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Saturday, 27 June 2015

Wimbledon Outright Picks 2015 (June 29-July 12)

The grass court season hasn't been my most productive period of the season and this has regularly been the case over the years going into the third Grand Slam of the season.

While my Grand Slam record remains pretty decent, Wimbledon is the one that I look forward to the least because of the surface and the erratic results it can produce.

It is no surprise that is the case compared with the clay court season as there is more emphasis on players needing to take their chances for you to be successful. There are also some dangerous players in the draw who perhaps don't produce a high quality return during much of the season, but love the grass and come alive at this time of the season. You have to be aware of these kind of things going into Wimbledon as it helps in making the right plays and hopefully leads to a strong couple of weeks before the Tour moves away from the grass (well after the event in Newport anyway).

So what advice would I have for someone preparing to make picks from the next two weeks? Well I have a couple of suggestions.

1) You will see a lot more tie-breakers on this surface than on the clay: This is important for those looking at the spreads, especially some of the really big ones you get in the early Rounds of Slams.

You have to be aware that even the top players can sometimes have the racquet taken out of their hands if an opponent is serving well on grass with the faster conditions that generally do still exist compared with the clay courts.

It does mean the spreads from 7.5 games and above can be a little more difficult to be confident in, unless of course the right match up is there but the increased chances of tie-breakers being a factor can't be ignored.

2) One break can sometimes be enough to end the set: Following on from the first point, you will also get a few break point chances in a set for each player, but sometimes it can take just one to finish the set.

On the faster surfaces there is less of an opportunity to recover breaks, and very little opportunity to not just recover the break but move ahead by a break. That is a lot more common on the clay courts than on the grass courts, especially in the men's game, and so any pick has to have an element more luck on this surface.

While you can always rely on the superior skill to be telling on the clay, the grass can sometimes be very frustrating for the returner as well as those who have made picks to cover certain handicaps.

It is also more important to open the set serving you would feel for a number of the funnier numbers and is something to watch out for, although the toss of the coin and decision of the winning player is way out of our hands.

3) Playing on grass is not the most comfortable experience for everyone: One of the big criticisms of the tennis Tour over the years has been the general unification of the speed of the courts no matter the different surfaces.

While the grass courts don't have the same speed of years gone by, it is still a surface that can provide difficulties for some players and relight the fire of others.

So watch out for some of the Seeds that are simply not that comfortable on the surface as the lower bouncing ball or the confidence in the movement is not there for them. Also watch out for dangerous floaters in the draw that might not have strong seasons, but love this portion of the Tour and can do significant damage if caught on one of their hot days.

4) Checking the schedules will give you an insight into how important the grass court season is for an individual: There are some players out there that don't usually do too much preparation for Wimbledon after the move from the French Open, the likes of Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams coming to mind. These players will be challenging at Wimbledon just by looking at their past experiences on grass and their season success, but other players simply don't care too much about the grass courts and enter the tournament with little expectation.

No player wants to lose a match, but some accept the grass courts are not for them so it is always a good idea to see past experiences on the surface. It is a limited part of the season so you can't take success/failure as gospel, but it does give an idea as to how serious players are.

An example is Pablo Cuevas- he may be Seeded this year, but he has played just a couple of grass court tournaments in the last six years. However, he has shown more signs of wanting to get involved on the surface having entered two tournaments already on the grass this season.

It is something to keep in mind- if a player has shown little enthusiasm for grass, they might not be the most likely to dig in if things begin to go wrong for them and perhaps not a great person to back to keep within a big number. Conversely, they could be worth opposing if up against a competent player on the surface and has to be taken in as a factor.

Men's Tournament
It is no surprise that Novak Djokovic decided that he needed to recharge both physically and mentally from his exertions at the French Open and thus only played a couple of exhibition matches on the grass in preparation for Wimbledon. The defeat in the French Open Final would have been a bitter pill for Djokovic to swallow, but he has stated himself that he feels comfortable heading to SW19 with this schedule behind him as he has won the tournament in similar circumstances in the past.

That includes recovering from a French Open Final loss in 2014 to win and the defending Champion will come in as the favourite. However, Djokovic must have been hoping for a far more straight-forward match than facing Philipp Kohlschreiber in the First Round, especially as the German is very comfortable on the grass courts himself.

