June and July are the best months to be a tennis betting fan. The two glorious weeks of the French Open are barely over when Wimbledon, the world’s greatest tennis tournament, gets underway. Tennis is never better than during a Grand Slam tournament, and Wimbledon, which starts on Monday, promises to be a great tournament. The top storylines are obvious on both sides – it’s the Nadal-Federer show as always for the men, and the Williams sisters are the biggest story among the women. What’s more interesting to look at, though, are the players that aren’t quite in the public consciousness to the same extent who might be poised to make a breakthrough and do some damage. The French Open gave us a great reminder of the importance of looking beyond the headlines in the big tournaments – neither women’s winner Francesca Schiavone nor runner-up Samantha Stosur were anywhere close to obvious. Here’s a look at three men and three women who are worth a look (odds, when available, are from Bodog):
Lleyton Hewitt (16/1) – Hewitt has won both this tournament and the U.S. Open, so we know that he has game. His career sort of stalled in 2005, though, so he’s hard to consider as a top talent anymore. He seems to have his act together recently, though, and he’s showing signs of being dangerous here. When he won Wimbledon in 2002 he preceded that with a win in his last prep tournament before the slam. In 2006 he again won his prep tournament, and followed that with a run to the quarterfinals that was impressive because there wasn’t much form to speak of before the grass season. This year he not only won the Gerry Weber Open on grass in preparation for Wimbledon, but he beat Roger Federer, the best grass player of this or any age, quite convincingly in the final. Hewitt is clearly in form and motivated, and that’s a good thing for his backers in this tournament.
Marcos Baghdatis (100/1) – Baghdatis likes this tournament. The last time he has participated he has gone out in the fourth round, the quarterfinals, and the semifinals. He often raises his game at the slams, and he’s been a finalist at the Australian Open, so he’s not out of place among the elite. Grass has traditionally been his best surface as well. Part of the reason why his odds are so high here is that he lost in the first round at the Gerry Weber Open. He deserves a full mulligan for that one, though – he was dealing with a leg injury serious enough to through him off in that game. He’s totally fine now, and has had lots of time to rest.
Mardy Fish – It’s time for another American to make a big breakthrough here. Fish has always been ridiculously talented, but his passion never seemed to match that talent. That seems to have changed recently. He has dropped 30 pounds, and for the first time he looks like a well toned athlete. His grass prep tournament was great, too – he beat Andy Murray en route to a run to the final. Fish is certainly not going to be the ext Sampras or Agassi, but he’s good enough to put it together for a grand slam run one of these years, and this could be the spot.
Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez – Martinez Sanchez was a popular choice at the French Open after a red hot series of preps for that tournament. She couldn’t have been more disappointing as she was eliminated in the first round. She’s had a chance to recharge mentally now, grass is a good surface for her, and that form that was so impressive isn’t that far off. The pressure on her is going to be much less, so perhaps this is where she’ll make a better showing of herself.
Dinara Safina (66/1) – Any time you can get a price like this one a former number one player in the world who has been runner up at three grand slams and the Olympics in the last two years you have to seriously consider it. That’s not to say that high odds aren’t justified – her season has been a total disaster. She’s been dealing with a back injury, a new coach, and a five tournament slump. She’s going to figure it out at some pint, though, because she’s a long way from being washed up. Her brother, Marat Safin, also hit rough spots but seemed to emerge at big moments. Safina may not do well here, but I put her chances at doing so at a lot better than these odds suggest.
Samantha Stosur (12/1) – The Aussie was the runner-up in the French Open, so she’s obviously in form. She followed that deep run up with a nice showing in her grass prep, too, so the change in surface and extra playing time at the French doesn’t seem to have bothered her. She may not have been the most obvious choice at the French, but she’s a former world’s number one doubles player who is currently ranked in the top seven in the world in both the singles and doubles, so it would be a big mistake to underestimate her.