WIMBLEDON FANTASY TENNIS PREVIEW
The French Open feels like it just wrapped up, and we’re already just days away from the start of the year’s third major at Wimbledon.
The Championships are a tad different this season, on a few fronts. First, and foremost, many players are missing from the field over the Lawn Tennis Association’s policy over current global affairs. Secondly, there will be no rankings points awarded due to said policy. Finally – and this is a more permanent change – we won’t see the long deciding sets any longer from the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club. Just a few years after installing a tiebreak at 12-12 in the third, the prolonged deciding sets have been scrapped altogether, as Wimbledon joins the other major tournaments in instituting a 10-point super tiebreak at 6-6 in the final set.
With all that said, let’s take a look at this year’s Championships from a DFS perspective.
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2021: Novak Djokovic
2020: Cancelled COVID 19
2019: Novak Djokovic
2018: Novak Djokovic
2017: Roger Federer
2016: Andy Murray
2015: Novak Djokovic
2014: Novak Djokovic
2013: Andy Murray
Full Tournament Outlook
To start off, much like we did at the French Open, let’s take a look at the tournament-long format.
First and foremost, a few favourites that one would be wise to include in their lineups. With the top half devoid of obstacles for the main contenders, both Novak Djokovic and Hubert Hurkacz seem to be solid choices.
Djokovic’s first quarter features very few legitimate threats. The biggest servers in the quarter – Americans Reilly Opelka and John Isner – are either in horrific form (Opelka) or haven’t played this grass season and lost in the first round of their only grass tournament last year (Isner).
The young guns (also two of the seeds) in his quarter are inexperienced on the surface and both clearly have issues moving on the unique, and rarely used, surface. Jannik Sinner has a losing record – both in his career, and in the last few years – on grass and hasn’t played much on it this season leading into Wimbledon. Carlos Alcaraz has played two professional matches on grass, needing five sets in a first round win a year ago and being thumped by Daniil Medvedev in the second round. This year? He’s played two exhibition events at Hurlingham and lost all four sets he played.
While he will likely be a popular pick to structure a lineup around, Djokovic’s path to the semifinal is relatively clear of tough competition.
As for Hurkacz, he will come a tad cheaper and has many of the same advantages as Djokovic. The other higher seed from his quarter is a slower court specialist in Casper Ruud. Three of the primary threats from the second quarter on grass (Tommy Paul, Fences Tiafoe and Cameron Norrie) all possess relatively vulnerable serves. Grigor Dimitrov may pose a problem if he makes it far enough to play Hurkacz, but his return game just doesn’t have enough to trouble the massive serving of the Pole.
As for players that aren’t favoured to win their quarters, Marin Cilic appears to present some value. The fourth quarter has a few top-tier players in with the Croatian, but with questions around Rafael Nadal’s foot and grass-court preparedness and Felix Auger Aliassime’s tough draw (big-serving Maxime Cressy in the first round, potentially playing Jack Sock in the second round, Dan Evans likely awaiting in the third round and Taylor Fritz and his game, well-rounded game coming off a title in the fourth round), Cilic has the ability to emerge as a shock semifinalist from the bottom portion of the draw.
The other potential longshot and relatively cheaply priced player is Roberto Bautista Agut. The Spaniard enjoys quicker surfaces, is coming off a final in Mallorca, and resides in a quarter with Matteo Berrettini, Stefanos Tsitsipas and perennial wild child Nick Kyrgios. Likely to come somewhat cheap, Bautista Agut is an intriguing option for a few reasons. First, he’s likely to win a few matches. If you can’t get all eight players deep into the second week, the goal should be to maximise the amount of points those that bow out earlier can get you. Bautista Agut is almost sure to reach the third round and there, he’d likely play Denis Shapovalov (who enters Wimbledon on a huge losing skid) or Brandon Nakashima. Secondly, he also has a legitimate chance to pull an upset against Tsitsipas or Kyrgios in the fourth round. We saw him lose in a third-set tiebreak to the Greek in Mallorca’s final and he has the athleticism to grind down the always-volatile Aussie.
The women’s draw provides much less clarity.
Iga Swiatek will be extraordinarily expensive and on a surface we haven’t seen her really find a ton of success on. The fact that she didn’t play any professional tuneup events is also a red flag for someone that is sure to be rather expensive.
The better bet for the higher-priced women is Ons Jabeur. The Tunisian is 15-2 on the grass since the beginning of the 2021 grass campaign. She won her lone lead-in event in Berlin (a 500-level tournament), she possesses a game perfectly-suited to the grass – big first serve, strong baseline game and elite slices and dropshots – and has a very favourable draw. She’s almost a shoo-in to reach the second week, with Angelique Kerber likely being the first stern test – though Kerber isn’t the player she was even two or three years ago.
With the ladies’ singles draw likely to see far more volatility, finding the lower-priced players that have a chance to go far is more important.
Someone like Alison Riske fits that profile well. The American has an excellent history on grass, might be the most comfortable player on the women’s tour with the very low-bouncing courts, and she has an eminently winnable section – with the other seed (Danielle Collins) not having played since the French Open and not having won more than a single match at an event since Miami. Riske could really provide some salary cap relief for your lineups.
Viktorija Golubic is another player that could come at a relatively cheap price and could find multiple wins for those who include her in their lineups. Andrea Petkovic in the first round is a very winnable match, with Barbora Krejcikova still struggling to find form after a lengthy injury layoff (she’s yet to win since returning at Roland Garros). Even her third round match would have her live to move on, with a likely exit in the fourth round at the hands of Swiatek. That said, if she comes in the $10 million dollar range, three to four matches played would certainly present some value.
In terms of round-by-round players to look for, let’s find one player from each draw that could very well help you find some value and allow you to include more of the top players likely to land some big scores in the early rounds.
Let’s start off with the women’s draw this time, and young Brit Jodie Anna Burrage. As a fairly sizable underdog in the opening round against Lesia Tsurenko, Burrage might be someone to look at for your lineups. The Ukrainian hasn’t set the world on fire this grass season, doesn’t possess much raw power to find cheap points and withdrew from her last tournament. Whether or not that was precautionary remains to be seen, but any lingering issue is certainly something worth opposing.
Burrage also has a decent chance in the second round if she can get past Tsurenko.
On the men’s side, Tallon Griekspoor may not be an underdog in the first round, but he’s sure to be a massive underdog in the second round should he get there against Carlos Alcaraz.
With his big serve and groundstrokes playing well on the grass, and Alcaraz’s less-than-convincing play on the grass in his career and discomfort movement-wise, Griekspoor should be a solid second-round underdog to back and save money on in your FanTeam lineups.
Thanks for reading and I look forward to seeing your names on the leaderboard.
Jon is a tennis handicapper and bettor, running a tennis betting podcast since the beginning of the 2021 tennis season. You can find his work at Tennis Betting Tidbits in any podcast app, or on Twitter at @TidbitsTennis.
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