The women’s event at the Olympics promises to be every bit as interesting as the men’s but unlike the men, there is a clear favourite with Serena Williams topping the market with Paddy Power to win what would be her first singles gold medal. It is the only thing missing from Williams’ career and at 7-4 there are bound to be plenty of people willing to back her to do so.
I would not be surprised if the American takes gold – she remains the best player in the world when she is fully fit and fully motivated and as she showed at Wimbledon, her fighting spirit gets her through sometimes even when she is not quite 100 percent. Her fabulous serve took her a long way towards her fifth Wimbledon crown earlier this month and if she is in that kind of form, especially the form she showed in the last three rounds, she will take an awful lot of beating.
However, I think there is better value to be had. Maria Sharapova will have plenty of backers at 4-1 after what is one of the most consistent years of her career. World No 1 Victoria Azarenka was not far away at Wimbledon and looks generous at 11-2 but it is Petra Kvitova at 6-1 who screams out to be backed.
The Czech won Wimbledon 13 months ago and only a rock-solid Serena Williams stopped her in the quarter-finals this time round. The left-hander’s big serve and huge forehand make her always a handful on grass and she has prepared well for this event. I can see her coming through the bottom half to reach the final, at least.
The top half is the place to look for an outsider, of sorts, since Sharapova, Wimbledon runner-up Agniesyka Radwanska, Kvitova and Kim Clijsters, in her penultimate event, are all stacked in the bottom half. Venus Williams would be a consideration if it were not her continuing struggle against Sjogren’s syndrome so for me that leaves just Azarenka as a relative outsider, at 11-2. Her price is only that big because she will probably have to beat Williams to get to the final. Being from Belarus, the Olympics will mean a lot to her and her family, perhaps more than most, and it would not surprise me one bit to see her in the final.