Aga sweet at 16s

  • By: Andy Schooler
  • Last Updated: June 21 2014, 18:30 BST

Agnieszka Radwanska can make the most of a good draw and win this year's Wimbledon title, says Andy Schooler.

Agnieszka Radwanska: Runner-up and semi-finalist in the last two years
Agnieszka Radwanska: Runner-up and semi-finalist in the last two years

Fair play if Serena Williams wins Wimbledon for a sixth time.

It's just I won't be backing her at 13/8.

Sorry for sounding like a stuck record but she's just going off too short.

She did so at the French Open and lost in the second round; in Australia in January it was a last-16 exit.

Williams has now won only four of the last 10 Slams. The use of the word 'only' may sound ludicrous but put it into betting context and you'll get my point - she's gone off favourite at all 10, often at prices around 13/8 or shorter.

If you backed her in all 10, your pocket must be feeling rather light and I don't want to join that club.

When Williams last won here in 2012 I backed her at a tasty 3/1.

She was the best player in the world then and remains so but she's now half the price and clearly vulnerable to an early defeat. There's little value in her price.

If she's on song she may romp to the title - Maria Sharpaova being in her quarter will hold little fear given the American has won their last 15 meetings - but if she does I'll live with that.

Everyone has their price - and a wrong one.

The fact that the top two in the betting will not be in the semi-finals means there has to be some opportunities elsewhere.

My immediate thought was to look to the second quarter where Simona Halep, the third seed, looks an opposable favourite given her record on grass, one which has seen her win one match in three visits to the All England Club.

Admittedly she did win a title on grass in the Netherlands last season but at the same event this year she was suffering with a shoulder problem and that can't be good news for potential backers of the French Open runner-up.

At 2/1 for a semi-final place, she should be avoided.

The problem is when you look at alternatives, there are too many. This is actually a loaded section.

Last year's runner-up Sabine Lisicki loves the grass, as she's been saying in the past couple of weeks. She did pull out of Birmingham but instead spent the week practising at Halle and seems happy with her preparation.

She's been to at least the quarter-finals in her last three appearances at Wimbledon and warrants respect.

The same can be said of Ana Ivanovic, who will be disappointed to have landed in Lisicki's section.

She's enjoying probably her best season since 2008, when she went into Wimbledon as world number one having just won the French Open.

Her fellow Serb Jelena Jankovic is also playing well of late, while Eastbourne finalist Madison Keys, former junior champion Taylor Townsend, last year's quarter-finalist Kaia Kanepi and Jie Zheng are all dangerous floaters in the quarter.

Essentially it's a minefield so the bottom half is where I'm turning to.

Here Agnieszka Radwanska has enjoyed the luck of the draw and has duly been cut across the board but the 2012 finalist, who also made the semis 12 months ago, should go well.

I'm not too worried by a narrow (7-6 in the third) defeat to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the first round at Eastbourne.

I spoke to her before the French Open when she hinted she was very much looking forward to a return to Wimbledon where her court craft comes to the fore.

Volleys, drop shots and general innovation can reap dividends on the grass better than anywhere and Radwanska does that lot in spades.

Those of you who read my preview of the grasscourt campaign in my recent Net Talk column may well already be on the Pole at 25/1 but for those wanting a bet now, I wouldn't put you off Radwanska at 16s.

Hers is by far the weakest quarter in my opinion with Victoria Azarenka her seeded quarter-final opponent.

However, the Belarusian will do well to get that far. She's played just one match since March and lost that in Eastbourne to Camila Giorgi.

Grass has never been the former world number one's domain and you suspect she'll simply be happy to get some matches under her belt so she can hit the ground running in the forthcoming hardcourt season where she will look to launch a serious US Open title bid.

The other names in the section will hold little fear for a player of Radwanska's calibre.

A good judge I know mentioned her vulnerability against a power hitter and that's something to be wary of but I'm not sure who that will be in this part of the draw and, in any case, one of the hardest hitters, Lisicki, was pushed to 9-7 in the final set in last year's semi-final, a match Radwanska was very close to winning.

I'll back Radwanska each way for the title, convinced I'll get a decent run for my money.

I also want a bet in the fourth quarter where second seed Li Na and former champion Petra Kvitova reside.

Li has never been beyond the last eight in SW19, while Kvitova arrives under an injury cloud (hamstring). Even if she's fine, the Czech is notorious for drifting in matches - few players play as many three-setters as she does - and I wouldn't be surprised to see someone get the better of her before the business end of proceedings.

That person could be Sloane Stephens, who has performed well here before.

Last year the young American made the quarter-finals where she was competitive in a ding-dong battle with eventual champion Marion Bartoli.

In 2012 it took grass specialist Lisicki to halt her run in the last 32.

Stephens has made a habit of stepping up at the big tournaments - her last six Grand Slams have brought results as follows: R4-R4-R4-QF-R4-SF. That's impressive from a 21-year-old and I'll take her to win the quarter at 8/1.

My eye is also caught by Flavia Pennetta, although sadly she's in the same part of the draw as Stephens and the two could meet in round three.

Still, I'll throw a bit of change at the Italian at a big price and here's why.

She's made the last 16 here three times before, including 12 months ago.

This season Pennetta has performed well, reaching the quarter-finals in Australia and winning the biggest title of her career in Indian Wells.

It was no surprise to see her form dip in the claycourt season but with a faster surface under foot again, the 25/1 about her in the quarter market looks too big and worth a saver.

My final bet in the ladies' singles is a special regarding how the British players will perform.

Badly may well be the answer and I certainly feel William Hill's 7/1 about all five of them bowing out in round one is too big.

That's not to say things haven't improved in the women's game in Great Britain - Heather Watson is flying back up the rankings this season, while Johanna Konta will crack the world's top 100 for the first time on Monday.

However, both have been handed tough draws with Watson up against a good fellow youngster in Ajla Tomljanovic and Konta facing Shuai Peng. While both Britons have played well in Eastbourne, their opponents in SW19 will be higher-ranked and dangerous.

Of the three wild-card entries, it's hard to see where a win will come from.

Tara Moore is a decent player on grass but she's up against 2010 runner-up Vera Zvonareva. If Sam Murray beats Maria Sharapova it will be one of the all-time great shocks, while Naomi Broady is likely to find Timea Babos too good.

Basically, 7/1 looks a fair price and is worth a small bet.

  • Posted at 1825 BST on 20/06/2014.


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