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Sunday, 22 June 2014

Wimbledon Outright Picks 2014 (June 23-July 6)

The draw for the third Grand Slam event was made on Friday 20th June and there is definitely the potential for some big matches in both the men's and women's events over the next two weeks as Andy Murray looks to defend the title he won last season. Of course, there is no defending Champion in the women's draw since Marion Bartoli retired in the weeks after winning Wimbledon last year, but that means the honour goes to Sabine Lisicki to open play on Tuesday as the runner up twelve months ago.

Personally I am looking forward to Wimbledon with a number of younger players beginning to make their mark on both Tours, although I think it would still be a big surprise if a familiar name is not lifting the trophy at the end of the two weeks.


Men's Draw
First Quarter
He might not be the World Number 1 in the Rankings, but Wimbledon have their own formula for seeding and that means Novak Djokovic will be heading up the draw, although I am pretty convinced that he would swap places with Rafael Nadal right now.

Despite what the media may have you believe, I honestly believe Novak Djokovic has drawn the short straw of the top four players with his Quarter of the draw looking incredible difficult to negotiate.

Some of the names in the section include Radek Stepanek (Queens Semi Finalist this year), Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (twice Wimbledon Semi Finalist), Ernests Gulbis, Fernando Verdasco (Wimbledon Quarter Finalist in 2013), Marin Cilic (former Queens Winner) and Tomas Berdych (former Wimbledon Finalist).

You can probably draw a line through Stepanek, Gulbis and Verdasco, but the other three names are all very capable of drawing a surprise from Djokovic before the Semi Finals, especially if the wrist is giving the Serb more problems.

He had to pull out of a scheduled match at The Boodles ahead of Wimbledon, but that could have been a precaution, although it raises enough questions to at least have a worry about the man set as the favourite to capture his second Wimbledon title.

Djokovic should be comfortable through the first three Rounds at the tournament, but then he has to be on his game if he wants to go deep into the second week with the likes of Tsonga and Cilic/Berdych the likely opponents in the Fourth Round and Quarter Final respectively.

In all honesty, I would fancy a fully fit Djokovic to see those players off in a best of five set match, but the wrist raises some questions, while the likes of Tsonga can 'get hot' and take the racquet out of an opponent's hands. On form, you'd have to think Djokovic still has too much, but he has to be careful to leave something in the tank for the remainder of the tournament if he is to capture his first Grand Slam title since the Australian Open in January 2013.

Prediction: Novak Djokovic, although he is likely to have been tested.


Second Quarter
Andy Murray finally broke the long wait for a British men's Champion at Wimbledon twelve months ago, but it is arguably going to be harder for him to defend that title, especially considering the lack of consistent form since going in for back surgery. Yes, Murray did reach the Semi Final at Roland Garros, but he did seem to take advantage of a decent draw and winning Wimbledon is going to be a different challenge with a lot more expectation of him on the grass courts.

I have argued for a while that Andy Murray is the best grass court player in the world even if he was surprisingly beaten by Radek Stepanek at Queens in preparation for Wimbledon. He had been on a long winning run on the surface prior to that result, a run that had seen him pick up the Olympic Gold Medal, the Queens title and culminate in winning Wimbledon.

I mentioned that Murray took advantage of a decent draw at Roland Garros to reach the Semi Final in Paris, and I don't think he will have too many qualms about the draw at Wimbledon either, especially in his Quarter.

There are serious doubts about David Ferrer who looks like he will participate, but that had been in question up until the middle of last week and I don't think the Spaniard is going to have the stamina we have come to expect from him. Ferrer has been suffering with some sort of illness that has lingered from the French Open and forced him out of Hertogenbosch last week.

The player that could take most advantage of any issues with Ferrer is the current Queens Champion Grigor Dimitrov who bounced back from an awful French Open showing that saw him beaten in the First Round by Ivo Karlovic. I picked Dimitrov to win at Queens because I feel his game is well suited to the grass courts and the Bulgarian may have the opportunity to match his best showing at a Grand Slam which is the Quarter Final he achieved at the Australian Open earlier this season.

A concern for Dimitrov will be the fact he has not surpassed the Second Round at Wimbledon, but he looks in a decent section of the draw to surpass that as long as he can remain in control of his emotions.

