There are good reasons for any tennis gambler to take a hard look at futures underdogs. Especially in a setting such as Wimbledon, where the grass courts prevent players like Rafael Nadal from using their athleticism and power to wear down opponents with long rallies. In London, skills such as 1st-serve accuracy, volleying, net-rushing, and clever counter-play often take precedence.
The steep payoff on a potential ‘dog winner in Men’s or Ladies’ Singles is a big bonus as well. The speculator does not need to spend nearly as much to get a $100 or $500 payoff ticket with a futures bet on a 4-digit underdog compared to prospective wagers on Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic.
But there’s yet another incentive to look at the sleepers at Wimbledon in 2019. I can’t remember a tournament in which there were so many vulnerable favorites among the most-taken bets.
Federer is a 3-to-1 bet and still nicknamed the “King of Grass.” (I suppose that makes him rather popular in Illinois these days.) But is he really? Roger has won only 1 of the last 6 Men’s Singles competitions at All England Lawn and Tennis Club. Last season, he was knocked out in the quarterfinals.
Novak Djokovic seems like a fairly solid 1.5-to-1 favorite on the Men’s side. But the busiest gambling market in Women’s Singles has been Ashleigh Barty – not a healthy player.
The young upstart grabbed and shook the tennis world when she captured her maiden Grand Slam victory at the French Open earlier in 2019. But she’s only 2-3 in matches at Wimbledon, and an arm injury is also hampering her, making Barty a truly off-the-wall betting favorite at 6-to-1.
Whenever there are over-valued favorites at the top of a futures-odds board, the question for the smart shark becomes simple.
Too-heavy action at the top means longer-odds-than-usual among the other contenders. Where is the betting value at Wimbledon with so many ATP and WTA pros taking too many wagers?
Here are 4 perceived underdogs who might look like the players to beat by the time the semifinals roll around next week.
PSA – most of them are in the women’s bracket.
Stefanos Tsitsipas (+1800)
Stefanos Tsitsipas is not named “Djokovic,” “Federer,” or “Nadal,” and they don’t call it the “Big 3” for nothing. That’s part of the reason that the 20-year-old Greek is almost a 20-to-1 futures pick.
Tsitsipas has gotten off to a shaky start on grass in 2019, further lengthening his line. Tsitsipas fell in the Round of 16 of the Libema Open to Nicolas Jarry, and lost in the quarterfinals of the Fever-Tree Championships to Felix Auger-Aliassime.
The youngster has only played 2 tournaments to-date at Wimbledon, and has slowly improved in London thanks to his willingness to play near the net. He has a deadly serve that is beneficial on the fast-playing surface, and his backhand is one of the most lethal in the sport today.
Some analysts believe that Tsitsipas has gotten a fortunate draw in London this year, but I’m not so sure – there’s a good chance he’ll face The Joker in the quarterfinals.
Angelique Kerber ((+1400) at MyBookie)
Most of the betting odds listed here are from Bovada Sportsbook, the “AT&T” of gambling sites on the internet. The defending champion Kerber is an 8-to-1 wager there. But over at Sprint – erm, MyBookie – the futures line on Angelique is head-scratching long at 14-to-1.
Kerber will be going for a 4th Grand Slam title in London. Grass has been Kerber’s most successful surface, with a career record of 65-25.
Her sparkling performance at Eastbourne has helped to tamp down recent injury concerns. Part of Kerber’s success on grass is her elusive foot speed that allows her to match powerful shots from her opponents, and she’s developed a wicked serve too.
An ankle issue had slowed her season throughout previous weeks…but (+1400) is the number I’d expect to see if she were still hobbling around. She’s not.
Serena Williams (+750)
Mika isn’t normally a “sleeper” in anything. But she has remained longer than a 7-to-1 futures wager at MyBookie even after Friday’s draw was announced.
Serena Williams will be hunting for Wimbledon trophy #8 and an incredible 24th overall Grand Slam. Williams must work to redeem last year’s defeat to Angelique Kerber in the final, but it was 1 of only 11 matches that Serena has ever lost at the tournament.
The legendary old pro is a baseline player. But there is more than 1 way to skin a grass court. Serena’s high-velocity and accurate serves rack up aces, and players who rush the net against Williams often find the ball flying past them for a winner.
Draw-watchers are calling Serena’s potential path through defending Wimbledon champ Angelique Kerber and other top players the “group of death” for London ’19.
This ain’t soccer, folks.
“Group of death” sounds great in a headline but misses the overarching point that a futures pick to win is someone we think can beat everybody. Serena Williams has beaten everyone in her Grand Slam path a total of 23 times.
Kiki Bertens (+1800)
The 27-year-old Dutch standout Bertens is going for a maiden Grand Slam title after reaching the quarterfinals at Wimbledon this year.
Much the same as UFC combatants, elite tennis pros do not necessarily “peak” in their late 20s but rather can spend a lifetime honing the skills to compete in different scenarios. Improvement can come later in a career. Our 18-to-1 sleeper has gotten better on grass courts this season, making a run to the final of the 2019 Rosmalen Championships before losing to Alison Riske.
But that’s not the best reason to gamble on Kiki in London. Her futures market is at long odds partially because she withdrew from the French Open – but it was due to an illness and not some type of lasting injury.
The #4 Women’s Singles player in the world was formerly regarded as a threat only on clay, but she has developed a top-ranked 1st serve that creates nightmares for opponents.
Bertens may not only sail though the early rounds but play in shorter matches than some of the favorites thanks to a high % of 1st-serve aces and quick 2-set dismissals of anyone whose service-return game is not at a world class level.
That could leave yet another Wimbledon sleeper fresh, healthy, and ready to take on a shaky favorite like Barty on the final weekend.
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.