For tennis purists who witnessed Stan Wawrinka’s incredible French Open win over Novak Djokovic, a seismic shift took place in the power of the men’s game. No longer were the ‘big four’ of Djokovic, Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Rafa impenetrable. Now players from outside this hallowed group can win a major.
It helps for Wawrinka that he has lifted a Grand Slam trophy already – the Australian Open in 2014, but with both Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal’s powers seemingly on the wane, it could be time for a new winner to announce themselves at the third Slam of the year, Wimbledon, which takes place in a matter of weeks on the green green grass of the All England Club. So who could come through from outside the main pack and do some real damage, just as 18/1 shot Wawrinka did at Roland Garros? Here are five players to keep an eye on as the grass court season hots up:
The Croat progressed to the semi finals of the 2014 Wimbledon Championships – taking care of the likes of Kei Nishikori and Nick Kyrgios along the way. He ran into an inspired Federer ultimately, but still took 12 games off the veteran in a 4-6, 4-6, 4-6 defeat.
Raonic’s game is perfectly suited to grass: he’s got a fast, accurate serve, hits the ball hard and flat and is comfortable patrolling the baseline. He’s just recovering from a foot injury at the moment that kept him out of the French Open, but he should fit and energised by the time Wimbledon comes around. His price of 33/1 is staggering value really considering his efforts last year.
The Swiss ace’s last four Grand Slam appearances record now reads quarter final, quarter final, semi final, winner after that triumph on the clay in France.
When looking for a player who can break the ‘big four’s’ spell of dominance at Wimbledon we need a player who has the confidence and belief that they can go all the way and lift the trophy. Stan the Man can. His previous best at the All England Club is a quarter final appearance last year, where he lost to Federer despite taking the opening set. But Wawrinka has a weapon in his arsenal – that powerful single-handed backhand – which has improved to the extent that it could be destructive on grass.
Now ranked number four in the world, he will now avoid bumping into the likes of Djokovic and Murray until the semi finals. And that gives the 16/1 shot every chance of progressing to the business end of the tournament.
If Stan Wawrinka opened the door for his fellow players outside of the ‘big four’ to win a major, then Marin Cilic smashed his way through it with victory at the US Open in 2014. It had been ten years since a player ranked outside the top five in the world had won at Flushing Meadows, and Cilic will be hoping to take that momentum forward to Wimbledon. He played well here last year, and it took an inspired Djokovic five sets to dispose of him the last eight.
You can get a best price of 40/1 for Cilic to lift another Grand Slam trophy at the All England Club.
He may only have a big serve, but when it gets bludgeoned towards you at 140mph from a 6ft 10in frame it’s a pretty decent weapon to have. Isner is a 100/1 shot for a reason here, but in Richard Krajicek and Goran Ivanisevic we’ve seen two long-priced Wimbledon winners with huge serves and little else to offer.
A quarter finalist at the All England Club back in 2011 as an 18-year-old, the 6ft 5in Australian has been improving steadily ever since.
He’ll be looking to make his mark in a similar vein to his compatriot Nick Kyrgios did last year, and has cruised through to the quarter finals of the Mercedes Cup, the first grass court tournament of the year. The world number 28 can be backed from 100/1.