If this tournament entered a time displacement machine (yeah, I've been watching The Terminator), Djokovic would have been really worried about a potential Second Round match with Lleyton Hewitt. However, the Australian is no longer the force of old and no sure thing to get out of his First Round match against another veteran Jarkko Nieminen, although I think the former Wimbledon Champion will get one more day out in the sun at this tournament.

Bernard Tomic, Jerzy Janowicz and Kevin Anderson are potentially dangerous threats to Djokovic through to the Quarter Final, but the World Number 1 has been in incredible form through 2015 and it is hard to see him losing to any of those players in a best of five set match.

I don't think Djokovic would be too concerned if he does get through to the Quarter Final as there are some big doubts about Marin Cilic, John Isner and Kei Nishikori coming into the tournament and Novak Djokovic does look like he will have the opportunity to peak at the right time for this tournament.

You do have to feel that Novak Djokovic might have mistimed his form at the French Open thanks to the Quarter Final match against Rafael Nadal and the Semi Final against Andy Murray. Most players would think beating those two players back to back would be enough to win most big tournaments, but especially at the French Open, and I do think that might have contributed to Djokovic's struggles.

That is taking nothing away from Stan Wawrinka who was magnificent in Paris, but I am not convinced he is going to reach his Seeded position of the Semi Final here at Wimbledon. Rafael Nadal was the last player to win the French Open/Wimbledon double back in 2010 and this has notoriously been a big test for the best players, while Wawrinka has not been beyond the Quarter Final here.

Wawrinka did play well in SW19 last year, while his defeat to Kevin Anderson at Queens is forgivable so this might be the chance for him to go beyond his personal best here. However, I would be a little concerned with the way Wawrinka followed up his Australian Open win and he is always someone that could potentially be caught early in a Grand Slam draw, even if Wawrinka has been given a very cosy draw up to the Quarter Final.

At that point, I can see one of three players standing in his way- Milos Raonic is Seeded to get there, but didn't have a deep grass court resume before Wimbledon last year and relies too much on tie-breakers; Richard Gasquet has loved playing on the grass in the past, but was beaten by Raonic at Queens Club and so I am looking for this surface to reinvigorate a certain Grigor Dimitrov.

The Bulgarian has been in poor form in recent weeks, but the defeat to Gilles Muller at Queens might not be as poor as it initially may have felt for him. Dimitrov was a Semi Finalist at Wimbledon in 2014 and he is a previous Semi Finalist and Winner at Queens so clearly loves to play on the grass.

Dimitrov's form is a concern, but he has the chance to play his way in at Wimbledon with what looks a decent First Round draw and then a more challenging one against likely Steve Johnson. His 0-4 head to head with Gasquet would be a concern, but their last match came in 2013 and I think they have by-passed one another from that time and I would think Dimitrov has enough to come through.

He has a decent record against Milos Raonic and beaten Stan Wawrinka three times in a row, including twice on clay prior to the French Open, so Dimitrov has every chance to return to the Semi Final and try and reverse the loss to Djokovic from last season.

Nick Kyrgios is the wild card in this Quarter of the draw, but the Australian is struggling with some sort of elbow injury as well as other niggles. He can be dangerous on his day, but those injuries may prevent him from reaching the Quarter Final as he did last season and I think Dimitrov could be the player to back out of this section.

The top half of the draw does look like one that Novak Djokovic will be a strong favourite to get out of, but the bottom half looks loaded with talent. The intriguing matches look to be coming thick and fast from it, especially after Rafael Nadal was thrown into the same section as Roger Federer and Andy Murray.

In all honesty it is hard to get excited about Nadal's chances prior to the draw simply because of his recent struggles on the grass courts. He did win in Stuttgart, but Wimbledon has proved problematic since he reached the Final here in 2011 which was Nadal's fifth time in a row he had managed to get to the final Sunday of the tournament (one absence in a six year period between 2006-11).

Since then Nadal has not been beyond the Fourth Round, and while many are looking to the potential Quarter Final with Andy Murray, the Spaniard has a number of tests to pass. The First Round shouldn't present a problem, but Nadal could potentially face Dustin Brown in the Second Round (beat Nadal on grass at Halle last year), Victor Troicki in the Third Round (Nadal beat him in a close Final in Stuttgart) and then David Ferrer who can never be underestimated.

