highlights just how shaky his confidence is right now. He hasn’t won an event since January – unheard of previously – and his demolition defeat at the hands of Dominic Thiem in the quarters of the French Open, where he was bagelled 0-6 in the third set, felt like a watershed moment.
Why, oh why, is he the 5/6 favourite with the bookmakers for this Aegon International event in Nottingham then? Answers on a postcard about that, but it’s probably because the field is relatively weak.
But there are some big servers in town, and with spots of rain around the surface is likely to get quick slick this week – not aiding Djokovic’s cause. With the rest of the field at 10/1 bar, there has to be plenty of value to be sought.
So we’ve dug out two long shot contenders who might be worth backing each way:
Kevin Anderson (16/1)
The South African is a huge unit that serves absolute bombs, so it’s perhaps no surprise that he saves his best tennis for the grass.
Mind you, he had a pretty decent clay court campaign by his standards. He beat David Ferrer in Barcelona, Richard Gasquet in Estoril and Nick Kyrgios at Roland Garros, as well as taking a set from Kei Nishikori in Geneva.
Assuming he has fully recovered from the injury that forced him out of the French Open, Anderson should enjoy conditions in Nottingham; especially if the predicted rain does fall. His serve will become almost unreturnable, and his season should get a timely boost in an event in which he lost in the quarter finals last year in three sets to eventual winner Steve Johnson.
Sam Querrey (16/1)
What we like about Sam Querrey is that he is a proven champion; so important in getting a bet over the line.
The American has bagged 16 titles in his career across the Challenger and main tours, and two of those have come in the past year on the hard courts of Acapulco and Delray Beach.
Like Anderson, Querrey prefers the grass court campaign as it enables him to make the most of his height and the power of his serve, and the early signs are good. At Queens last week he beat Andy Murray’s conqueror, Jordan Thompson, before bowing out in the last eight to the in-form Gilles Muller.
He took sets from Thiem and Stan Wawrinka during the clay court campaign, and on his way to triumphing in Acapulco beat the likes of Rafa Nadal, Thiem and David Goffin. Querrey is certainly no mug, and he could go a long way in Nottingham if he remains fit and focused.