Tennis tipster Tim Clement provides us with his preview and predictions for this summer's Wimbledon Championships.
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By Tim Clement
Taking on men's tennis' two greatest players has rarely been a profitable pursuit and is not something I am willing to get involved with at Wimbledon.
Ten years on from arguably the greatest duel in the sport’s history, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal’s dominance of the sport has perhaps never been greater.
The pair have shared the last six Grand Slams, three apiece, not dropping a set in any of those major final wins.
For all our gluttonous consumption over their immense careers, the appetite for another major final showdown between Federer and Nadal remains as great as ever, and I see no reason for it not being fulfilled at SW19 this summer.
Federer’s case for the title is obvious. He’s a 10-time finalist, eight-time winner and well rested, having opted for the same preparation as last year when he walked through the field without dropping a set.
Nadal is arguably the controversial aspect of this prediction. He’s not reached the final since 2011 and has not played a warm-up event, so why the faith?
Well, two big factors have impacted his recent chances at Wimbledon; his fitness and his style of play.
I am comfortable the former isn’t a problem as, at 32, he is managing his body better than ever to ensure performance levels peak for big events, leading the 2018 rankings list despite playing just six events.
That body management also transitions into an adjusted style of play, with a more aggressive approach seeing him shorten rallies and put less strain on his once ravaged knees.
That also includes refraining from running round his backhand to engage his legendary forehand more often, something which is a lot more difficult to do on slick grass courts, putting more faith in his vastly-improved backhand.
Another factor which is often overlooked is the weather, which has a profound impact on both grass and clay-court tennis.
While my French Open preview made profits with Nadal beating Dominic Thiem in the final at 6/1, my other strong fancy for Nadal to triumph without dropping a set came unstuck because of a day of lousy weather in Paris.
The damp conditions in Nadal’s quarter-final clash allowed Diego Schwartzman to defend effectively and snatch the opening set as the Spaniard struggled to hit through the court.
Likewise, Nadal will be relishing the fine weather in London as groundskeepers struggle to keep the grass lush throughout the fortnight.
Dry courts will not only slow down the speed of the ball coming through the court but also accentuate Nadal’s extreme top-spin, making him a far more formidable defensive force.
Of course, we are dismissing 126 other players here but none really make enough of a convincing case to take on the game's greats.
Novak Djokovic is the 9/2 second favourite after reaching the Queen’s final but his only significant victory was over the out-of-sorts Grigor Dimitrov before losing the final to Marin Cilic.
Marin's mental meltdown
Ah Marin Cilic! This time last year I was tipping him to win Wimbledon at 18/1. A fortnight later we were both in tears after missing out on substantial sums of money.
Fresh from winning at Queen’s last week, some might fancy him to go a step further but odds of 15/2 make for little appeal in a player who needs each-way support due to his mental fragility.
The same reason makes me look past 20/1 shots Nick Kyrgios and Alexander Zverev, with Juan Martin Del Potro more interesting at the price.
The Argentine certainly has the weapons for grass but is far too shy when it comes to venturing to the net to kill points, while Milos Raonic (22/1) needs more time to return to his 2016 final-reaching best.
What about Andy Murray? Well, odds of 28/1 in Sky Bet’s outright Price Boost are the reason we have only just got round to mentioning him.
That sort of price will certainly rack up significant liabilities but I cannot see how he can be anywhere close to 100% following a delayed return to action, while his draw could not have been much tougher.
Mountain for Murray to climb
Just three competitive matches, including just one win against grass hater Stan Wawrinka, is simply not enough after 11 months out and I think it would be progress if he were to come through a couple of matches.
Serena to strike back
On the women’s side, we have a worthy favourite in Petra Kvitova, who has the game and experience to deliver on Centre Court.
While inconsistency has tarnished much of her career, the big-hitting Czech boasts a tour-leading five titles in 2018 following her recent win on Birmingham’s grass courts.
That sees her sit second to recent French Open winner Simona Halep in the 2018 rankings list, but well ahead in terms of SW19 prospects.
Halep will surely struggle to refocus on Wimbledon after a burden-lifting first major win, while she lacks the weapons to be a natural grass-court player.
Serena Williams is the 11/2 second favourite and a tempting one at that as she looks to build on an encouraging comeback in Wimbledon.
Only a freak injury prevented her from featuring in a final-16 tie with Maria Sharapova at Roland Garros and the grass courts will offer less of a test to her limited conditioning.
Reigning champion Garbine Muguruza follows at 15/2 but a humbling performance at Birmingham suggests she is struggling to bounce back from a thumping 6-1 6-4 semi-final defeat to Halep in Paris.
For outside interest, I like the look of Elina Svitolina. The fifth seed is yet to go beyond the quarter-final of a Grand Slam but that also means she is absent of final heartbreak baggage.
However, she has Serena placed in her path at the third-round stage, so it looks like her emergence on to the big stage will have to wait.
History might suggest we look for a big-priced outsider but Kvitova and Serena look worthy of their favouritism so I will be backing either to lift the women’s title at a price which still appeals.