Novak Djokovic is the bookmakers’ favourite to retain his Wimbledon title over the next fortnight, at a top-priced 13-8 and there will be plenty of people who believe that is a price worth taking. He may well go on to win the title but to me, 13-8 is no price at all, not when Rafa Nadal looks back to his very best, when Roger Federer is desperate for another grand slam, when Andy Murray is desperate for his first and when a couple of others are more than dangerous floaters.
Djokovic is still playing great tennis but not quite as incredible as when he arrived at the All England Club 12 months ago. Granted, he was not far away from beating Nadal in the French Open final, and with the pressure of trying to win his fourth straight slam off the back, he may be able to relax and produce his very best. There is no question he is capable – he did it last year after all – but at the price I think there are better options.
The first of them is Nadal himself, at a best price of 9-4. In Paris, the Spaniard played arguably his best tennis ever on the way to the final. His forehand is back to its very best and as it did in 2010, his serve is again proving something of a revelation. In the opposite half to Djokovic, of course, he is again seeded to meet Murray in the semis and only the most ardent Murray fans would truly believe the Scot would be favourite on the day.
Nadal has now played in five straight grand slam finals and crucially, he (and Murray) have avoided the big dangers in Tomas Berdych and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, two men who have caused huge upsets at Wimbledon in recent years. Providing there is no freak injury along the way, Nadal should get to at least the semis and most likely the final. Again, 9-4 will not make you rich, but it’s the bet to have if you’re going outright.
At 5-1, Roger Federer might seem good value. Certainly the six-times Wimbledon champion is capable but in the past year, for me at least, a small gap has opened up between the top two and the rest, including Federer. The Swiss remains very dangerous over three sets – the Olympics could be his best chance – but over five sets, at the age of 30, he is more vulnerable than he has ever been. It still takes an awful lot to beat him – he is an all-time great, of course – but I think to beat both Djokovic and Nadal – as he would probably have to, is too tall a task.
For Murray, the expectations are lower this time due to a few relatively poor results and a troublesome back injury. However, he is one of the few players who excels on grass and if he manages to get to the net and move forward more often, he could yet break his duck in grand slams and send Britain wild. At 12-1, he would return each-way odds of 6-1 if he makes the final but to do that he will almost certainly need to beat Nadal. He has done it before in a grand slam, but it’s still a tough task. Perhaps he’ll get a bit of luck and go all the way, but it’s a tall order.
If you’re looking for an each-way bet than it has to be Berdych. The Czech has so much natural power, it’s frightening at times. The only thing stopping him is getting tight on the biggest occasions. But he has already made one Wimbledon final – two years ago – and he has enjoyed his best clay-court season to date so his form is there. He can beat anyone when he gets on a roll and at 33-1, with half the odds for making the final, Berdych is the man to go with.