Can anyone challenge Novak Djokovic? That will be the question starting next Monday when the tennis world descends upon southwest London for the Wimbledon
Championships. So far this season, the answer has been "no"-at least not when it matters. Djokovic won both the Australian Open and French Open (not to
mention many other significant tournaments) and is two legs away from a calendar-year Grand Slam.
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Favorite: Novak Djokovic (-150)
Djokovic has already completed the proverbial "Djokovic slam," meaning that he currently holds all four major titles after winning Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 2015 and the Australian Open and French Open already in 2016. What's not to like about his chances to lift all four of the slam trophies in this year alone? The world No. 1 is 44-3 overall in 2016, and one of his three losses came when he retired from a match because of an eye infection. In other words, Djokovic has suffered only two legitimate losses this entire season. And he has not lost at a major since being upset by an on-fire Stan Wawrinka in the 2015 French Open final.
Although a hard court is generally Djokovic's best surface, grass certainly does not give him any trouble. The Serb is a three-time Wimbledon champion (2011, 2014, 2015); by comparison, his recent triumph on the clay courts of Roland Garros was his first at that tournament.
Underdog worth a look: Roger Federer (+1200)
This is not the same Federer, of course, as the one who dominated the tour by winning 14 of his 17 Grand Slam titles in a period between 2004 and 2009. The Swiss is now 34 years old, has not won a major since 2012, and has been plagued by physical problems this season (he has withdrawn from various tournaments due to a virus, a knee injury, and a back injury). After missing the French Open, Federer lost in consecutive grass-court semifinals (to youngsters Dominic Thiem in Stuttgart and Alexander Zverev in Halle).
But there is some good news, and not just for bettors-who can get Federer at an alarming +1200 to win the title (when was the last time that happened at Wimbledon?). Not only did the former world No. 1 win it all at the All-England Club in 2012, but he also finished runner-up to Djokovic in both 2014 and 2015. Federer simply remains a force on grass, even in the presumably latter stages of his career. He can keep the points shorter on this surface and make matches less physical. Federer generally heats up as events progress toward the business end, and he cannot run into Djokovic until at least the semifinals-at which point the father of four may be back on top of his game.
Take a shot at a long shot: Nick Kyrgios (+2200)
Tennis' current bad boy makes plenty of noise with his mouth, but at the All-England Club he often lets his game do the talking. In 2014, Kyrgios upset Rafael Nadal on his way to a breakthrough quarterfinal run. The current world No. 18 also advanced to the fourth round last summer before bowing out at the hands of accomplished grass-courter Richard Gasquet in a fourth-set tiebreaker.
Kyrgios may be flying a little bit under the radar because he lost early at the French Open (on his worst surface of clay) and played only one grass-court match during his Wimbledon preparation. In that contest, he had to face Milos Raonic-the fourth favorite to win Wimbledon-right away in round one at Queen's Club earlier this month (Raonic prevailed in a tight three-setter). At +2200, the opportunity is now to pounce on the fiery Aussie.
Best Value: Andy Murray (+350)
Murray finished runner-up to Djokovic at Roland Garros, and there are several reasons to like his chances of going one step farther in London. He is once again guaranteed to avoid Djokovic until the title match as Djokovic is the top seed and Murray is second. Two of the Scot's most important moments have come at the All-England Club: he won Wimbledon in 2013 and captured gold at the 2014 London Olympics. With coach Ivan Lendl back in his corner, Murray just recently beat Raonic to lift the Queen's Club trophy. His preparation for Wimbledon could not have gone any better.
Pick: Novak Djokovic (-150)
The value isn't great with Djokovic coming in at less than even money, but it is still almost impossible to go against him. What's scary is that not only is he the best player on the circuit, but he appears to want it the most. He craves slam-winning success-and it will probably happen for him again two weeks from now in London.
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Read more articles by Ricky Dimon
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