Last year’s Wimbledon was the equivalent of an Armageddon, a ‘Wimblegeddon’, if you will. Overcome by upsets and surprises, from the highly publicised Serena Williams-Maria Sharapova fall out/feud to their subsequent early demise, as well as many other favourites, and an unlikely champion Marion Bartoli, Wimbledon’s fresh-cut grass was a natural disaster to befall the WTA. It was the strangest Wimbledon ever.
More to the point, few would have predicted the proceedings, as it were. So will the 2014 Wimbledon Championships fall in line with last year’s aberration, or will it fall in line with the previous instalments, the so-called norm?
Ten of the last fourteen Wimbledon Championships have been won by a Williams – five times by Venus Williams (2000-01, 2005 and 2007-08) and five times by Serena Williams (2002-03, 2009-10 and 2012). No family has dominated Wimbledon as systematically as the Williams sisters have. Only four others have claimed the title, Maria Sharapova (2004), Amelié Mauresmo (2006), Petra Kvitova (2011) and Marion Bartoli (2013). It’s worth mentioning that two of the aforementioned players are retired now: Mauresmo and defending champion Bartoli. This means that only two champions are active players.
The Ties that Bind
Serena Williams, who has won more Wimbledon titles than her sister Venus has in recent years, leads the charge into Wimbledon. Predictably, familial ties to Wimbledon reign supreme where she is concerned. Serena Williams is listed as the overwhelming favourite at +120 to win outright the 2014 Championships. So strong is the confidence in her ability to accomplish the feat, which would mark her 18th career Grand Slam title, her closest threat Maria Sharapova comes in a distant second favourite at +500. That’s how cornered the tournament is in Serena’s camp. Yet, Serena Williams hasn’t been up to her lofty standards. She has already gone through two Grand Slams this season, only to come away empty-handed. She fell to Ana Ivanovic in the R16 of the Australian Open, then to Garbine Muguruza in the second round of the French Open. Undoubtedly, Serena Williams is the greatest tennis player in the women’s game ever. She’s the No. 1 player, too. But she can’t possibly keep winning them all; not anymore, when she’s well inside her thirties.
In three of the last four Grand Slams, she’s bowed out before the quarterfinals. In the last two, she was simply outplayed, outmuscled and outhit from the baseline by fearless big-hitters. If this is the new game plan against Serena, there’ll be more such losses, surely. This begs the question, how good of a tennis pick is Serena Williams, really?
Willing Maria Sharapova
No player can will her way to a title as Maria Sharapova can. The French Open victory at the weekend is case-and-point one of the best and most characteristic Grand Slam victories of her career, despite being outplayed by Simona Halep for large stretches. Against any other player on the WTA Tour, you must fancy Maria Sharapova’s chances; her resolve, mettle, and fight are unparalleled. However, there is a caveat where she’s concerned: Serena Williams, who is her kryptonite.
Sharapova hasn’t beaten Serena since her win over the American starlet at Wimbledon in 2004. The thinking: if Serena were to stand in her way at the All England Club, her chances of advancing beyond her are slim to none. Hence, her +500 future odds to win the Wimbledon title. Of course, if Serena were to suffer yet another mishap, Sharapova almost always capitalises – figuratively, and literally.
The rest of the field
It’s somewhat interesting to find Victoria Azarenka, who hasn’t played in forever (injured since Indian Wells and boasts a 7-3 record on the season), listed as the third favourite at +800. Granted, the Belarusian is a proven champion at this level, but without match play ahead of Wimbledon, it’s hard to see how she would factor at all.
Simona Halep is the fourth favourite for the Wimbledon title, and for good reason. Her Cinderella run at the French Open, all the way into the final, was a revelation in elegance and athleticism, and, not least of all, humility. One of the most interesting female players in the women’s game right now, she has all the requisite goods a Grand Slam champion needs. She is the real deal: a fighter, competitor. It remains to be seen, though, how well her game transfers from clay to grass. Whether her athleticism, speed and counterpunching will be able to withstand the barrage from power-players on grass, a decidedly faster surface than clay.
Petra Kvitova comes in as the fifth favourite at +1100. Where she’s concerned, however, she flatters to deceive. She did win Wimbledon three years ago, but she’s not won anything remotely as important since then. To date, it’s her only Grand Slam title. And the way she’s going, it may be her only one for some time. Kvitova is easily the most talented player after Serena Williams on the WTA Tour, but she has way too many distractions in her life, including her split with boyfriend Radek Stepanek, to fitness, health and discipline issues. A serious about change would need to occur in her camp, not to mention her approach to matches as well, before she’d merit serious consideration.
Li Na (+1200), Eugenie Bouchard (+1400) and Sabine Lisicki and Garbine Muguruza (both at +1600) round out the likely contenders for the 2014 Wimbledon Championships. All present delightful prospects, backed up by their performances this season (save for one, Lisicki). Li Na won the Australian Open title while Eugenie Bouchard has reached back-to-back semis Grand Slam semis. As such, they merit the consideration in Wimbledon betting markets. On the other hand, Lisicki and Muguruza have claimed wins over Serena Williams; in the former’s case, she beat Williams en route to a runner-up finish to Marion Bartoli at the All England Club last year.
Wimbledon Betting Verdict: As things currently stand, Wimbledon betting on the women’s front would appear to be a wide-open affair. Bookies tip Serena as the hot favourite, but we can’t take anything for granted. A whole host of players (some mentioned here) have beaten her this season, prompting many tennis fans to consider alternatives on their tennis picks, of which there are clearly many to choose from, huddled so close together on the Wimbledon betting board.