Monday, July 24, 2017
Who Will Be the Next First-Time Slam Winner?
Roger Federer continued to confound expectations with an ultimately comfortable stroll to the title at Wimbledon. Despite previously appearing past his peak, Federer has recaptured his form and now looks as confident as ever on the court. Federer's revival is bad news for the younger generation seeking to break through on the biggest stages. Wimbledon saw many of the favorites fall in disappointing fashion, which would have blown it wide open if it were not for Federer. Even the somewhat surprising finalist was a Grand Slam winner in Marin Cilic.
Cilic never looked likely to overcome the Federer challenge in a match most remembered for the Croatian's tears, and it is a damning indictment of the quality across the ATP that one of the seven current players to have won a Grand Slam could pose so little threat. Even without injury, Cilic was unable to pose many problems for the evergreen Federer. The old guard have exerted a stranglehold on the game, and the oldest of them all has shown unprecedented resurgence.
Yet Federer cannot be around forever, presumably. Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal is untouchable on clay but less imposing on other surfaces. Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic look fatigued, physically and mentally, whilst Stan Wawrinka blows hot and cold. Therefore, it could well be the fitness of Federer that dictates whether we see a new Slam winner at the U.S. Open later this year.
A look at the latest tennis odds at bet365 proves that there is no outstanding candidate to challenge the established players. Those seven Slam champions are the seven favorites, with the supremely talented, but inconsistently healthy Juan Martin Del Potro bringing up the rear of the pack at +2000. Del Potro and Cilic only have one Slam title apiece, and mark the only two victories outside of the five giants of the game since 2006. Notably, both of these titles came at the U.S. Open.
Therefore, there is precedence for a shock. Milos Raonic is the shortest price of all of the contenders at +2000, but there are question marks over his ability to overcome the top players. The Canadian took down Federer in the 2016 Wimbledon semifinals on his way to a final loss to Andy Murray, and the general sentiment is that that run could be his peak. Yet with such a mighty serve, Raonic will rarely roll over easily.
However, barring a late-career improvement on the scale of Wawrinka's, the likes of Raonic, Kei Nishikori and Grigor Dimitrov are unlikely to ever surpass their achievements as troublesome foes. Nishikori was the player who Cilic defeated in the 2014 U.S. Open final in the unlikeliest of final lineups, but his fitness is often too shaky to maintain a run deep into a Grand Slam.
As a result, it will most likely be one of the young guns who breaks the traditional order. Nick Kyrgios has the game, but perhaps not the temperament or fitness. The most fancied players to break through are Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev, demonstrated by their odds of +2500 to triumph at the U.S. Open. Thiem's game is superior on the clay courts and he will most likely take victory at the French Open when Nadal lets his ridiculously high level slip.
Zverev has been tipped as a future Slam winner for a couple of years, and has all of the necessary weapons to power his way to the top. But with expectations come pressure. Zverev fell in the first round of the French Open to the mercurial Fernando Verdasco and lost a match that he should have won against Raonic at Wimbledon. The big-match mentality is still developing, unsurprisingly in someone still so young. But with such a well-rounded game, Zverev is on the cusp of something great and could be the one to break into the highest echelon of current players.