I actually think Nadal might be a very dangerous opponent for Andy Murray in the Quarter Final because that run could have him played into form, although his recent experiences at Wimbledon would mean it is hard to trust Nadal. Someone like Brown could take the racquet out of his hands if in top form and Troicki has played well enough to be considered a real danger in the Third Round.

Murray does seem to have the more straight-forward path to the Quarter Final, although there are some dangers in the section that can't be ignored. You'd still expect Murray to come through on the form he has displayed since Munich, even if he faces someone as awkward as Ivo Karlovic in the Fourth Round.

I'd put a line through Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, which might be dangerous considering his previous grass court form and how well his game is suited to the surface. However, the Frenchman has been injured and not played any grass court tennis heading into Wimbledon and has a ridiculously difficult First Round match against Gilles Muller and I would be surprised if Andy Murray isn't the man to come out of the section.

Rafael Nadal might be 3-0 against Andy Murray on the grass courts of SW19, but the last of those matches was in 2011 in the midst of Nadal's run of Finals at Wimbledon. Things have changed since then and Murray's destruction of Nadal in Madrid should have shifted the balance going into that Quarter Final.

The problem for Murray in being in the second half of the draw and in the same Quarter as Rafael Nadal is that he will have to follow that potential Quarter Final with a potential Semi Final against Roger Federer.

The seven time Wimbledon Champion has to be pleased with the draw he has been handed for the next two weeks, although his Grand Slam record in 2015 has been poor by the standards Federer has set in the past. In saying that, Wimbledon and the US Open give Federer his best chance of winning another Grand Slam in my opinion and he will be a dangerous opponent for anyone on his favourite surface.

Federer won Halle, but he perhaps wasn't as convincing which might have opponents thinking they have a chance for the surprise, but I don't see too many threats for him early in the tournament. Sam Querrey might have a decent grass record and Jack Sock is a Doubles Champion at Wimbledon, but beating Federer in a best of five set match looks unlikely for both.

Feliciano Lopez has never beaten Federer and you look through the names that he might have to beat prior to the Quarter Final and I don't think too many would be expected to challenge Federer.

The biggest obstacle to Federer reaching another Semi Final here has to be Tomas Berdych who did beat Federer the last time they played at Wimbledon in 2010 on his way to the Final that year. Berdych looks to have a much more awkward path to the Quarter Final though with a dangerous First Round opponent in Jeremy Chardy and grass court specialist Nicolas Mahut a potential Second Round opponent.

There are other dangers before the Quarter Final for Berdych and his inconsistency at Wimbledon since reaching the Final in 2010 has to be a concern. Berdych has made just one Quarter Final since then and was beaten in the Third Round last year.

That potentially opens the door for one of two Frenchmen to perhaps move into a surprise Quarter Final- Gael Monfils has not been in as effective form as Gilles Simon and had to deal with an injury in Halle, but both will be hoping to be involved in the Davis Cup tie with Great Britain at Queens Club the week after Wimbledon.

Neither would really worry Roger Federer and he might be in a much better position physically by the time he gets to the Semi Final if the potential Rafael Nadal-Andy Murray Quarter Final develops into a classic Wimbledon Quarter Final.

It is hard to look past the two favourites at this Grand Slam- as long as Novak Djokovic can come through the early couple of Rounds, I expect he will get stronger and stronger as he looks to retain the title he won last season.

I also had Andy Murray as the favourite prior to the draw and looking through his part of the draw hasn't reduced my belief in him. Of course Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in consecutive matches is a huge test for anyone, but I am still convinced Murray is playing at a high enough level to at least reach the Final and perhaps win the tournament for a second time.

I do think Roger Federer still has something left in the tank and we are most likely to see that either at Wimbledon or the US Open. After reaching the Final here last year and winning in Halle in preparation for Wimbledon, I think the draw has been kind enough to back Federer to win the Fourth Quarter of the draw, although Tomas Berdych is a real threat in the section.