He does look the biggest threat to Murray from the section, especially if Ferrer is not healthy enough for the best of five set marathons, and that does look a fascinating Quarter Final to look forward to.

Prediction: Andy Murray v Grigor Dimitrov Quarter Final would be great viewing, but the defending Champion should have the edge in this part of the draw.


Third Quarter
There were a few players that I knew I would want to oppose in this grass court Grand Slam and while some of them have landed in the tough top half of the draw (Ernests Gulbis was always going to be over-rated after his Paris exploits but is in an incredibly tough First Quarter), some like Stan Wawrinka are heading up the Third Quarter of the draw.

Wawrinka did reach the Semi Final at Queens, but he had a very nice draw to reach that stage and he has openly admitted that he hasn't coped with winning the Australian Open, especially with a new expectation on a player that cracked the top three in the World Rankings.

His results at Wimbledon wouldn't have inspired much confidence even without the doubts that Wawrinka is suffering- he reached the Fourth Round in back to back years in 2008 and 2009, but Wawrinka has failed to get beyond the Second Round in his next four appearances in SW19 and has three First Round exits.

The chances of Wawrinka going deep into the tournament means beating the likes of either Denis Istomin or Dmitry Tursunov in the Third Round and then facing dangerous players like Feliciano Lopez or John Isner in the Fourth Round.

In all honesty Lopez or Isner could be the dark horse of a Quarter that also contains Roger Federer and I can see one of those two players reaching the Quarter Final. Their Third Round clash looks to be a big one, but I have to respect the form that Lopez has shown by reaching the Final in Queens and also in Eastbourne.

Federer is likely to be the Quarter Final opponent as long as he can erase the memory of his Second Round exit when he could face Julien Benneteau at the same stage- Benneteau had a two sets lead over Federer here back in 2012, a tournament the Swiss star eventually won and could pose some problems, but I don't have the same feeling that Jerzy Janowicz can turn around his 2014 form to replicate the Semi Final he reached at Wimbledon twelve months ago.

Lleyton Hewitt and Tommy Robredo are a couple of veterans that would like to make their presence felt- however, I would be confident that Federer beats either on grass and the biggest threat to a Semi Final appearance for the seven time Wimbledon Champion could be Feliciano Lopez.

Prediction: Roger Federer likely to be the man to reach the Semi Final, but I won't be ignorining what Feliciano Lopez or John Isner could do this year.


Fourth Quarter
The media outlets have all described this as being a 'difficult draw' for the Number 2 Seeded Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon this year, but I think the nine time French Open Champion is in line to have his best performance at SW19 since finishing as Runner Up in 2011.

Two early exits over the last two seasons before the Second Round has raised doubts about whether Nadal can rediscover his form on the grass courts that helped him win Wimbledon and also saw him involved in two epic Finals with Roger Federer.

It is right to suggest Nadal is most vulnerable in the early stages of the tournament where the Spaniard could perhaps take a little time getting into his stride coming off the clay courts and limited action in Halle, but I also believe he will have something to prove to himself this year. Roland Garros was the main priority for Nadal, but the feeling is that Wimbledon could also be higher on his list than maybe expected.

Martin Klizan is the First Round opponent and being a lefty means Nadal's 'normal game' may not be as effective as it is against right-handed players across the net from him. However, I would expect Nadal to win that match and then we could see a potential repeat of the 2012 Second Round match between Nadal and Lukas Rosol.

That kind of big-hitter would be a problem, but Rosol is so inconsistent and they do say lightning doesn't strike twice in the same spot, while Ivo Karlovic has a pretty poor record at Wimbledon considering his game looks suited to grass so there is no reason to believe he is 100% going to be facing the Spaniard in the Third Round.

By the time Nadal is seeded to meet Richard Gasquet, he should be in a good spot mentally and I don't think the Frenchman believes he can win this kind of match, even if he does secure the title in the Final at Eastbourne which is to be played after I complete this preview for Wimbledon.

Milos Raonic has been touted as a difficult Quarter Final for Nadal by the media, but the Canadian is definitely very vulnerable on the grass and has suffered some incredibly poor losses on the surface over the last twelve months. There is nothing to suggest he would come through against the likes of Kei Nishikori or Philipp Kohlschreiber in a potential Fourth Round clash, if Raonic is even to get that far in the tournament.

