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Saturday, 1 July 2017

Wimbledon Preview and Outright Picks 2017 (July 3-16)

The third Grand Slam of the season comes hot on the heels of the second Slam and this time the men's tournament will have all of the top names in action as Roger Federer returns.

It is Federer who will go into the men's draw at Wimbledon as the favourite to capture another crown at SW19 and you probably wouldn't argue that prior to the draw being made.

Once again the women's tournament looks an open event although one that is bolstered by an in-form Petra Kvitova and the return of Victoria Azarenka.

There will be some angles to exploit, I hope, from the outright position and ones that can return something in two weeks time, while the daily picks from Wimbledon will begin on Monday and go through the event too.


Gentlemen's Draw
There has been plenty of concern about Andy Murray throughout 2017 as his form as dropped off, but things looked to be in much ruder health at the French Open where he reached the Semi Final.

However the early exit at Queens and the subsequent hip issues which have kept him from playing the exhibition matches he usually does means Murray may be undercooked heading to defend the title he won for the second time in 2016.

There won't be any complaints about the draw for Murray though who will begin with a Qualifier. Some will point to the likes of Dustin Brown, Nick Kyrgios and Lucas Pouille as potential threats before the Quarter Final, but I can raise doubts about all of those players.

Brown may have all the flash in the world, but Murray will know exactly what to expect from the German and his return should be good enough to see off someone who relies heavily on the serve-volley game being absolutely perfect. While Brown has had big wins at Wimbledon in the past, Murray losing to him would be only down to the hip making it almost unplayable for him.

The World Number 1 doesn't have to play both Kyrgios and Pouille, who will be Seeded to meet one another in the Third Round, but Murray will feel confident facing both. He has a strong record against the two players and Kyrgios has been suffering with an injury which means he might not be in top shape. Pouille is more interesting having played well on the grass, but he hasn't matched up well with Murray in the past and by the time they meet I would expect Murray would have played himself into the event.

Who he faces in the Quarter Final is much harder to judge when you think Stan Wawrinka is opening up against Daniil Medvedev, a player who has been producing plenty of top results on the grass this year. Wawrinka hasn't had the best of success at Wimbledon and has a number of obstacles on the way to the Quarter Final which makes it difficult to believe in him.

An in-form Jo-Wilfried Tsonga would have been the favourite to play Murray a couple of years ago, but he has not looked right himself and Murray may have a surprise opponent if he gets that far as I expect him to. Whoever it is who does make it through, Murray should be very happy with the way he can build into this event despite the obvious concerns about the hip.


There will be a lot of people who may be looking at Rafael Nadal having the opportunity to reach his first Final at Wimbledon since 2011 if he can produce the form he has on the clay courts when moving onto the grass. It will be a brave person that backs him though as Nadal has not played well on this surface for a long time and has been upset a number of times.

Players like Donald Young and Karen Khachanov have played well enough on the grass to think they could potentially upset Nadal if they are to catch him early in the tournament, while Denis Istomin is another potential Second Round opponent and has already beaten Novak Djokovic in a Slam this season.

If Nadal can negotiate what looks to be some tricky early opponents, the Spaniard will be able to play his way into the tournament. That will begin to make him a dangerous opponent for anyone, but if he is beaten early at Wimbledon again, there is one name that stands out as able to take advantage.

That, for me, is Marin Cilic who has played really well here over the years and is perhaps unfortunate not to have gone even deeper into the tournament. The Croatian has made the Quarter Final at Wimbledon three years in a row and only he will know how he blew a two set lead over Roger Federer in 2016 when completely dominating the match.

Cilic should have won the title at Queens a couple of weeks ago, but he looked to be in nice order and is a definite danger having won the US Open before. His record against Nadal is a concern, and Cilic opens with potentially back to back really difficult matches as he faces Philipp Kohlschreiber and then either Victor Troicki or Florian Mayer.

There is a potential of an upset there, but Cilic will pick up some momentum if he can get into the Third Round and I would favour him over the likes of Steve Johnson (out of form) and Kei Nishikori (health issues) as the man who could take advantage of any Nadal slip.


If you think Andy Murray will be delighted by the draw he has received, Roger Federer should be over the moon and the favourite for another title at Wimbledon looks to be the man to beat over the next two weeks. The fitness concerns may have been pushed aside when Federer won the Australian Open earlier this year, and Federer looked in very strong form in winning the title in Halle.