Finally I am going to have a small interest on Grigor Dimitrov to rediscover some form and win the Second Quarter to at least match his performance at Wimbledon last season. Dimitrov has a very tough section, but he has strong records against the likes of Milos Raonic and Stan Wawrinka and I would expect the Bulgarian to get past both of those players if he can see off Richard Gasquet in the Third Round.

Raonic is still coming back from an injury and Wawrinka has never really pulled up too many trees at Wimbledon so Grigor Dimitrov could be a big price in ten days time.

Women's Tournament
Any time you look at a women's event that has Serena Williams involved in the draw, you have to say the World Number 1 is going to take some stopping to win the title. However, Serena Williams has won just one of the last four Wimbledon tournaments she has competed in while she has failed to reach the Quarter Final in the other three events in that time. Add the fact that no one has done the French Open/Wimbledon double in the women's game since 2002 when Serena Williams achieved that and you have to wonder if the favourite should be opposed.

However, the theory has been that you need to 'get' Serena Williams early in any tournament she enters and it is difficult to see who is capable of beating her before the Quarter Final. If she gets to that stage, Serena will be incredibly difficult to stop and would be a strong favourite to go on and win the event.

Daniela Hantuchova, Dominika Cibulkova and Caroline Garcia are all capable players, but they would all be big underdogs against Serena Williams, and the biggest threat in her section may be older sister Venus Williams.

Venus Williams might not have reached the Final in SW19 since 2009, but no one came closer to knocking Petra Kvitova out last year at Wimbledon and she has a respectable path through to the Fourth Round where she can potentially meet younger sister Serena. Venus Williams won the last meeting with Serena Williams at the Canadian Masters last summer, but it is Serena who holds a 3-2 lead at Wimbledon in the head to head having beaten Venus in the Final in 2009.

Players like Belinda Bencic, Tsvetana Pironkova, Ana Ivanovic and Victoria Azarenka all have their positives, but many negatives too which makes it hard to oppose Serena Williams if she was to come through the Fourth Round.

If Serena Williams was to make it through to the Semi Final, I don't really think there are too many players that she would be afraid of ahead of the final Saturday of the tournament. Maria Sharapova looks an awful third favourite to win Wimbledon, despite being a former winner here, especially considering she has reached the Final once in the last eight years and failed to get past the Fourth Round in seven of those years.

While Sharapova is expected to get past the early Rounds relatively easily, dangers lurk later on in her Quarter of the draw with the likes of Andrea Petkovic, Flavia Pennetta, Lucie Safarova, Sloane Stephens and Karolina Pliskova all potential Fourth Round and Quarter Final opponents.

The latter three players look the most likely Semi Final opponents for Serena Williams and I do like Karolina Pliskova's game and the way it transfers onto the grass courts. She was a Finalist in Birmingham, but the draw could have been a lot kinder for her and Serena Williams may be picking the bones of whoever comes out of a tough section of the draw.

The second favourite for the title is Petra Kvitova who has hopefully recovered from the illness that forced her out of Eastbourne last week and the defending Champion will be pleased with her draw.

Well, I think she would have more pleased if she had seen the draw a month ago after Agnieszka Radwanska rediscovered some form on the grass courts over the last three weeks. In saying that, Kvitova has a dominant head to head against Radwanska and the power on the grass courts to really get the better of the Pole in a potential Fourth Round blockbuster!

Kvitova might be more wary of her potential Quarter Final opponents which looks like it could be either Madison Keys or Ekaterina Makarova assuming Eugenie Bouchard's struggles have yet to be overcome. Keys has a win over Kvitova at the Australian Open earlier this season and has the kind of game that will be a huge presence on the grass for years to come, although I think she is carrying some sort of injury which lessens enthusiasm for her.

Makarova is a much more interesting candidate having a 1-2 record against Kvitova on the grass, but all of their matches have been highly competitive and she can match the big lefty serve. However, Makarova had to withdraw from the Doubles at Eastbourne with an achilles injury and it does seem to be working out for the defending Champion Kvitova to have another deep run at what is clearly her favourite Grand Slam.

To me there is clearly no doubt that the most intriguing Quarter of the women's draw is the third Quarter where there are many players that will feel they are good enough to not just reach the Semi Final, but go all the way to the title.