There are doubts about Nishikori simply because he has reached one Quarter Final in nineteen appearances in the Grand Slams and whether his injury-proneness allows him to compete in the best of five set matches effectively is a big question. Philipp Kohlschreiber has had success on the grass courts including beating Nadal in Halle in the past, but taking out the World Number 1 in a best of five would be a huge task both mentally and physically and that is not what I would be trusting the German to do.

Prediction: It might not be the consensus, but I like Rafael Nadal's chances of making another big impact at Wimbledon this season after a couple of disappointing showings at SW19.


Outright Preview
There has been a lot of talk of the 'Big Four' players of the last few seasons perhaps seeing their dominance broken in 2014, especially when Stan Wawrinka won the Australian Open title and then followed that up with the first Masters on clay by winning in Monte Carlo.

However, we saw three of the traditional 'Big Four' reach the Semi Finals at Roland Garros and there is every chance that a familiar looking Semi Final line up could take place at Wimbledon.

Out of the top four seeds, I think Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are most vulnerable to someone playing a huge match to knock them out- Djokovic has a very difficult draw from the Fourth Round onwards, plus some concerns about his well-being with the wrist causing issues; Roger Federer did play well in winning the title at Halle, but he has only been beyond the Fourth Round of one of his last four Grand Slams and has surpassed the Quarter Final in one of his last four appearances at Wimbledon (albeit winning the title in 2012 when he did so).

The likes of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Tomas Berdych, John Isner and Feliciano Lopez will feel they can upset Djokovic/Federer in their respective Quarters and I think both players will also be tested to the point that they could be vulnerable in the Semi Finals if Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal are the players that are waiting for them.

Backing Rafael Nadal is dangerous considering he doesn't feel as comfortable on the grass courts since the knee injury that curtailed his 2012 season and the two early losses he has had at Wimbledon in the last two years makes him a vulnerable player, especially early.

However, I think he can get on a roll with the way the draw has panned out if he does come through the first couple of Rounds unscathed and I like putting Nadal in my staking plan.

Defending a title can be incredibly taxing mentally for a player if you listen to what the professionals say in that position and I think you can ratchet up that pressure if you're Andy Murray and defending the Wimbledon crown. However, he can't have asked for a better draw and I am not reading too much into the defeat at Queens, while Murray remains arguably the best grass court player in the world as far as I am concerned.

There is the worry that Murray hasn't had a lot of success against the top, top players since returning from his back injury, but the draw has been kind in that regards and I think he has to be kept onside in this tournament too.

If Murray is to fall, there is the chance that it is down to the reigning Queens Champion Grigor Dimitrov and I am going to have a small interest in him winning the Second Quarter and making his biggest impact at a Grand Slam. As I have stated before, Dimitrov has the game to be a really strong grass player for years to come, and winning Queens has proven to be a big stepping stone for players in the past so there is every chance he can surprise Murray.

Another player who had a huge week at Queens has to be worth a small interest in the Third Quarter of the draw- Feliciano Lopez has reached back to back Finals on grass (still to play the Final at Eastbourne where Lopez is defending Champion) and has the serve and volleying skills that make him very dangerous.

His record against potential Quarter Final opponent Roger Federer leaves a lot to be desired, but Lopez is serving incredibly well at the moment and I think he can take advantage of a section that includes Stan Wawrinka and give himself a chance of moving into his first Slam Semi Final.

The match with John Isner is a tough Third Round match to negotiate, but if Federer and Wawrinka struggle, Lopez could be the man to get behind.



Women's Draw
First Quarter
Serena Williams is still heading up the women's draw despite failing to win either Grand Slam contested this season and she is perhaps coming into the Wimbledon draw with a few more doubts than we have come to expect from the American. There is no doubt that Williams is pretty unbeatable when she brings her absolute best to the court, but there have been plenty of sub-par days where she is very vulnerable to a surprise defeat.

It was Ana Ivanovic at the Australian Open and it was Garbine Muguruza at the French Open, while Sabine Lisicki stunned Williams at Wimbledon twelve months ago and the draw this year has a few tough questions that will be asked of the Number 1 Seed.

