Wimbledon 2015 Preview

Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets.

The spiritual centre-piece of the tennis season, Wimbledon has the ability to induce feelings of random nostalgia in even the most spurious of tennis followers. Perhaps it has something to do with the homogenised dress code, but there are few sporting events that captivate the collective imagination with the same power as England’s ‘oh so proper’ Grand Slam. The male and female draws offer contrasting points of interest in what is building up to be a fascinating year in this great sport.  Although Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams are firmly entrenched as the number one players in the world, Djokovic’s reign at the top looks far more treacherous than Serena’s almost robotic control of a somewhat lean gene pool. Despite that, Serena still stands on the precipice of a potential year-round slam that adds some intrigue to a draw battling for credibility of late.

The Men’s Draw

To Win Outright
Novak Djokovic  12/10
Andy Murray  11/4
Roger Federer  7/1
Stan Wawrinka  16/1
Rafael Nadal  22/1

The Favourite
Novak Djokovic, reigning Wimbledon champion and current world number one, has chosen not to compete in any of the traditional warm-up events that ordinarily help to facilitate the transition from clay to grass. Admittedly, that transition is not quite as dramatic as it once was, as Wimbledon’s once lightning fast grass surfaces have slowed down dramatically in recent years. Novak is still the man to beat for me. Wawrinka’s victory in the Roland Garros final shocked many, but in reality the Djokovic bubble had to burst eventually. I have no doubt that he will one day conquer in Paris, but that semi-final against Murray represented a tipping point in the seemingly endless energy reserves of the great Serb. His game is now perfectly suited to the demands of Wimbledon, a tournament where the once fabled serve and volley has been usurped by baseline pyrotechnics.

The Contenders
Roger Federer and Andy Murray are the two most obvious pretenders to Djokovic’s crown, with respective victories in Halle and at Queen’s underlining their obvious grass court credentials. Federer, however, is without a Grand Slam in some time now and is largely relying on his magnificently consistent year-round form to consolidate his second ranked position in the world. The ageing Swiss master has been characteristically dominant in the three-set events that form the backbone of the ATP, while the rigours of a five-set Grand Slam fortnight have proved a step too far for the maestro.

Murray looks the most likely threat to the Serb’s crown. Since his marriage to Kim Sears in April, the truculent Scot has been in excellent form, with clay titles in Madrid and Munich as well as his fourth title at the Queen’s Club. His partnership with Amelie Mauresmo seems to have reinvigorated his game, allowing him to focus on different ways to construct points. Stan Wawrinka has emerged from the considerable shadow of Swiss compatriot Roger Federer in a major way, conquering Roland Garros with his non-stop baseline barrage. Kevin Anderson ended his preparations at Queen’s prematurely, but make no mistake that Stan will prove a formidable foe come strawberries and cream time.

The Dark Horses
Tomas Berdych and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga are always formidable adversaries at the All-England Courts, with their imposing serves proving the undoing of Wimbledon king Roger Federer on numerous occasions. Last year’s surprise US Open champion Milos Raonic should be ready for a real charge at this year’s event. Big serving South African Kevin Anderson - having reached a career high ranking of fourteenth - could prove a potential giant killer should he meet one of the heavyweights come fourth round time.

Winner - Novak Djokovic 12/10
Contender - Andy Murray 11/4
Dark Horse - Milos Raonic  55/1

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The Women’s Draw

To Win Outright
Serena Williams  17/10
Petra Kvitova  4/1
Maria Sharapova  14/1
Sabine Lisicki  18/1
Victoria Azarenka  20/1

The Favourite
Serena Williams managed to overcome all challengers despite suffering from the flu at Roland Garros last week. Her resurgent dominance of the game has revealed some drastic deficiencies in the progression of the women’s game. Williams is without a doubt one of the all-time greats, but there is something peculiar about the transient nature of her adversaries. These young, mostly Eastern European pretenders, seem to have a remarkably small window period in which they threaten the supremacy of Ms Williams. Then all of a sudden, boom, they are suddenly facing obscurity and know that their tennis legacy will likely hinge on some future trivia question relating to Ms Williams unbelievably losing a final. Serena has shattered the confidence of her rivals and will prove incredibly hard to stop en route to a possible year slam.

The Contenders
Petra Kvitova, defending Wimbledon champion, could prove the greatest challenge to Serena’s quest for a year slam. Her powerful serving and awkward left-handed approach makes her a powerful adversary on Wimbledon’s hallowed grass cathedral. She pulled out of the Eastbourne event due to flu, which shouldn’t ail the experienced Wimbledon champ. Victoria Azarenka, in my opinion, has the best all-round chance to defeat Serena should she get her disjointed game together. Injury and a loss of confidence have prevented the Belarusian from recapturing the form that saw her rocket to world number one.

Maria Sharapova and Caroline Wozniacki are perennial contenders, while Ana Ivanovic’s recent return to a semblance of form could provide some fireworks on the All-England lawns. Lucie Safarova, beaten finalist in Roland Garros, should gain some confidence going into the third Slam of the year. Being left-handed herself, she has the court-craft to manipulate some of the more experienced members on the tour. She did however face an early exit in Eastbourne, but these warm-up tournaments seldom amount to much when the Grand Slam pressure heats up.

The Dark Horses
Angelique Kerber’s victory last week brings a welcome return to form for the crafty German. She has a good all-round game that should bode well for the All-England courts. Venus Williams will always pose a threat with a consistent serve, despite her faltering mobility and the lingering shadow of her fabled sister. But my long-shot underdog is 2004 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova. The Russian has a career 36-8 record on grass and her schedule seems perfectly tailored to offset the demands of the competition on her ageing body. Her all-round game is solid and she could prove a nuggety competitor for any player just one inch short of their best.

Winner: Serena Williams 17/10
Contender: Petra Kvitova 4/1
Dark Horse: Svetlana Kuznetsova 330/1

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