Simona Halep has won a grass title in her career and was a Semi Finalist at Wimbledon last season; Angelique Kerber won the big tournament in Birmingham and is a former Quarter Finalist and Semi Finalist at Wimbledon; Sabine Lisicki has reached the Quarter Final three times, the Semi Final and the Final in her last five appearances at Wimbledon.

I have drawn a line through Caroline Wozniacki because I find it hard to believe she will recover from her back issues in time to be a threat at this tournament, while Garbine Muguruza is just not comfortable enough on this surface to be trusted.

A couple of dangerous floaters in this section are Timea Bacsinszky and Camila Giorgi who both have had previous success on the grass. Bacsinszky might struggle to back up her performance at the French Open, while Giorgi is still a very erratic player with little room for error in the way she plays.

The Italian did win the tournament in Hertogenbosch, and she has previously reached the Fourth Round at Wimbledon after coming through the qualifiers so has the experience of playing a lot of matches on grass, but I am not convinced Giorgi can tone it down when the mistakes start flowing from her racquet.

The French Open/Wimbledon double has proved troublesome for the women's players in recent years, but Serena Williams can become the first player to do that since she did the same back in 2002. The draw looks to have worked out very well for Williams who I assume is over the physical illness that affected her so badly at the French Open.

The fact she won her worst Grand Slam despite the illness is a remarkable achievement and I think Serena is ready to reclaim her crown at SW19. Her biggest problem might be facing her elder sister Venus in the Fourth Round, but I think Serena is going to be able to work through the gears over the next two weeks and I would be pretty surprised if she is not making up one half of the Final on Saturday 11th July.

Like the men's event, it is hard to see the top two favourites being beaten over the next couple of weeks, although I do have more doubts about Petra Kvitova than I do about Andy Murray which may be surprising when looking at the names they have to face. However, Petra Kvitova's form at Wimbledon is so hard to ignore when you think she has won Wimbledon twice, been to the Quarter Final twice and the Semi Final over the last five years here.

The draw has also seemed to have worked out in Kvitova's favour and I think a similar staking plan to the men's tournament in the outright markets may work out.

I am also keen on having a small interest in the middle two Quarters of the draw and think the two Finalists at Birmingham a couple of weeks ago are worthy of support against higher Seeded players in their section.

Karolina Pliskova has the perfect game for the grass courts of SW19 and I think she can be supported to reach the Semi Final ahead of someone like Maria Sharapova who has struggled at Wimbledon in recent years. I am a big fan of Lucie Safarova and Sloane Stephens has been playing well in recent weeks, but Pliskova might be able to pick off whoever comes through to meet her in the Fourth Round and perhaps take advantage if Sharapova is beaten early again.

In the Third Quarter I believe Angelique Kerber can be the player to make it into another Wimbledon Semi Final. She was playing very well in Birmingham and looks to have the 'easiest' path into the Quarter Final in this section.

She has a strong record against Sabine Lisicki, who is a potential Quarter Final opponent, and I am not convinced Simona Halep is playing with enough confidence to maintain her unbeaten head to head with Kerber. It is Lisicki favoured to come out of the Third Quarter, but I do think her compatriot can surprise by taking the Semi Final spot instead.

MY OUTRIGHT PICKS: Novak Djokovic @ 2.40 Coral (4 Units)
Andy Murray @ 3.75 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Grigor Dimitrov to Win Second Quarter @ 9.00 William Hill (1 Unit)
Roger Federer to Win Fourth Quarter @ 1.80 Bet Victor (4 Units)
Serena Williams @ 2.75 Ladbrokes (4 Units)
Petra Kvitova @ 5.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Karolina Pliskova to Win Second Quarter @ 9.00 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Angelique Kerber to Win Third Quarter @ 4.50 Paddy Power (1 Unit)

Weekly Picks Final8-12, - 9.64 Units (40 Units Staked, - 24.1% Yield)

Season 2015+ 30.38 Units (997 Units Staked, + 3.05% Yield)

Season 2014+ 45.05 Units (1586.5 Units Staked, + 2.84% Yield)
Season 2013+ 21.74 Units (1251.5 Units Staked, + 1.73% Yield)
Season 2012+ 49.21 Units (855 Units Staked, + 5.76% Yield)

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