Sportswriting has really lost a lot over the years.
For instance, newbies to tennis handicapping might look around on the internet and decide that Grand Slams are the simplest and most-repetitive tournaments in all of individual sports. There’s a big difference between matches played on clay courts and hardcourt, and the grass courts of Wimbledon may present the most unique and grueling challenge of all. Yet you wouldn’t know that from reading ordinary online tutorials on touting tennis pros in 2019.
“Grass courts demand speed, agility, and power,” an article will say in a paragraph. Then its readers scroll 2 paragraphs down for a supposed “in-depth” review of clay-court strategy. “Clay courts demand power, agility and speed,” the site explains.
Any tennis match can be won with a combination of power, speed and agility, but I can’t help but think such brief sentences leave a few details – and a few of the crucial differences between Grand Slam court surfaces and venues – out altogether.
Wimbledon is different even if Wikipedia describes All-England Lawn and Tennis Club with a meaningless word-scramble.
So let’s open a book – you know, those weird things we used to look at that have “pages” you manually flip through. I’ve got my paws on a sports-tutorial book is from the 1990s, and its authors seem to have believed in describing things in clear and intelligent ways. What a concept!
“The distinguishing characteristic of grass courts,” says the Handy Sports Answer Book, “is the high speed at which the ball skids off the surface. This tends to favor players with excellent serves and good net games while disfavoring baseline players.”
That sounds about right. The aging Roger Federer has been turning-down chances to compete on clay and hardcourt in his last competitive years in tennis, unable to run back and forth along the baseline and return every Rafael Nadal forehand and backhand. But Federer still has an accurate serve, is still crafty with a volley, and prefers shorter rallies to cautious power-hitting marathons.
Federer is a popular futures pick for Wimbledon ’19 at multiple tennis betting sites. But he’s not the odds-on favorite.
The historic Grand Slam tourney begins again on Monday. Let’s scout form and compare odds for 5 contenders in each of the Men’s and Ladies’ Singles divisions to determine which are the strongest wagers to conquer the field over the next 2 weeks.
Also, scroll-to-bottom at any time for my picks…and thoughts on the Friday draw.
Wimbledon Men’s Singles Odds: 5 Popular 2019 Futures Bets
Novak Djokovic ((+135) Odds-to-Win Men’s Singles Bracket at Bovada Sportsbook)
The world’s #1 player returns to the court for the 1st time since losing to Dominic Thiem in a French Open semi-final. Djokovic hasn’t played any matches on the grass-court stretch of the tour this season, but he is no stranger to success at Wimbledon as the defending London champion and a 4-time winner of the Grand Slam event.
The Joker has been superb on grass despite a lack of “Jimmy Connors” style net-charges and volleys, using his foot speed and accurate, hard winners to establish a career mark of 88-18.
Djokovic’s lethal and precise serve also makes him a fierce opponent on grass. Much of his Wimbledon success can be attributed to incredible fitness and flexibility, and without many serious injury concerns to worry about, the current odds also reflect that the defending champ is 32 years old and still in the prime of his career.
Joker’s line is slightly longer at MyBookie with a (+150) payoff.
Roger Federer (+300)
The “King of Grass” aims for an amazing 9th Wimbledon championship, but is coming off a rare quarterfinal exit to Kevin Anderson in 2018. Federer is a surprising 2nd seed and only a 3-to-1 wager – quite short odds for an old player who has only won once in his last 6 tries.
Federer’s lightning-quick serve and ability to utilize the high speed of balls on the grass court make him a difficult opponent at Wimbledon even at an advance age. His superb agility enables him to rush the net and befuddle power players like Nadal.
Age, schmage! Roger looked to be in tip-top form in his tune-up for Wimbledon while winning the Noventi Open final in Germany against David Goffin.
Rafael Nadal (+600)
Nadal is coming off a fantastic clay season in which he took another French Open title with victories over Roger Federer and Dominic Thiem. The 33-year old has not won at Wimbledon since 2010.
The transition from clay to grass has not been easy for Rafa this season, as he experienced muscular overload during training and had to adjust his practice regimen.
But his semi-final appearance in 2018 was his best showing on the legendary club since making the final in 2011.
Nadal’s foot speed and extraordinary counter-punching ability have enabled him to remain competitive on grass, but a shaky serve has left him suspect on the faster surface. He has gotten a raw deal from the draw in ’19 – at least according to people who really think they can predict 100+ players’ wins and losses over a 2-week tournament.
Stefanos Tsitsipas (+1800)
6-to-1 to 18-to-1 is an awfully-big jump between 2 players on the betting board, but Stefanos Tsitsipas is not named “Djokovic,” “Federer,” or “Nadal,” and they don’t call it the “Big 3” for nothing.
The 20-year-old Greek athlete has gotten off to a shaky start on grass in 2019, further lengthening his lines. Tsitsipas fell in the Round of 16 of the Libema Open to Nicolas Jarry, and lost in the quarterfinals of the Fever-Tree Championships to Felix Auger-Aliassime.
Tsitsipas has only played 2 tournaments to-date at Wimbledon, and has slowly improved in London thanks to his willingness to play near the net. He has a deadly serve that is beneficial on the fast-playing surface, and his backhand is one of the most lethal in the sport today.
