Since 2009 Tsonga has only been beaten in completed matches by Murray or Djokovic at Wimbledon and a good draw could see the Frenchman go very deep if he’s fit to compete.
The 2015 Wimbledon Championships is almost upon us and with the newly increased prize pot on offer the great and not-so-great will be heading to SW19 with varying intentions.
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For many it’s the pinnacle of their tennis career to grace the lawns of the All England Club, while others have already mentally banked the £29,000 for losing in round one.
In recent years, since the deliberate slowing down of the playing conditions, we’ve seen predictable champions and not one outside the ‘big four’ since people first grouped Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray together and gave them that moniker.
Indeed, Goran Ivanisevic’s memorable 2001 win as a wild card has been the only shock in pretty much the last 20 years.
Surprise finalists have been few in the last decade, with probably only Tomas Berdych in 2010 being anything like a turn-up.
This year could be different though, with Federer failing to perform over best-of-five sets in the last few years, while Nadal’s vulnerability could scarcely be more obvious.
Djokovic is quite likely to be on a downer after another defeat in the French Open final and only Murray, who I do rate higher than Djokovic on grass, looks in decent shape for a tilt at the title.
Nadal’s slide down the rankings will open up a section, and it’s time to take a look at those in the best position to possibly take advantage.
Stan Wawrinka, for my money, doesn’t have the kind of game for grass courts, as he has shown pretty much every year, and again this week at Queen’s where he was beaten by my outright tip Kevin Anderson.
I’d certainly want a fair bit bigger than 19.00 about the Swiss, whose price is artificially short because of his French Open win and the extra week between the two majors is unlikely to make much difference to Wawrinka’s chances.
It’s not about fatigue with Stan, more that his big back-swings lead to him being rushed on grass and that shows in his record of never having beaten a top-20 player on the surface.
Kei Nishikori hasn’t shown a great aptitude for grass either (2-6 versus top-20 opposition) and looks a hopeful choice at 40.00 and at a bigger price of 50.00 I’d rather have Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on my side.
The big Frenchman looks physically fitter than ever after his injury problems and came back to form nicely at the French Open, where he was beaten by Wawrinka in the last four.
Clay is hardly Jo’s best surface and that result should have boosted his confidence nicely ahead of the grass swing, which he hasn’t started at the time of writing.
An abdominal injury (and probably fatigue) forced him out of Rosmalen and Halle and that rest may well do him good when it comes to the second week of Wimbledon.
Since a 2009 defeat to the dangerous Ivo Karlovic Tsonga has only been beaten in completed matches by Murray or Djokovic at Wimbledon and a good draw could see the Frenchman go very deep if he’s fit to compete.
Grigor Dimitrov is also a 50.00 shot and for me I’m not seeing the kind of level or commitment to the game from him that would make a major champion, with off-court distractions possibly to blame.
He should have been beaten by Sam Querrey first up at Queen’s and he’s nowhere near the level he was at a year ago at the moment. That could change, but after compiling a 3-13 record against the top-20 since Wimbledon 2014 his confidence can’t be high.
As I write he’s just dropped lost in straight sets to Gilles Muller at Queen’s and his forehand seems to be letting him down big time at the vital moments.
Milos Raonic is another at a similar price at 40.00 and it’s hard to write him off totally with his game, having made the semi finals last year, but he did enjoy a very nice draw then.
A severely fatigued Nick Kyrgios and Nishikori were the only players of note that he beat and with his clunky back court game he can be nullified by opponents that take the game to him in these conditions.
Someone like a Berdych would probably beat Raonic on grass and the Czech himself, as ever, has to be in the conversation, but he’s another that’s hardly a natural on grass.
Marin Cilic beat him in three here last year and there are too many of Cilic’s ilk that could easily get the better of Berdych and one Wimbledon final seems the limit for a player of his grass ability.
Cilic leads the second tier of big-priced options and I’ll focus on their chances of making decent back-to-lay options next week, but of the market leaders outside the ‘big four’ Tsonga would be my man.
With Wimbledon just around the corner Sean Calvert takes a look at the men who could threaten the domination of the ‘big four’ at the All England Club…