Everyone wants to win Wimbledon. It’s The Championships.
The problem is, only four guys have succeeded in the last 16!!!! years. Nowhere is the dominance of the ‘Big Four’ more prevalent than it is at Wimbledon. Since 2003 Federer has won 8, Djokovic has won 4, Nadal has won 2 and Murray has won 2. The one shining beacon of hope for change is the fact that there have been three unique, new finalists in each of the last three years (Raonic, Cilic, Anderson).
Regardless of who wins, though, the next two weeks are the greatest fortnight in tennis. Established in 1877, it’s the oldest known tennis tournament and is the basis for the game we know and watch today. It’s the only tournament that enforces a strict dress code, the only tournament that carries it’s own special ranking system (plenty of Rafa-Fed drama this year!), the only tournament that enforces a complete day off, Middle Sunday, in the heart of the tournament, and the only tournament that has Manic Monday. Don’t be afraid to take Manic Monday off work. It is probably the best day of the year.
Let’s dig in and see which one of the remaining Big Four are going to win this year.
It’s no joke about the Big Four. Sixteen straight titles. Since Federer won his first Slam at Wimbledon in 2003 there have been 68 Slams. The Big Four has won 60 of them (and Roddick, Gaudio and Safin accounted for three of those missing eight before Rafa won his first. If you go from Rafa’s first, the 2005 French, it’s 56 of 61). And Wimbledon is the chalkiest of the bunch. In the last ELEVEN years one of the top three favorites, by price, has won the event. The largest number was Novak last year at +550. So, piece of advice number one, don’t go looking for someone with a double-digit number to win.
The unsexy thing about this tournament is that the aforementioned dominance of the Big Four means they are in separate quarters and probably will all advance to the semi-finals. Which leaves only the second quarter as an “attackable” section of the draw. Novak is -188 to win the first quarter and Roger Federer is -200 to win the fourth quarter. The sad thing is, though numbers probably still have “value”. There is a high probability that those two meet in the final and that prop is something you should hit if you see it around 4/1. The third quarter belongs to Nadal, he is +100 to win it and while he has a super tough path he is still one of the greatest players of all time and someone who has won this event twice. The reason his +100 to win the quarter and his +600 to win the event probably aren’t high enough is because his potential path is the hardest of the big seeds. Nadal will possibly have to go through Kyrgios, Tsonga, and Cilic in consecutive matches to get out of his section of the third quarter. That’s a lot of tough opponents to have to beat just to get to a quarterfinal. But, we’ll come back to the third quarter in a minute.
First, let’s dig into the second quarter.
Due to the unique seeding system of Wimbledon, Kevin Anderson is the headlining seed in the second quarter. The other book end is Alex Zverev. Anderson obviously has the game for grass, making the final here last year. Unfortunately, he has been injured much of 2019 (actually, not really the same since that Wimbledon tournament last year) and the only tournament he has played since March was two weeks ago at the Fever Tree in London. He dropped a set and struggled with Cameron Norrie and then ultimately lost to Gilles Simon in the second round. As for Zverev, grass is probably his worst surface and his 2019 has not been impressive. So, who can take advantage? Kecmanovic just won Antalya and that travel won’t be fun. Wawrinka, like Zverev, would consider grass his worst surface. Opelka doesn’t seem to have adapted to grass yet and RBA has never gone deep in eight trips to the All England Club. Lopez showed some rejuvenation in London but, at 37 and in semi-retirement, a deep run is probably not in the cards. That leaves Karen Khachanov and Milos Raonic. They both come with warts. Other than some big events, notably Indian Wells and the French Open, Khachanov has had trouble stringing together back-to-back wins all season (Aussie, French, Indian Wells, Rome, and Halle are the only five tournaments where he has actually done it). Khachanov also faces a pretty daunting path — Lopez, RBA, Zverev, Anderson/Raonic, Djokovic. That doesn’t seem fun. Raonic, on the other hand, has Gunneswaran, Haase, Wawrinka as his first three matches. Getting through the first two or three