Tennis Preview: Old Guard Can Rule Again At Wimbledon

2017-06-22
Preview of both the men’s and women’s singles competitions at Wimbledon.

After Roger Federer's sensational Australian Open triumph and Rafael Nadal's domination of the French Open, Wimbledon represents the next chance for the old guard to maintain their stranglehold on a retro 2017.

Federer would surely have named Wimbledon as his best chance to claim an elusive 18th grand slam title before his stunning fortnight in Melbourne.

That came after the 35-year-old took six months off to recuperate a knee injury, and Federer will again be well rested for Wimbledon as he chases an eighth title.

He opted to skip the whole of the clay-court season but made an inauspicious start on grass with a loss to 39-year-old Tommy Haas.

Federer has another warm-up event to come in Halle, though, and should have enough matches under his belt by the time things get serious at SW19.

He has reached the final twice since beating Andy Murray to win his seventh title in 2012 and at 3/1 represents solid value.

Nadal is available at 5/1, which could turn out to be very generous odds if the Spaniard can keep his form going from Paris.

He lost just 35 games in seven matches at Roland Garros, the fewest of any of his 10 titles, and final opponent Stan Wawrinka wasted no time declaring Nadal to be in his best form ever.

Nadal is well out in front in the yearly standings and could take over Andy Murray's world number one ranking after Wimbledon, depending on results in SW19.

“I am playing well,” Nadal said. “I am in a good position. I just won the most important event of the year for me.

“Winning these kind of titles, then you have chances to become any number on the ranking. If I am able to keep playing well, why not?”

The two-time Wimbledon champion and three-time former finalist certainly knows his way around a grass court. The problem is the 31-year-old's troublesome knees, which do not react well to the stress placed on them by the low-bouncing surface.

Nadal has only once made it past the second round since 2011 but appears to be in great shape and, if he can get through the first week, expect him to figure in the title reckoning.

The title favourite is world number one Murray (5/2) - the most natural grass-court player along with Federer and the defending champion.

It has been a difficult season for the 30-year-old, with illness and injury problems contributing to a serious loss of form.

A run to the French Open semi-finals did wonders for Murray's confidence, and his game is certainly in much better shape.

But it is not back to where it was last summer, with his forehand and serve noticeably weaker, so it would be a supreme effort to win another title.

Novak Djokovic is available at 6/1 but, given the Serbian's obvious on-court struggles and the shockingly meek way with which he gave up his French Open title, it is tough to see that as good value.

Last year's beaten finalist Milos Raonic is the best of the rest at 15/1, which certainly could be worth a flutter.

The Canadian has also struggled with injury this season but is fit again and a player none of the big guns want to face on grass.

If there is to be a first winner outside of Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray since Lleyton Hewitt in 2002 then mercurial Australian Nick Kyrgios (20/1) must be up there.

Other names potentially worth a punt are former US Open champion Marin Cilic (40/1) and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (50/1), while Wawrinka is available at 25/1.

That appears generous, with Wimbledon the only slam missing from his collection, but Wawrinka has never made the semi-finals in 12 previous attempts.

The French Open did nothing to set a new order in the women's game so picking a Wimbledon winner remains akin to sticking a needle in a haystack.

Of all the many names put forward as potential champions prior to Roland Garros, Jelena Ostapenko was not among them, but that did not stop the 20-year-old blasting her way through the field.

The Latvian's tally of 299 winners in seven matches was more than any other player, man or woman, and grass is a much more natural surface for her than clay.

Ostapenko was the junior champion at Wimbledon three years ago so has some pedigree but backing up such a momentous win is notoriously difficult, which is reflected in her price of 16/1.

The favourite for the title is world number three Karolina Pliskova at 6/1. The Czech has been the most consistent of the leading players since her breakthrough run to the final of the US Open last summer.

A big hitter with a very strong serve, Pliskova should do well on grass but has yet to go beyond the second round at Wimbledon. She has, though, had success elsewhere on grass, reaching the final in both Birmingham and Eastbourne.

Johanna Konta is perhaps less good value at 8/1 having only ever won one match before at Wimbledon, although the 26-year-old certainly cannot be counted out.

The British number one reached the final of the Aegon Open in Nottingham recently and although she missed out on a first tournament victory on home soil after losing to Donna Vekic, she enjoyed valuable time on the court.

“I'm very happy that I got to play five great matches on the grass,” she said. “For Donna and I, heading into Wimbledon, we just want to play on the surface as much as possible.”

Petra Kvitova (9/1) and Venus Williams (14/1) represent the grass-court class of the field.

It is remarkable that Kvitova is in contention at all only six months after suffering such severe injuries to her left hand in a stabbing at her home that it was feared she might never play again.

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The Czech was surprisingly close to top form in her comeback event at the French Open and is much more at home on grass than clay. What an amazing story it would be if she could win a third Wimbledon title.

Williams flies the family flag, with sister Serena expecting her first child this autumn, and is bidding for a sixth Wimbledon title at the age of 37.

It is nine years since she won the last of her slam trophies at the All England Club but she continues to contend, reaching the semi-finals at Wimbledon last summer and the final of the Australian Open.

World number one Angelique Kerber was beaten in the final by Serena a year ago but her poor form is reflected in a price of 14/1.

The German was the player of 2016, winning two grand slam titles, but the fact she is still number one reflects a sport in flux rather than any great achievements of her own this year.

Having said that, Kerber is much more at home on grass than clay and certainly should not be ruled out.

Of the outsiders, Coco Vandeweghe would be an intelligent punt at 22/1 while, if she is fit, fellow American Madison Keys at 30/1 could be great value.