It’s that time of year when strawberry sellers around the SW postcode of London start to rub their hands with glee in preparation for a serious rush. That time of year when, just maybe, the rain will subside and allow our glorious tournament to run undisturbed and without the constant calls for ‘covers please’. Yes, Wimbledon is here and that means Andy Murray-fever is starting to reach a crescendo in the media and elsewhere. He’s won it twice already, including last year! So what more do we want from the man? Well, a hat-trick of wins has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?
Good old Andy did the business in a shock final line-up against Gregor Dimitrov last year and in doing so ensured that 2012 was the last time one of the ‘big four’ of Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Murray himself, didn’t win it. Lleyton Hewitt was the benefactor on that occasion, dispatching our very own Tiger Tim Henman in the semis before overcoming David Nalbandian in the final. It was five years of Federer domination straight after that and, between the Swiss and Novak Djokovic, they have taken 10 of the past 14 tournaments.
So should we even bother looking lower down the odds list this time? Could the ‘big four’ finally be ready to accept either a new, or more likely, a replacement member?
Rafa Nadal has rediscovered his best form on clay this year but will surely find the grass a whole different ball game and those ageing bones may find him out again on this surface. Novak Djokovic went from being a nearly man to being an absolute world beater, to the extent where many thought Federer’s record of 18 Grand Slams was under threat, but it’s all change since he completed the career Grand Slam at the French Open last spring and the Serb is now operating way below his best. With lots of personnel changes in his camp, things are clearly taking time to adjust. Similar comments apply to Murray, who, despite a decent run to the semi-finals at Roland Garros, has also been struggling to find his very best form and very worryingly went out in the first round at Queen’s last week. According to the bookies, it’s grand old seven time winner, Roger Federer, who is most likely winner of this year’s Championships, and quite frankly, that’s hard to accept. There’s no doubting his greatness but he’s won just two Slams since 2010, here in 2012, and this year in Australia, and it’s very hard to see any value at all in backing him at current quotes of 9/4, despite the doubts about the others.
Of the chasing group, and, despite the domination of the ‘big four’ in recent years, three of the next eight names in the betting do in fact have a Grand Slam win to their name so provide a good starting point. Croatian Marin Cilic is one of them and is back in decent form having miserably failed to live up to expectations after his 2014 US Open victory. He’s succeeded in getting to the quarter-finals at SW15 in each of the last three years but has never gone further. Stan Wawrinka is another household name, and, at first glance, looks a big price at 28/1.
Emerging from the shadow of Roger Federer was never going to be easy but he’s been impressive in racking up wins at the French Open, Australian Open and US Open since 2014 but is another who has never gone past the quarters at Wimbledon. It just doesn’t seem to be his surface. Juan Martin Del Potro completes the list of Grand Slam winners in the men’s draw and he’s another who has failed to live up to huge early promise. His injury hit career is a valid excuse and there are still glimpses of his absolute best, but not often enough or for long enough to think he can better his semi-final appearance here back in 2013.
The next four on the list have all tried and failed to win major’s so far but are creeping that bit closer and therefore deserve closer attention at the prices. Milos Raonic made Number 3 in the world last year and was a losing finalist to Andy Murray at Wimbledon last year. He’s a tough cookie when on his game and also has a semi-final appearance at the Australian Open on his CV. German, Alexander Zverev is only 20 and has taken his game to a new level this season with a first Masters 1000 win under his belt courtesy of a good win over Djokovic in Rome. He could have a say if he can prove himself on the grass, which is obviously rather a large doubt. Nick Kyrgios is a talent to say the least, but he is also a law unto himself and doesn’t necessarily have the brain to make it to the very top of the game. He’s been to the quarter-finals here before bit needs plenty more, whilst Dominic Thiem is improving but has never been past the second round at Wimbledon.
All things considered, at 4/1 Andy Murray looks the value tip to take his game back to the level we all know he’s capable of. This is the biggest fortnight of his year and he’ll be doing everything to put that Queen’s defeat out of his mind completely. Despite the defeat, he’s certainly got an enviable record in the latter stages of Grand Slams in recent years and he’s anything but a choker these days if Murray’s former psychology coach Roberto Forzoni is to be believed.
When speaking to online bookmaker Betway Sports this month, he said:
“He was young, but very good. He took things on board very quickly and learned that when he controls his emotions on court, he generally gets better results.
“Something Andy used to do was self-handicapping, where he’d rub his ankle or his back. That’s a trigger for his opponent to say, ‘I’ve got him now.’
“So now if he starts to rub something, he will say to himself, ‘No, I’m not going to do that – even if it’s hurting I’ll show that I’m OK.’ That in itself takes away from the choking.”
Murray’s main market rivals all have doubts of their own and the chasing pack just don’t seem to be closing fast enough. Chances are he’ll have a couple of easy enough ties to make it through to the second week and he’ll need to use that time on the court to find his best form. Should he make a quick return to playing his best tennis and sharpen that mind of steel his former colleague Forzoni has praised him for, Wimbledon title number three is surely at the Scotsman’s mercy this year.