matches sweat free is a must when considering any longshot options. None of those three players should trouble “the Missile”. Round four might be tricky but, Anderson, as mentioned, has not been healthy and Tsitsipas has not overwhelmed in two tournaments on grass so far this year (loss in his first match to Nic Jarry, a struggle with Chardy and another loss to FAA). Should he make the quarters, Raonic would face the aforementioned Khachanov or possibly Zverev. He has dispatched Zverev easily on fast courts in Australia and he has maybe the biggest serve in tennis, which should bode well against Khachanov (if the two losses to Berrettini mean anything). If healthy (which is always the biggest of concerns with this guy) a deep run should not be shocking for Raonic. He has made the quarters the last two years here, made the finals the year before that, and also has another semi-final appearance. His last five losses here are to Federer, Federer, Kyrgios, Murray and Isner. He went a combined 1–5 in tiebreaks in those five matches. He pulled out of Stuttgart but, he looked fine at Queens, losing to a peaking Feli Lopez. As long as he stays healthy he should be in the semi-final against Novak. He is only +350 to win the quarter but, 33/1 to win the tournament. Novak was -275 against Raonic at the Cincinnati Masters the last time they met. Something like -500 would be about right should they meet this year at Wimbledon. At 33/1 there should be some room to operate.
While the second quarter might be the most loaded quarter and easily the one that will produce the most drama, the third quarter may be barren. It was mentioned above that Nadal “may” have a tough path. But, what if everyone in this quarter had a blemish? Thiem is maybe not the best on grass, Cilic is having a terrible 2018, Djere and Simon are not threats to win the title, Fognini has no track record of success on grass, and neither does Shapo. That leaves Nadal with what should be an easy path to a semi-final with Federer.
Boring, right? Well, if we work off the assumption that Thiem might not do well on grass and that he has a tough first round match-up against someone who excels on grass, could there be a long-shot to be had in the third quarter? What if Thiem gets put out in round one and what if Nadal withdraws with bad knees (something he has done regularly)? That could make the quarter-final very interesting. So, let’s look at the top section of the third quarter. Querrey can certainly beat Thiem on grass. He has made semi-final and quarter-final runs here before. Garin and Millman would not be super tough obstacles in rounds two and three. There is a case to be made that Querrey makes the fourth round. Who would he play? Frances Tiafoe. Tiafoe is not terrible on grass, has the serve and forehand that could do some damage on the surface and he gets Fognini in the first round, who hasn’t played grass yet this year and who’s only top 50 wins at Wimbledon were against clay courters. Then he would be looking at maybe Fucsovics and Simon; winnable matches for him on grass. Querrey at 150/1 and Tiafoe at 200/1 meeting up in the fourth round with the potential that Nadal may not be waiting in the quarters? Yes.
What’s lacking in this analysis? The #nextgen. It’s unfortunate but, we are probably still one more Slam away from a serious #nextgen breakthrough. Kyrgios has looked lost since winning Acapulco and probably faces Nadal in the second round. Zverev has looked horrible in 2019 and grass is his worst surface. Khachanov has an incredibly tough path. Hurkacz is in Novak’s eighth. FAA is in Novak’s eighth. Medvedev and Tsitsipas will have to face each other in round four and Novak in the quarters. Shapo has a potential path of Tsonga, Nadal, Cilic. New hope Berrettini is in Federer’s quarter and has been moved to his section as of Saturday morning. It is doubtful that any of the big names from the #nextgen, outside of one of Meds or Tsitty, even make Manic Monday. It would have been fun if more of them had landed in Rafa’s quarter.
So, chalk, again. Federer has been prepping for this for a year. It is apparent he knows time is short. He adapts his game as well or better than anyone on tour. He lost to Novak in the finals here the last two times they have played on grass, so he’ll be even more motivated should they meet one final time.
Oh, and one or two small, hopeful longshots.
Federer +275 (can still get +300 many places) x2
Federer/Djokovic final, +300
Raonic 33/1 x0.5
Querrey 150/1 x0.25
Tiafoe 200/1 x0.25