Not writing any content for payment at the moment so thought I'd do it on the blog to keep my eye in. Wimbledon returns after a year off, and thankfully, with a considerable crowd, increasing up to 100% for the finals. To be honest, reducing capacity on the outside courts in the early rounds will only make the experience nicer for patrons and players, it's bloody manic trying to get around or close to an outside court normally!
Novak Djokovic dominates the betting, fairly understandable considering he has now spent over six years at the top of the rankings (in several stints), the only man to win the professional Grand Slam twice, and has had the pleasure of speaking to Sue Barker on the final Sunday five times. But after his antics over the past couple of years and particularly in Paris (the ridiculous roar to an empty stadium), please can we see someone else...
Seeds by draw position.
1. Novak Djokovic. Will take over the record for most men's Grand Slam tournament titles within the next two years and deservedly so - he's a far better all-surface player than those he is taking over from. Odds-on to win here. Still a twat though.
30. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. Retired with an ongoing back injury at Eastbourne after losing the first set - probably precautionary. He won the boys' title here in 2017, the first for a Spaniard since Manuel Orantes in 1967, but not sure that's particularly relevant these days - the last three junior champions to go on to win the men's event were Roger Federer, Stefan Edberg and Pat Cash.
17. Cristian Garin. Yet to get past R1 in three attempts but did qualify in 2017-18. Good enough to out-rally most baseliners, might struggle against more accomplished grasscourters. No lead-in form.
16. Gael Monfils. Time is running out for the Frenchman, he turns 35 this year and his form has disappeared. 2-8 for 2021, 0-2 on grass this year and a completely different player to the pre-pandemic Monfils (16-3 in Jan/Feb 2020). Too talented to write off completely and he's always been an entertainer, someone who feeds off the energy of the crowd. So perhaps, with the return of a substantial crowd at SW19, the switch might be flicked.
17. Diego Schwartzman. Lost a five-setter to Berrettini here in R3 2019, form which looks quite handy now after the tall Italian won Queen's last week. Best on clay but solid on other surfaces. Plays nutcase Paire in R1.
19. Jannik Sinner. Limited grass form to go on but has form across all other surfaces, including indoor. Big serving teenager, has beaten all bar the top handful of players already. Won't be long before he takes the next step but faces the very handy Fucsovics in R1.
25. Fabio Fognini. Has reached R3 five times and with the no.5 seed waiting at the same stage this year, he's more likely to extend that record to six than gain a new PB.
5. Andrey Rublev. Strong all-round game, reached the final in Halle after losing R1 in Paris - probably a blessing which gave him time to adjust to grass. Big fan of this guy. Will start winning Slams soon, tough side of the draw to do it from though.
3. Stefanos Tsitsipas. Understandably rested up after the French Open final. Bombed out R1 here in 2019 but reached the fourth round the year before. No reason why this surface shouldn't suit him down to the ground, can go a long way in this quarter if on his game.
25. Karin Khachanov. Big-hitting Russian, has struggled to string wins together this season apart from weaker events with his ranking slowly sliding. Third (to Bautista-Agut), fourth (to Djokovic), third (to Nadal) round exits in his past three visits provides a handy base level on this surface, needs to step up with Tsitsipas in his path at R3.
22. Daniel Evans. Local hope with solid grounding on grass. Beaten by eventual winner Berrettini at Queen's last week, there won't be many in the field who have played more tour matches on this surface. Awkward opening match though against Feliciano Lopez but capable of going on a run if he gets past day one.
15. Alex de Minaur. Spanish-raised Aussie who you'd expect would be better suited on clay but his heritage shines through. A career record of 35-16 on grass, he reached the semis at Queen's (another beaten by Berrettini) and has reached the final at Eastbourne. Good enough to go deep if he gets on a roll but is 2-7 against Tsitsipas with the Greek winning the last six clashes.
10. Denis Shapovalov. 2016 junior champion (beating Tsitsipas and de Minaur), he is yet to progress past the second round here in three main draws. A semi-finalist at Queen's, he's had plenty of time to prepare on grass after missing the French Open, but he has relatively few big scalps under his belt, despite being no.12 in the world. Soft quarter, has a 5-1 record over Tsitsipas, who knows what happens with a bit of momentum.
24. Nikoloz Basilashvili. The Georgian wife-beater (*alleged, still going through the court process), has found some form again since March, going 19-11 since Doha in comparison to his previous 14 months of 6-21. Fair to say the legal proceedings probably took a toll on him and if it wasn't for the special rankings system during the pandemic, he'd probably be closer to #100 than #1. Qualified and reached the semis at Halle, losing to Rublev. Best performance of R3 in 2015 but has a certain guy called (Sir) Andy Murray waiting for him on Monday. Nightmare draw.