Alexandr Dolgopolov is the kind of player who can raise his game for the big matches and presents an awkward First Round opponent, but on current form that would be a monumental upset for Federer to go down to him. Getting through that would open the door for Federer and I really don't see a lot of threats for him in the way he has been playing.

Mischa Zverev, Bernard Tomic, John Isner and Grigor Dimitrov would likely disagree with me, but who would really fancy any of those to beat Federer in a best of five sets match. Even the dangerous Isner serve seems to be lacking the bite of old and I actually don't envision too many issues for the Swiss superstar until the Quarter Finals.

Even then he could be picking the bones of someone coming through a tough portion of the draw.

While the early Rounds for the top two Seeds to face Federer in a Quarter Final, Milos Raonic and Alexander Zverev, have relatively serene early progress in front of them, they are scheduled to meet in the Fourth Round. Raonic is always going to be a danger on grass, but his return game means he can be dragged into long matches and may be short of energy by the time he gets to Federer, which would be a reverse of when they met in the Semi Final in 2016.

Zverev has the same issue of dropping silly sets and he now has a huge one-sided defeat to Federer to think back on having been crushed in the Halle Final. Once those two players have played one another, Federer could have had plenty of time to recover and be ready to face them in the Quarter Final where he would be a pretty strong favourite to progress.


Novak Djokovic has to be thankful for his strong record on the grass in recent years which has seen him move into the top two for the Seedings at Wimbledon despite being Ranked lower overall. That has seen him rewarded with what looks the perfect draw, although the question marks about Djokovic's form makes it hard to really trust him at this moment.

He opens against Martin Klizan which may be the most difficult match he faces until he gets to the Fourth Round, and Klizan is someone who can potentially shock when playing his high octane brand of tennis. However he had to pull out in Antalya last week and I am not sure he will be at 100% for this one which won't be good enough to beat Djokovic.

Juan Martin Del Potro is another who has had issues with his health and his lack of grass court tennis could go against him, despite playing in exhibitions last week in Berkshire. All of that means the biggest threat to Djokovic may not come until the Fourth Round where someone like Feliciano Lopez could be waiting.

Lopez has really played well during the grass court season, which won't surprise, but he doesn't have the easiest of draws. The title win at Queens will give him confidence, but the Spaniard opens with a tough match and those look to keep coming before he will get a crack at Djokovic.

With a limited return game, Lopez could be ripe for an upset and things could open up for Djokovic who has won multiple titles here.

The benefit of being the Number 2 Seed is most keenly felt when you see the entire Quarter Djokovic has been drawn into. The next highest Seed is Dominic Thiem who has struggled on the grass and will have to produce something special to replicate his win over Djokovic at the French Open.

Even getting there is no guarantee for the Austrian with a difficult opener and the potential to face players like Tomas Berdych or Richard Gasquet in the Fourth Round. Both Berdych and Gasquet have plenty of grass court pedigree behind them and perhaps are the most likely contenders to face Djokovic in the Quarter Final assuming things go the way I am anticipating.


Looking at the way the Wimbledon draw has worked out, you can see why the 'big four' of the last decade lead the market. Those with the most doubts, Murray and Djokovic, have been given what look like ideal draws, while the two players in the best form, Federer and Nadal, look like they could be too strong for the tougher paths they have been given.

In saying that, Grand Slam events rarely work out completely as the plan would suggest and the most vulnerable of the four contenders still has to be Nadal.

The Spaniard just hasn't performed well at Wimbledon for some time and I think a small interest on Marin Cilic coming out of the Second Quarter could be warranted. He is the second favourite in the section, but his price would shrink drastically if Nadal does suffer another early loss and Cilic has played well enough on the grass to believe he can challenge the Spaniard if they do meet in the Quarter Final.

Value doesn't put money in the bank, but Cilic is the value play in the Second Quarter.


The winner of the tournament is likely to come out of the five names I have mentioned in that section above. I would be surprised if it isn't one of Murray, Nadal, Cilic, Federer or Djokovic, but the value for me could be in backing Murray and Djokovic.