The First Quarter of the draw is loaded with threats to Serena Williams, perhaps none more so than French Open Champion Maria Sharapova who is seeded to meet Williams in the Quarter Final- if I am perfectly honest, I could never back Sharapova to beat Williams simply because of the head to head and some of the beatings the American has handed out, but there is no guarantee that Williams reaches the Quarter Final.

Eugenie Bouchard is the only player that has reached the Semi Final of both Grand Slams this season and is a potential Fourth Round opponent for Serena Williams, while Alize Cornet is a potential Third Round opponent that did beat Williams on the hard courts of Dubai earlier this season.

Even Sharapova is going to be tested before the Quarter Final stage with the dangerous Camila Giorgi and Angelique Kerber in her mini-section of the draw and the expected showdown between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova is certainly not a gimme.

Prediction: Tough, tough section- it is hard to go against Serena Williams if she is on form, but she better start off faster than she does at times if she is to reach the Semi Final.


Second Quarter
The Second Quarter of the draw looks a lot more open with the top seeded players in the section, Simona Halep and Jelena Jankovic, having a few questions to deal with. Simona Halep did win the title at Hertogenbosch last season so can perform on the grass, but she reached the Final at the French Open and that may have taken its toll mentally on her, while Jankovic has struggled on the grass courts for consistency in recent seasons.

Out of the two top Seeds, you would say that Halep has more of a chance to play herself into the tournament in the top half of the section, but Jankovic is going to have to deal with a number of players that are confident on the surface and playing well.

Look at some of the names in the bottom part of this section- Ana Ivanovic (who won the title in Birmingham), Sabine Lisicki (last year's Runner Up), Madison Keys (the Eastbourne Champion), as well as potentially dangerous players like Taylor Townsend and Monica Puig.

With the clearer run, Halep has every chance of at least reaching the Semi Final, but I think the danger comes from Ana Ivanovic who has shown improvement through the entire season although it is her potential Third Round match with Sabine Lisicki that presents the most problems.

We have also seen young players breakthrough at the Slams this season so Madison Keys will interest people as a surprise Semi Finalist, but she is coming off a long week at Eastbourne and may just struggle to repeat the formula in a more pressure filled environment.

Prediction: Ana Ivanovic may be the surprise Semi Finalist if she brings her Birmingham form into SW19.


Third Quarter
Over the course of the season, I have moved Agnieszka Radwanska onto my 'do not trust black list' as the Number 4 Seed has begun to really struggle against opponents she would usually dismiss. Before this season, I always saw Radwanska as being a solid enough player to beat those below her in the Rankings, but wouldn't win a Grand Slam as she wasn't aggressive enough.

There is the issue of finding the right balance in her play and I do think she is perhaps pushing too much, but I think that makes her a vulnerable player in her Quarter.

The options to oppose Radwanska in this Quarter are plentiful- however, almost all of them have some doubts and that makes it all the tougher to call.

Dominika Cibulkova hasn't had the same sort of success in recent months as when she reached the Australian Open Final in January, but she has the kind of grass court pedigree that makes her dangerous. Victoria Azarenka is coming off a long lay-off, Ekaterina Makarova and Tsevtana Pironkova have grass court success but are so inconsistent, while Svetlana Kuznetsova is capable of springing a couple of surprise results but lacks the consistency that took her to two Grand Slam wins in the past.

I know there will be a few who back Garbine Muguruza, but she hasn't had a lot of time to digest her performances from Roland Garros and this Slam may come a little too quick, even if her game looks to be suited to the grass.


Fourth Quarter
I was a little surprised to see that Na Li has never been beyond the Quarter Finals at Wimbledon with the way she plays, but some players just don't ever get themselves right mentally to perform on the grass courts. Li is the Number 2 Seed here as she looks to bounce back from a poor French Open and she must look at the draw and think this is about as a good a chance as you can get in a Slam to ease your way into a tournament.

From the Fourth Round it looks to be more difficult with her likely opponent to be Caroline Wozniacki or Sam Stosur at that point and both of those players would feel they would have the edge in that potential match.