27. Reilly Opelka. Another big-serving American giant (6'11"), he lost R1 at Queen's in the singles, but got plenty of match practice in the doubles, reaching the final with new partner, former doubles no.1 John Peers. Won the junior title here in 2015 when I assume none of his rivals could get a racquet on any of his serves. More than just a servebot, reached the semis in Rome and R3 in Paris. Could so some damage if he gets on a roll.
8. Roberto Bautista-Agut. 2019 semi-finalist with the game to trouble anyone, anytime. Has reached two finals (Montpellier and Doha), followed by a semi in Miami this season, but has struggled to string wins together across clay or the lead-in grass events. A return to the home of the best Slam result in his career should fire him up but he'll need to be on his game early, facing Aussie John Millman in R1. Has beaten Djokovic and Medvedev but is yet to overcome Federer and Tsitsipas. More than nuisance value.
7. Matteo Berrettini. Arrives in fine form, 27-7 in 2021 and won Queen's, going through the last four rounds without dropping serve. Received a lesson on grass from Federer in the fourth round in 2019, will no doubt have gained plenty from that. Has a couple of other totem poles in his path (Isner R3, 6'10" and Zverev SF 6'6"), now is the time for him to start cashing in on his talents and could go very deep from here.
28. John Isner. Semi-finalist here in 2018 but outside of that, his record here is underwhelming. That's the only time he has made it into the second week (R4 or better), otherwise his next best returns are three times in R3. No guarantee he gets past the gritty Nishioka in R1.
20. Aslan Karatsev. The Russian has shown his semi-final appearance as a qualifier in Melbourne was no fluke, by reaching two finals since and reaching a career peak ranking of #24. Very infrequent visitor to grass, hadn't played on it in six years before winning one, losing one at Queen's. Can't see him lasting long.
12. Casper Ruud. Norwegian clay specialist who has played more matches on grass this week in Mallorca than he'd previously played since emerging from juniors. Can't see him lasting the first week.
16. Felix Auger-Aliassime. Has got stuck into the grass season after losing R1 in Paris. A finalist in Stuttgart losing to Cilic, he then headed to Halle and lost to Ugo Humbert (who he beat the previous week) in the semis via a third-set tiebreak, after defeating the king of Halle, Roger Federer along the way. Reached R3 (beaten by Humbert again) at his only appearance at SW19 two years ago. Supremely talented but yet to win a title beyond challenger level.
21. Ugo Humbert. Couldn't wait to see the end of the clay season, going 1-6, and has more than made up for it on grass. Reached the QFs in Stuttgart, beaten in a pair of breakers by the aforementioned FAA, then travelled five hours up the A6 and A9 to Halle, where he claimed the title, defeating Zverev, FAA and Rublev along the way. In Mallorca this week, he looked set to continue that form but had to withdraw on Wednesday with food poisoning. Will make this section of the draw very interesting, but has to get past the laconic Nick Kyrgios, who has barely played since the start of the pandemic, first.
31. Taylor Fritz. Big Yank who should do well on grass but has never gone beyond round two in four attempts. Won Eastbourne two years ago but results on the surface are terrible otherwise.
4. Alexander Zverev. Another in trouble with the law over domestic violence. Not a great look for the tour. 25-10 this year, reached the semis in Paris before getting a couple of three-set matches in at Halle, losing to eventual titleist Ugo Humbert. Has only once made it out of the first week in five visits, is much more talented than that. With Fritz, Auger-Aliassime/Humbert and Berrettini in his way to get out of this quarter, he'll need to have plenty about grasscourt play since he was last here.
6. Roger Federer. Couldn't be arsed with the clay season so turned up to help a local event in Geneva then got through three rounds in Paris before getting bored and fancying a hit on the grass instead. Went off to Halle, an event he has won a riduclous number of times, but only managed one win (Ivashka) before losing in three sets to Auger-Aliassime. Will no doubt have done plenty more to be ready for this in practice, he'll be gunning for what has to be his last real hope of winning a Slam. Likely to have a couple of awkward lefties in his early path - Mannarino and Norrie, and should be too strong for both of them, but we can't all go on forever. On the form of 2019 (won Halle, lost Wimbledon final in a fifth set breaker), he reaches the final again. But knee surgery and Father Time will have a lot to do with that.
29. Cameron Norrie. South African-born, Kiwi-raised, British-funded, American college-educated - no wonder his accent is hard to pick! Talented leftie who reached the final at Queen's but simply couldn't break Berrettini. Hadn't done a lot on grass before that but is deserving of his seeding, going 33-13 so far in 2021. Still improving, the home crowd will know who he is now. Centre court vs Federer on the first Saturday looks imminent.
