Prospects Narrow for Wimbledon Betting

If sportsbooks are accurate-and they usually are-tennis betting fans will have fewer viable betting options than usual when the Championships, otherwise known as Wimbledon, serves up the third Major of the year in London, starting June 25. The oldest tennis tournament in the world, and the only Major played on grass, looks like a showdown between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal on the men's side, and a battle among Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Petra Kvitova in the women's bracket.

Ladies first.

Williams, who boasts four Wimbledon singles titles (2010, 2009, 2003, 2002) among her dozen Major individual titles, opened as a consensus, although there really is no consensus, 11/4 future book favorite. But Williams, who was ousted in the first round of the French Open three weeks ago, a tournament she's only won once, was favored at just eight of the 21 international books surveyed. Sharapova, 3/1, was the betting choice at five of the venues and eight other betting outlets have the two women as co-favorites.

Sharapova's victory in Paris gave her the career Grand Slam (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, US Open), something Williams also has achieved, and elevated the telegenic Russian to No. 1 in the world rankings. Sharapova won Wimbledon in 2004, at the age of 17. Sharapova and Williams have met 10 times, with Williams winning on eight occasions, including the last seven matchups, most recently in Madrid in May. They have played against each other twice at Wimbledon, Williams winning in 2010 with Sharapova prevailing in 2004. Williams also has defeated Sharapova twice at the Australian Open (2007, 2005).

Kvitova, who is ranked fourth in the world, is held at odds of 7/2. The Czech left-hander is the defending Wimbledon champion. Kvitova also reached the semifinals at Wimbledon in 2010, as well as at the first two Major events of this year, the Australian and French Opens.

Odds escalate quickly from there with Viktoria Azarenka, 6/1, the only other woman offered at less than 22/1. Azarenka, from Belarus, won this year's Australian Open and was a semifinalist at Wimbledon last year. She is ranked No. 2 in the world.

No discussion of Wimbledon women contenders can be complete without a mention of Venus Williams, a five-time singles champion on the All England Tennis Club lawn. Williams, who has been ranked No. 1 on three separate occasions but has slipped to No. 53, is held at odds 0f 25/1.

As it was in Paris, the Wimbledon men's singles championship could come down to another matchup of top ranked Djokovic and No. 2 ranked Nadal. The latter prevailed on the slow red clay at Roland Garros to earn a record seventh French Open title but Djokovic is the nominal 2/1 favorite over the much quicker English lawn. Djokovic is the favorite at nine of 21 surveyed sportsbooks with Nadal, who is listed as the tennis betting choice at six books, right behind at odds of 9/4. Another half-dozen sportsbooks have the men quoted as co-favorites. Djokovic and Nadal have met 33 times with Nadal owning a 19-14 advantage that includes a 12-2 record on clay. Absent a clay surface, Djokovic leads, 12-7.

While Djokovic failed to become the first man since Rod Laver 43 years ago to win four consecutive Grand Slam events, he's expected to get back on track in London, on the friendlier and quicker grass surface.

Should Djokovic or Nadal be upset-frankly, an injury is more probable-Roger Federer is the most likely beneficiary. A 4/1 third choice in Wimbledon tennis futures, Federer has a record 16 Grand Slam titles, including six at Wimbledon. But the Swiss champion has not won a Major since the 2010 Australian Open and, while still ranked No. 3 in the world, at age 30, seems to have lost some ground to his younger rivals.

Beyond the big three on the men's side, Andy Murray is held at odds of 13/2 to win his first Major. The Scot, ranked No. 4 in the world, has been runner-up in three Grand Slam finals: the 2008 US Open, the 2010 Australian Open and the 2011 Australian Open, losing the first two to Federer and the third to Djokovic. In 2011, Murray became only the seventh player in the Open Era to reach the semi-finals of all four Grand Slam tournaments in one year.

It's double-digits or more on anyone else with Milas Raonic, 20/1; Jo-Wilfred Tsonga and Juan Martin Del Potro each at 25/1; and Tomas Berdych listed at odds of 33/1.

If form holds, as it did at the French Open, tennis betting fans will be looking at only a handful of quality contenders to earn Wimbledon singles titles this year.