Djokovic might not have played Federer since January 2016, and he has come off the level he had back then, but he does match up nicely with the former World Number 1. He leads both the head to head overall and the head to head on grass and I want to have a back of Djokovic to surprise and capture an unexpected major here.

Instead of backing him completely on the outright market, I will split the stakes up and back Djokovic to win the Fourth Quarter as well as the tournament. He is odds against to win what looks a relatively comfortable section of the draw and Djokovic will be a lot shorter to beat Federer if he has played himself into some decent form by the Semi Final.

I also will do the same with Andy Murray whose lingering hip doubts has increased the price on him in the First Quarter and to win the event overall. I think the tennis he has missed has been a precaution and Murray is certainly capable of running through this Quarter as he builds momentum through the tournament.

Both players have risks attached, but the prices are appealing and I do think Murray and Djokovic will at least reach the Semi Final here over the fortnight. They will then look much shorter prices to win the tournament if they can build that momentum and I will back both in similar ways to get a return.


Ladies' Draw
With Serena Williams out of action at this moment, the Ladies' draw at Wimbledon looks to be as open as it was at the French Open. Only Karolina Pliskova and Petra Kvitova have been priced up as single digit prices to win the title here as questions surround the other leading contenders.

You can understand why the layers have done that because there are some serious issues to address for so many players in the draw. Playing on the grass is obviously another factor and the Jelena Ostapenko price (5th to 7th favourite depending who is pricing the outright winner up) says it all.

Prior to the French Open Ostapenko would have been one of the big priced dark horses here, but it just goes to show the relative lack of form of so many that she has been priced in. The Latvian is a former Junior Champion here and has the big hitting to be very, very dangerous, but the French Open-Wimbledon double is such a tough task that I think it may be beyond her winning the title at SW19 this year.

I can understand the theory behind Kvitova being the favourite here alongside Pliskova- she has won the tournament twice before and was a solid winner in Birmingham on the grass courts and all in the second tournament since returning from a hand injury which threatened her career.

That hand injury is still a concern for me and Kvitova has some tough players in her section of the draw who can give her a real test of her credentials. The wins in Birmingham were solid, but she will face even better players here and a potential Fourth Round with Johanna Konta could be tough considering the British player already holds a win over her on the grass.

However Konta picked up an injury in Eastbourne which may raise some doubts about her chances here and she won't have time to settle into Wimbledon with First Round opponent Su-Wei Hsieh beating her in the First Round at the French Open. Donna Vekic is a potential Second Round opponent who beat Konta in the Final in Nottingham recently, and both Konta and Kvitova look to have to negotiate some tough matches just to get to a potential Fourth Round clash.

One player who may take advantage of that could be Simona Halep who will come into this Grand Slam with considerably less pressure than she had at the French Open. The Romanian played well in Eastbourne last week and has reached the Quarter Final at Wimbledon in 2016 and a Semi Final in 2014.

Halep looks to have been given a good run through to the Fourth Round where a clash with someone like Victoria Azarenka potentially awaits, but I would favour Halep over the majority of players in her section. She has reached the latter end of Grand Slam events so has that experience, although actually winning the title here may be a step too far on her least favoured surface.

The price certainly does appeal, but the potential of having to face Petra Kvitova in the Quarter Final and the other player that appealed to me, Venus Williams, in the Semi Final may be too much for Halep to overcome.

Venus Williams is a legitimate threat to win the title here, although it would have been more intriguing if not for a 'car crash incident' hanging over her head. Venus has been blamed for the death of another motorist in early June and there is no telling what kind of mental affect that will be having on the American veteran.

On pure tennis terms Venus Williams is a five time former winner of this title and she reached the Semi Final here last year as well as the Australian Open Final earlier in 2017. However being blamed for a fatal crash is tough to deal with and I am not sure Venus Williams will be in the perfect mindset to take on a tournament of this magnitude, especially in the tough bottom half.

The draw through to the Quarter Final looks manageable for Williams, and it is the potential Semi Final with Kvitova which would worry me the most. With the off court issues around her though we can't really know what Venus Williams is feeling even if I would expect her to come out of her Quarter of the draw where she would then be a really dangerous contender to go on and win this event.


It is funny to think Karolina Pliskova is the joint favourite to win the title here when you think she has never been beyond the Second Round. The top half does look much weaker than the bottom to me though and Pliskova will be disappointed if she is not able to make hay in this section.