23. Lorenzo Sonego. Has a handy record in the weaker grass events, finalist at Eastbourne this week, won Antalya two years ago, was a lucky loser here in 2018, falling to Fritz in R1. In a soft section early, might win a couple of rounds.
11. Pablo Carrena-Busta. Five straight R1 losses here, no obvious reason other than between his ears. Plays Querrey in R1 which puts him up against it straight away.
14. Hubert Hurkacz. Won the biggest event of his career, the Miami Open in April, then obviously went out on the piss and hasn't stopped. His record since then, 1-6. But seriously, ignoring the clay, he has lost first round in Stuttgart (in a pair of tiebreaks to the next Swiss sensation Dominic Stricker, French Open boys champion 2020), and to Auger-Aliassime in Halle. Not ideal, but not the worst form either. Faces another of the gun young Italians, Lorenzo Musetti (the one who led Djokovic 2-0 before wilting), in R1.
18. Grigor Dimitrov. Simply nuisance value, recently turned 30, we've been waiting for him to a big tournament for over a decade now and it ain't gonna happen. Semi-finalist here in 2014 but hasn't gone past the fourth round on any other occasion, and bombed R1 on his last two visits.
32. Marin Cilic. A long way detached from the days of his best ranking of #3 but recently won in Stuttgart and reached the quarters at Queen's. Received a very cruisy draw in 2017 when he reached the final without meeting any seeds in the top 15, and was soon dispatched by Federer in the final. When his serve is firing, he's very dangerous and could trouble the seeds in his section.
2. Daniil Medvedev. Gets the protected draw thanks to the AELTC taking the easy way out and doing the seedings according to the ATP rankings. Lost R1 in Halle, then sought a wildcard and went to the baked courts of Mallorca to reach the final in a much weaker field. No further than R3 in four attempts, but if the courts are playing more like slow hardcourts than the good old days from long ago now, he's in with a shot. Best take it one match at a time though - has to get past Struff, his conqueror in Halle, in the opening round first.
Dangerous Floaters/old names you might remember and still think they can win:
Kevin Anderson. Finalist here in 2018 after beating Federer in the quarters and Isner 26-24 in the fifth set, which sent officials racing to introduce a final set tiebreak. Since then, he's had knee surgery in 2019 and 2020 with the clock ticking on how much longer he can last on the circuit. This grass season he is 2-3, most recently losing in the first round of qualifying at Eastbourne (other four matches in challenger events). I recall a bloke called Ivanisevic being broken and on the way out back in 2001...
Andy Murray. Hasn't played a great deal during the pandemic, a combination of injury issues and other priorities in the twilight of his career. Only real sign of form was reaching a challenger final in Biella in February, otherwise he is 5-7 on the main tour over the past 18 months, with wins this year over the erratic Robin Haase and Benoit Paire. Faces Basilashvili R1, would be typical Andy to win R1 in five sets and get the home fans excited, and then he is barely able to walk for the following round. This will be his first time playing singles at SW19 since 2017 and you can guarantee he will be fired up for it.
Kei Nishikori. Japanese star who has had a hard time with injury over the years and now sits outside the top 50 for the first time in a decade. Hasn't been too bad this year, 15-12, and reached the fourth round at Roland Garros, but that's still a distance away from his best. Quarter-finalist here at his last two visits, his draw is rather friendly - Popyrin R1, Thompson or Ruud R2, Karatsev/Chardy/Ivashka R3 -he can win all of those if fit. A run into the second week would not surprise. 16/1 or better to win Q3 is worth a look.
Nick Kyrgios. The one, the only. Has only played six matches since the start of the pandemic, and they were all in Melbourne (Aus Open and a lead-in tournament). That break didn't hurt him much, he beat 29th seed Humbert in five sets before losing to Thiem from two-sets-to-love up (which could feasibly have happened on a normal campaign). Kyrgios loves grass, he'll be ready for it. He'll need to be, with recent Halle winner Ugo Humbert awaiting him in R1.
Hard to see Djokovic getting beaten without some form of misfortune. Charmed draw and just has an aura over everyone else at the moment, but we could do worse than look for someone at odds in the bottom half. Marin Cilic might just be the one. Perfect game for grass, arrives in good form, previous finalist here, and at 66/1, just needs a little luck with the draw to fall his way - or find his own way to overcome the 1-10 h2h record against Federer!
1pt Marin Cilic 66/1 EW
The quarters markets are mini-events of their own and throw up a few more options.
Q1 - Djokovic just wins, no value for betting
Q2 -1pt Dan Evans 20/1
Q3 - 1pt Kei Nishikori 16/1
Q4 - 1pt Marin Cilic 9/1