After a fortnight of shrieking, yelling and fist pumping, Wimbledon 2017 is reaching its final throes and Saturday will see the two remaining female combatants, Venus Williams and Garbine Muguruza, do battle on Centre Court in a fitting finale.
The pair have probably been the best players in the tournament, and it will be captivating to watch these two power hitters duke it out for supremacy at SW19.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Wimbledon without a Williams in the final. Since the dawn of the new Millennium 13 of the 17 ladies singles finals have featured at least one sister, four have featured both and the name Williams has been inscribed on the trophy an astonishing 12 times.
That outlines the task facing Muguruza on Saturday, with the Spaniard already tasting defeat at the hands of Venus’ little sister Serena in the final here back in 2015. Will she have her revenge, or will she face further heartache at the hands of tennis’ most famous family?
With his brilliant post to Betfair’s blog, Dan Weston (@Tennisratings) identified how Muguruza had perhaps been fortunate on route to the semi-finals in his preview of her match with Magdalena Rybarikova.
He discovered that the Spaniard had wildly overachieved, with a win ratio of just 61.6% points on her own serve. Dan continued by observing that Muguruza’s mental toughness at key points of matches occasionally outweighed her limitations with racquet in hand, and that “…it is incredibly difficult to make a case for Muguruza at such a low price, unless you are somehow convinced Rybarikova will choke at her first Grand Slam semi-final.”
And boy, did Rybarikova choke.
The Slovak had already despatched tournament favourite Karolina Pliskova and another big hitter, Coco Vandeweghe, on her way to the last four, and while Muguruza was expected to just about get over the line most anticipated a tough match.
The subsequent 6-1, 6-1 victory for the Spaniard was no less destructive than it sounds.
So yes, Rybarikova did choke, and she certainly wasn’t blown off court by the elite play of her opponent. Muguruza got a free pass to the Wimbledon final – arguably deserved after drawing Angelique Kerber and Svetlana Kuznetsova in the last 16 and quarters respectively, but that was not ideal preparation for a match against her fiercest opponent yet in the final.
Venus Williams has put a litany of off-court problems behind her to ascend to Saturday’s showpiece, and most worrying for Muguruza is that she has improved with each match played.
Venus dropped a set in her second-round game and was taken to a tiebreak in her first and third round outings, but since then she has been ominously imperious. Straight sets triumphs over Ana Konjuh, French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko and our own Johanna Konta show an impressive upward trajectory, and most impressive is how she handled the pressure of being the underdog on Centre Court against the Brit.
A slight underdog once again at Evens (Muguruza is 4/5), you could make a case that the bookmakers have gotten this one wrong with their pricing. Venus should be favourite, albeit only slightly, and so tuck into those odds available on yet another Williams win at Wimbledon.
With Muguruza being favourite we know that Venus will be on the right side of the handicaps, and that’s the case with the older Williams available at 8/11 with a +1.5 game head start.
That is perhaps the best bet of the day, given that it allows wriggle room for a Muguruza win, say, 7-5, 3-6, 6-4. If you want to muscle in on Saturday, this is the market to play.
That’s just one way in which the final could play out, and another is that there will be plenty of nerves around early doors for both of these players. Some tight muscles could lead to slow and predictable service games, and double faults for that matter, so breaks of serve in set one are highly likely.
If one player can steal a march on the other here then Under 9.5 Games in the first set looks intriguing value at 10/11.