There is a big potential threat looming in the Second Round considering how well Magdalena Rybarikova has played on the grass courts recently. Rybarikova has won two ITF titles and reached the Semi Final in Nottingham over the last month and Pliskova's poor record at Wimbledon could be tested if that Second Round match is set.

There are a few big name players in the top half who could take advantage of any upset suffered by Pliskova with names like Caroline Wozniacki, Angelique Kerber, Agnieszka Radwanska and Coco Vandeweghe all having success on the grass courts before, but injury and loss of form is a concern for all of those players.

The signs shown by Angelique Kerber in Eastbourne could be interesting though, especially considering she has been given what looks like a really good draw. Any potential match with the likes of Pliskova would not take place until the Semi Final, and Kerber could have played herself into some kind of form by then having built the momentum from Eastbourne.

The German has reached the Quarter Final, Semi Final and Final at Wimbledon in her career and I would think she could get the better of Garbine Muguruza in any potential Fourth Round clash. Kerber looked to be moving a little better at Eastbourne and I do feel she could look a very big price in two weeks time.

Kristina Mladenovic was another I considered, but her draw looks tougher than Kerber's with a lot of potentially tough matches before the Semi Final stage. That could begin as soon as the Second Round for a player who can blow hot and cold a little too much and one who has yet to surpass the Quarter Final of any Slam and the Third Round here at Wimbledon.


Picking a winner and Quarter winners in the Ladies' event at Wimbledon looks really difficult and I wouldn't be that surprised if an underdog comes through for a surprise win as Jelena Ostapenko did at the French Open. The two clear favourites both have some big question marks as do most of the top names and so I think a couple of interests on big priced players who have had success here in the past could be warranted.

Despite the off court issues for Venus Williams, I think the American has every chance of adding another Grand Slam title to her collection. The previous form shown in 2017 shows Venus is not far off her best and she is as good on the grass as anyone in the draw.

The draw isn't a bad one for her, but it will all come down to whether the fatal car incident she has been blamed for is working overtime on the mind and makes Williams lose focus. She has yet to play a competitive tennis match since then but could be tough to stop if she does take to the court and can block out all the things going on in her life.

The 2016 Finalist Angelique Kerber showed signs of recovering her form last week in Eastbourne and she could not have asked for a much better draw here. Getting to play her way in with a Qualifier first up should help Kerber who has missed the really in-form players in her section of the draw.

Getting the better of an out of touch Garbine Muguruza won't be easy, but Kerber could work her way through the draw if she can do that in the Fourth Round. There is no guarantee the Spaniard would get there any way, and I have some doubts over Karolina Pliskova reaching the Semi Final which could open the door for Kerber who has played well at Wimbledon even prior to the run to the Final in 2016.

Both of the players I have identified look a big price and worth an 'each-way' selection with the hope one reaches the Final, at the least, and brings in a profit. The Ladies' event looks very open though and a dark horse powering through the draw in a manner similar to Jelena Ostapenko would not be a huge surprise, even if identifying that player is far from easy.

Another pick worth an interest may be Simona Halep winning the Fourth Quarter where the leading players are Petra Kvitova and Johanna Konta. As well as Kvitova played to win at Birmingham, she may be playing with more pressure as the favourite at this Grand Slam and Konta has some fitness doubts that need to be addressed.

Halep has played well here as I have mentioned, produced some solid tennis at Eastbourne last week and looks to have a decent enough draw before the Quarter Final. She could have played herself into some form while the Romanian won't be dealing with anything like the same pressures as she had in Roland Garros where she was a clear favourite.

While there have been a couple of early exits on the grass, Halep has some solid results at Wimbledon and looks a big price to come out of the Fourth Quarter.

MY PICKS: Andy Murray to Win @ 7.00 Coral (1.5 Units)
Novak Djokovic to Win @ 7.00 Paddy Power (1.5 Units)
Andy Murray to Win First Quarter @ 2.10 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Marin Cilic to Win Second Quarter @ 5.00 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Novak Djokovic to Win Fourth Quarter @ 2.10 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Angelique Kerber to Win @ 21.00 Coral (1 Unit E/W)
Venus Williams to Win @ 17.00 Sky Bet (1 Unit E/W)
Simona Halep @ 9.00 Bet365 (1 Unit)

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