Andy Murray’s run to the semi-finals of the French Open suggested he was coming nicely to the boil ahead of his Wimbledon title defence, but a shock early exit at Queen’s and minor hip niggle have disrupted his build-up. The world No.1’s whole season has been punctured by several such setbacks and, although he traditionally saves some of his best tennis for SW19, it is understandable that he is not the favourite on current form.
Roger Federer, by contrast, has been at his majestic best all year and cruised to victory on the grass of Halle after skipping the clay-court season. The 35-year-old Swiss has not won Wimbledon since 2012 but, with his backhand arguably better than ever and his main rivals out of form, it is hard to look past him even at odds of 9/4. Rafael Nadal has also had a stunning season but has struggled at Wimbledon for years and is again lacking in grass-court preparation. Three-time winner Novak Djokovic is such a supreme mover and returner that if he rediscovered his mojo he could threaten Federer, but there have been few signs of late that he could even reach the semi-finals.
The last 14 Wimbledon titles have been spread between the ‘big four’, but this year’s event represents a great chance for someone other than Federer, Nadal, Djokovic or Murray to win for the first time since Lleyton Hewitt in 2002. Marin Cilic, a former US Open champion and finalist at Queen’s, has the sort of powerful game which makes him a decent long shot, and is not in a bad section of the draw if he can negotiate a tricky first-round tie against Philipp Kohlschreiber.
Emerging star Alexander Zverev is in a tougher quarter, with 2016 runner-up Milos Raonic a potential fourth-round opponent and Federer likely to be waiting in the quarter-finals. Nick Kyrgios and Juan Martin del Potro are other potential dark horses, and could face early ties against Murray and Djokovic respectively.
Sports.net's top tip:
In the absence of pregnant defending champion Serena Williams, the women’s draw looks extraordinarily open. Two-time winner Petra Kvitova has emerged as the favourite despite only recently returning from a stab wound to her hand, but fellow Czech Karolina Pliskova may offer better value at around 11/2. She has a magnificent serve which will be extremely tough to break on grass and, after making the last four at Roland Garros, will fancy her chances here.
World No.1 Angelique Kerber and former runner-up Garbine Muguruza have both been inconsistent and second seed Simona Halep is not ideally suited to grass, so Johanna Konta looks like a real contender. She can ally aggression with great defensive skills and will have terrific home support as she bids to become the first British woman to win at Wimbledon since Virginia Wade in 1977.
A new star could emerge from nowhere to take the title, just like Jelena Ostapenko at the French Open, and Kristina Mladenovic, Madison Keys and Coco Vandeweghe will all be dreaming of a maiden Grand Slam title. However, it could be that a more experienced player such as Victoria Azarenka - back from having a baby - or Svetlana Kuznetsova goes the distance. There is nobody more experienced than Venus Williams, aged 37 and a five-time champion, and a price of 12/1 is very attractive. She is arguably playing as well as she did when she first won back in 2000, has the perfect game for grass and will be determined to keep the Williams flag flying over Centre Court.
Looking at the draw, Konta is in a difficult section and could have to face Kvitova in the last 16. Venus Williams and Azarenka are also in the bottom half, and it is Pliskova who could be the main beneficiary in the top half with what appears to be a relatively easy path through to the latter stages.
Sports.net's top tip:
*Please note, odds may fluctuate.