However, the biggest threat may be sitting at the top of the Quarter in 2011 Wimbledon Champion Petra Kvitova as long as the thigh issue she had at Eastbourne which forced her withdrawal is not too serious.

Kvitova would have to be fit to see off grass expert Venus Williams who may have one more big Grand Slam event in her despite not being at the level of a few years ago, while Sloane Stephens seems to find a way to turn up the heat in the Grand Slams. However, Kvitova loves the grass courts and a healthy player would surely go very close to repeating the success of three years ago.

The big lefty serve is a huge weapon on the grass, and Kvitova can certainly get into a groove when it comes to hitting winners, but she is really inconsistent and lets too many matches go into three sets instead of finishing off opponents as she should. That can take it's toll in a long two weeks of increasing mental pressure and that would be the bigger concern in backing Kvitova from an open section of the draw.


Outright Preview
I've always said that Serena Williams is the player to beat in the women's draw and that remains the case, although there must be more doubters considering her two Grand Slam losses in 2014 and this whole season being something of a come down from the last two seasons on the Tour.

Williams has already matched the same number of losses from the whole of 2013 and has only suffered one fewer than the whole of 2012, but she has shown the ability to bounce back from poor losses in tournaments down the line over the last two years.

She has won two Grand Slams in each of the last two seasons and she can match that by winning her two favourite Slams at Wimbledon and the US Open, but Williams has to be careful not to be caught cold.

Serena has suffered some poor losses in the Grand Slams, and she comes into Wimbledon in a similar manner as in 2012 when she did win the tournament. That season, Williams was beaten in the Fourth Round at the Australian Open and the First Round at the French Open before winning the last two Grand Slam events and you can't help but see the similarities to this season when she was beaten in the Fourth Round at Melbourne Park and Second Round at Roland Garros.

I do have a feeling that Williams had been suffering with some sort of injury, but her serve is usually a monster for her, especially on grass, and I can see the American returning to winning ways in the best possible way.

The biggest threat to Williams may actually be Eugenie Bouchard who could provide a Fourth Round opponent, but I would expect Serena to be 'warmed up' in the tournament by then and would fancy her to win that match. Maria Sharapova will be confident, but her record against Serena Williams is more than forgettable and I will back Serena Williams to rediscover her form and remind people of her power in the women's game.

It is actually quite hard to find an alternative to Serena Williams in what looks a wide open draw outside of the American and the odds back that up- only Maria Sharapova is at single digits to win the tournament so there is the potential to find a big priced winner. If Petra Kvitova hadn't been suffering with a thigh injury at Eastbourne, she could have been the one for me and instead I will back a couple of outsiders to win their respective Quarters.

The first of those is Ana Ivanovic in the Second Quarter as I think she is getting closer and closer to putting together the form that won the French Open and took her to World Number 1- her win in Birmingham will only aid her confidence and Ivanovic looks a real threat in the wide open Second Quarter as long as she can handle Sabine Lisicki in the Third Round.

Another Quarter that looks like it will open for a few players is the Third Quarter as I pointed out above and I think Dominika Cibilkova is a big price for a former Quarter Finalist. She hasn't been at her best over the last few months, but Cibulkova can take the game to the highest Seed in the section, Agnieszka Radwanska, and may surprise.

MY WIMBLEDON OUTRIGHT PICKS: Rafael Nadal @ 6.50 Bwin (2 Units)
Andy Murray @ 4.50 Paddy Power (3 Units) Refunding if player knocked out before Quarters
Grigor Dimitrov to Win Second Quarter @ 6.00 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Feliciano Lopez to Win Third Quarter @ 15.00 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Serena Williams @ 2.75 Coral (4 Units)
Ana Ivanovic to Win Second Quarter @ 5.00 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Dominika Cibulkova to Win Third Quarter @ 10.00 Coral (1 Unit)

Weekly Daily Final5-12, - 15.04 Units (34 Units Staked, - 44.24% Yield)

Season 2014+ 36.82 Units (910.5 Units Staked, + 4.04% Yield)

Season 2013+ 21.74 Units (1251.5 Units Staked, + 1.73% Yield)
Season 2012+ 49.21 Units (855 Units Staked, + 5.76% Yield)
Season 2011+ 82.02 Units

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