This Wimbledon, I am not bothering with outright winner suggestions, as I am not getting involved in any market other than match odds in-play. What I thought I'd do instead, is to give a list of players who are ones to watch out for. This will be based on how good they are on grass and current form. Starting with the men, I don't really need to say it yet again but I will anyway: Djokovic or Nadal will win. Federer has an outside chance (always a better chance of beating the top 2 seeds on grass). Murray is a long shot (his form is poor and his draw is tough) but I would never discount him because he is good enough on his day. Berdych, Del Potro, Isner and Tsonga will all have a chance to reach the semis and may even cause an upset (remember Tsonga beat Federer last year). If you are looking for an outsider who might do well, here are my choices:
Kohlschreiber and Haas are drawn together in round one but the winner could go far. Kohli beat Nadal in Halle 2 weeks ago and Haas beat Federer in the final. Cilic won Queen's thanks to David Nalbandian's linesman shinning. Nalbandian faces Janko Tipsarevic, which is one of the matches of the round, so he may not last long. Roddick won Eastbourne and is showing signs of life after 3 months in the doldrums. The others on the list are in form and have a knack for performing on grass. Someone like Feliciano Lopez, Michael Llodra, Richard Gasquet or Bernard Tomic could do well on grass though (unlike the above list) none have shown decent form on grass coming into Wimbledon. If you are looking for a real wild-card to provide an upset, keep an eye on Benoit Paire - an exciting, enigmatic, prodigiousy talented young Frenchman who almost beat (and largely outplayed) David Ferrer on grass in s-Hertogenbosch this week.
The women as always, present a lot more interest. After her terrible display at Roland Garros, you can expect Serena Williams to be even more fired up and she will be the one to beat. Defending champion Petra Kvitova is amongst a number of top 10 players who have either played no grass-court matches yet or lost in an early round of a grass court event. She lost to Makarova at Eastbourne, her only match on grass. Sharapova, Williams, Azarenka and Li haven't played at all, which I find remarkable. How can you go into a major tournament without playing for 2 whole weeks and with zero acclimatisation to grass? It's a massive risk in my opinion and don't be surprised if these girls get troubled in round one.
Kim Clijsters is back and she reached the semis in s-Hertogenbosch before retiring (purely to save herself for Wimbledon). She's missed the entire clay court season and from what I saw this week, will not be winning Wimbledon. As she has been for a while now, the Belgian is very erratic. One moment she looks a world beater, the next, she throws her serve away in double-quick time with the most extraordinary errors. She could easily go all the way but I just think 3 months out is too long when you have the likes of Sharapova with the consistent form she's shown, in your way. It has to be Maria or Serena for the title, with Kvitova and Azarenka both dropping off in form in recent months. Sharapova has a much tougher quarter of the draw than Williams though, so that would give Serena the edge.
Can anyone pose a serious threat as a dark-horse? Well, I believe so. Marion Bartoli absolutely loves grass and she looked in great nick at Eastbourne till she pulled out of her semi with an injury. Hopefully it's not too bad because it's not beyond the realms of possibility that she could win the whole thing. Angelique Kerber almost won her 3rd title of the year in the Eastbourne final (she squandered 5 match points against Paszek) and continues her amazing rise up the ranks in 2012 to become a genuine contender at any grand slam event. I don't see anyone else potentially lifting the trophy but there are a few players who come alive on grass and may well run deep or cause an upset:
Petrova in particular, is a danger on grass and has just won s-Hertogenbosch, looking in her best form for years. She's top 10 quality and can knock out absolutely anyone, though whether she can focus mentally for 2 whole weeks is another matter. Melanie Oudin won Birmingham recently, showing consistent form out of nowhere after a couple of torrid years. She's due to meet Petrova in round 2. Tamira Paszek beat Kerber in the Eastbourne final and do not be surprised if she knocks Caroline Wozniacki (who continues to lose to lower ranked, bigger hitters, getting taught a lesson by Christina McHale last week) out in round 1. I tipped her last year and she reached the quarters.
Tsvetana Pironkova only seems to bother playing at Wimbledon! The last 2 years she's had great runs whilst the rest of the year, she struggles to string two wins together. Sharapova awaits in round 2 though so.......... Ekaterina Makarova continues to upset the big names (beating Kvitova last week) and is always under-rated in the slams despite picking off big scalps. Kerber awaits in round 2 though! Venus suffers from this disease where she doesn't know whether she will be struggling with lack of energy from one day to the next but if she is feeling fine, Wimbledon is the one event where she could pick off a few scalps. Radwanska should meet her in round 2, which promises to be a cracker. The winner could go very deep, as it's a weak quarter. Petra Cetkovska had a brilliant run last year and I expect her to lift her game with all the points she has to defend.
Of the other top ladies, you can write off Sam Stosur immediately. She was soundly beaten by Kirsten Flipkens last week. Flipkens ranking may be low but she knows how to play on grass, unlike the Aussie. Stosur does have an easy quarter on paper but I think she'll be upset by someone. I always seem to mention Kuznetsova, Ivanovic, Jankovic and Goerges but they always let me down and I don't expect anything of them on grass. Jankovic faces Clijsters in round one anyway, the tie of the round. Sara Errani is top 10 now (incredibly) but you've no chance of seeing her in a non-clay final.
Sabine Lisicki would normally be one to watch on this surface but her form is so bad, she went out in round one of the tournament she was defending champion in - Birmingham, last week. Agnieszka Radwanska also has lost form lately, though her little sister Urszula is in the best form of her short career (losing to Petrova in the s-Hertogenbosh final and winning a challenger event in Nottingham) and may just carry these great grass displays into Wimbledon. Dominica Cibulkova cannot be discounted for a good run, although the Slovakian was hammered by Petrova this week. She has a lot of points to defend as she reached the quarters last year.
It should be a fantastic tournament, weather permitting. It's been wet for weeks in England and Eastbourne, Birmingham and Queen's all suffered from sporadic rain and disrupted schedules. So if you are going to get involved, be prepared to wait for long periods. Having patience to trade during the grass court season is a real skill and you simply have to be ready for anything, especially as it's common for matches to swing the other way after a long break in play. You've been warned!