Félix Auger-Aliassime (+2500)
This 18-year-old Canadian is on the cusp of a grass court breakthrough after advancing to the final of the Mercedes Cup and the semi-finals of the Fever-Tree Championship. The budding star has made 3 finals appearances in 2019 but is still in search of a maiden career title.
Aliassime possesses superb athleticism and groundstroke ability, crucial on the natural surface, and he can finish at the net. But there’s the draw-back of his age and even his health as a tender teen – Aliassime pulled out of the French Open earlier this year.
Wimbledon Women’s Singles: Futures Odds to Win in 2019
Ashleigh Barty (+600)
The young upstart Ashleigh Barty grabbed and shook the tennis world when she captured her maiden Grand Slam victory at the French Open earlier in 2019.
Barty has also become only the 2nd Australian athlete to hold the coveted #1 player ranking in the WTA.
She will look to continue her hot streak at Wimbledon, but as a rather weird odds-on favorite. Barty is 2-3 in Singles matches at the London tournament. But she has won on grass before, including at Nottingham in 2018. She has an excellent serve, a good volley game, and all the tools to prevail in a Grand Slam on grass. Is it simply the pressure that has held her back?
An arm injury is also hampering Barty, making her a truly off-the-wall betting favorite. If you think the 6-to-1 line at Bovada is something, consider that she’s a (+400) choice at MyBookie.
Karolína Plíšková (+750)
Plíšková is still in search of her 1st Grand Slam title. Wimbledon has been a challenge, and she began the grass season by losing to her own twin sister in the Round of 16 of the Birmingham Classic. Her all-time grass record is 30-16 and her last championship on the surface came at the 2017 Eastbourne Invitational.
That could change in a matter of days, as Plíšková is set to square off against Angelique Kerber at the final of this year’s Eastbourne International. But it’s still strange to see yet another oft-disappointed grass court player at 7 ½ to 1 above all kinds of famous names (like a name we’ll get to in a moment).
Plíšková’s serve is one of the best in the game and she excels at grabbing serve points. Former Wimbledon champion Conchita Martinez was recently named Plíšková’s full-time coach and may be able to improve her study’s form on natural surfaces over time. I’m not buying that it will happen right away…at least not in London where there are few easy matches or distracted foes.
Serena Williams (+750)
Once again, a Wimbledon line on a famous tennis pro is shorter at MyBookie, where the action tends to change the odds a little quicker sometimes. Mika is a 5-to-1 pick at the Costa Rican sportsbook, but still (+750) at Bovada as of Friday post-draw.
Williams will be hunting for Wimbledon trophy #8 and an incredible 24th overall Grand Slam. Williams must work to redeem last year’s defeat to Angelique Kerber in the final, but it was 1 of only 11 matches that Serena has ever lost at the tournament.
The funny part is that Mika is a baseline player. But there is more than 1 way to skin a grass court. Her high-velocity and accurate serves rack up aces, and players who rush the net against Serena Williams often find the ball flying past them for a rally-winner.
There’s only 2 little reasons why our next pro might be a better futures pick than Serena Williams…but as prognostication goes, they’re pretty solid ones.
Angelique Kerber (+800)
The defending champion will be going for a 4th Grand Slam title in London. Grass has been Kerber’s most successful surface, with a career record of 65-25.
Kerber’s performance at Eastbourne has helped to tamp down recent injury concerns, just 1 of the reasons why she might be a superior pick to any of the 3 most-popular futures markets.
Part of Kerber’s success on grass is her elusive foot speed that allows her to match powerful shots from her opponents, and she’s developed a wicked serve too. But you can’t run – or serve effectively – without 2 healthy ankles.
Perhaps I was wrong about MyBookie being quicker to adjust its lines, because word that Kerber’s stems are doing just fine as of late June has apparently not yet reached clients at the book.
Her line there is a whopping (+1400)…the kind of number I’d expect to see if she were still hobbling around.
Does this look like an injured player to you?
Petra Kvitová (+1200)
Speaking of injuries, a wrist injury may force Petra to withdraw from Wimbledon. The 2-time Wimbledon champion was also forced to withdraw from the French Open and the decision will come in a matter of days.
Obviously her futures line is taboo – I’m only including it here to ward-off readers from taking it.
Handicapping Wimbledon 2019: Ignore the Draw (Mostly)
Friday’s draw occurred while we were finalizing this preview, so I cannot offer a full analysis of the brackets here.
That’s not prohibitive to finding a solid pick. The draw can be an overrated aspect of Grand Slam betting. To win, you have to beat everyone anyway.
But look for lines on underdogs that lengthen thanks to the media’s coverage of the Wimbledon draw. Often, casual gamblers will glance at famous names in the same ¼ of the bracket as their prospective pick, and decide not to run with the player on that basis – forgetting the court surface.
Nadal is one of the greatest tennis pros of all time. But he’ll never be as dominant on grass as on clay. That won’t matter to Tom, Dick, and Harry who think “NADALLLLLL!!!!” when looking at the draw for a Grand Slam on grass…and allow his clay-court reputation and fame to overshadow their logic.
As for my predictions and picks? I’m liking The Joker to prevail as-expected in the Men’s Singles competition. But the finest option on any board is Kerber (+1400) at MyBookie.
If she wins her upcoming final, the line will shrink in a hurry. Don’t spend 48 hours combing over the draw. Get in on a ridiculously mispriced line on a defending champ…who may be healing and rounding into premier form at exactly the right time.