As blessed with sporting action as we are right now, there is still plenty of excitement for the start of Wimbledon which kicks off on Monday.
Forget the Pimms, the strawberries & cream, the Cliff Richard karaoke and the god-awful ironic chants of ‘come on Tim’, this year’s tournament is of interest to punters for a number of reasons, although one stands out: it could be the best chance that Andy Murray has to take down reigning champion Novak Djokovic and clinch his second title at SW19.
Over on the women’s side of the draw, is Serena Williams’ crown slipping as the queen of ladies tennis?
Djokovic vs Murray – the Realistic Men’s Final
Given that this pair is seeded one and two – and thus wouldn’t meet until the final, it is likely that a Djokovic-Murray dust up can be inked in for Sunday July 10. That is reflected by their clear dominance on grass, but also in the absence of any obvious standout contenders elsewhere in the market.
Roger Federer is returning from a lengthy injury layoff, and has looked vulnerable at times; as witnessed by his two defeats on grass in the last fortnight alone. Nick Kyrgios appears to lack the temperament for a fortnight’s Grand Slam slog, and will no doubt self-destruct at some point in the next two weeks. And Stan Wawrinka, a two-time major winner, is on record as admitting that grass is his least favourite surface.
We can make a case for Milos Raonic, whose game is ideally suited to the quicker surface and whose canny appointment of John McEnroe as coach has made many sit up and take notice. But the Canadian spends more time on the treatment table than the practise court, and as such punters cannot get behind in a two-week tournament with any confidence.
And so the scene is set for another Djokovic-Murray shootout….
The Scot has his fans and his detractors, and the stats suggest that there is something for both parties to cling to this week. The Serb has beaten Murray in five of their six Grand Slam final meetings, has a 24-10 head-to-head lead in all matches and is 13-2 ahead in matches played since the start of 2014.
But the home favourite (ish) is playing some of the best tennis of his life since becoming a father for the first time, as highlighted by the best clay court swing of his career to date, and – crucially – has beaten Djokovic in both of the matches they have played on grass: the Olympic Games gold medal match in 2012, and the Wimbledon final the following year.
Djokovic doesn’t like it when he isn’t the crowd’s darling – we’ve seen him losing his rag when those in attendance are in favour of the other player, and Murray’s ability to dredge up an extra 10% from his energy reserves when playing in front of his own fans (as witnessed in the Davis Cup) could be the difference maker. At 7/2 to win the tournament, there will be plenty backing Murray to get the job done.
Can Muguruza Dethrone Serena?
We’re not quite at ‘new sheriff in town’ territory just yet, but after Garbine Muguruza clinched the French Open title in June – which we backed at 14/1, incidentally – there was a feeling that she might be the next women’s star to make the breakthrough. Serena, watch out.
The Williams sister is just starting to fade from prominence – no great surprise given that she turns 35 in a few weeks’ time, and of the four finals she has reached in 2016 she has now lost three – two of which were Grand Slams; to Muguruza at Roland Garros and to Angelique Kerber at the Australian Open in January.
The Spaniard reached the final of Wimbledon last year, so clearly has a liking for the SW19 grass, and in truth she is the most likely winner in the field: at 11/2, there’s no reason not to get involved.