Juan Martin del Potro

Wimbledon: Federer, Kvitova highlight odds for tournament

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It’s as much about the draw as the player in a Grand Slam tournament, and Roger Federer seems to have a favorable path through the draw at Wimbledon. The Swiss great is listed as the +200 favorite on the 2017 Wimbledon men’s champion futures board at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Federer has been enjoying a renaissance this season, with an Australian Open title and a win in a Wimbledon warm-up grass-court event in Halle, Germany. Top-seeded Andy Murray (+350) will be the second favorite on the ATP tennis odds at the All England Club, while fellow high seeds Rafael Nadal (+400) and Novak Djokovic (+600) round out  the top of the board.

If Federer goes down, it might not comes at the hands of one of his Big Four counterparts – each of whom is a problematic play, by the way. Federer’s biggest threat in his quadrant of the draw is probably big-hitting 20-year-old Alexander Zverev (+2000), who’s going to win a Grand Slam title one of these days. Milos Raonic (+1400) is also there but his form and fitness have been off of late.

Murray has been contending with a hip injury and has a familiar nemesis, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (+6600), in his quarter of the draw.

Nadal, infamously, has his greatest difficulties on grass, where he’s won only 10 times since 2012. That’s why he’s the fourth seed. Hulking Marin Cilic (+1600) is the smart high-payoff pick within that quarter of the draw. He’s 1-4 lifetime against Federer (whom he could only meet in the final), but anyone who’s beaten a No. 1 player once knows it can happen again.

Djokovic has had a drop-off in his game and was blown away in the French Open quarter-finals, but he tends to come back strongly at Wimbledon when he doesn’t fare well at Roland Garros. However, he faces a potential third-round match against pesky Juan Martin del Potro (+2800). Feliciano Lopez (+10000), who won the Queen’s tune-up tournament, is also lurking.

One should keep in mind that if Federer winning seems like an inevitability, betting on semifinalists is an alternative but the prices will be shorter.

On the women’s side, Czech countrywomen Petra Kvitova (+500) and Karolina Pliskova (+550) are very close at the top of the board. Kvitova’s price is too short, especially since she is just back from recovering from a knife attack and was limited by an abdominal injury – a symptom of not being in peak condition, perhaps – at the Eastboune warm-up tournament. Pliskova, with her powerful serve, might be a better play.

Garbine Muguruza (+900) has been struggling with her confidence and Angelique Kerber (+1400) also has a mental game that’s in a shambles, while No. 2 seed Simona Halep (+2000) struggles on grass. The value plays on the WTA tennis odds are likely French Open runner-up Jelena Ostapenko (+1400) and Caroline Garcia (+6600). Garcia is in the same quadrant of the draw as Kvitova and has beaten her twice in a row.

Healthy del Potro looks to lead Argentina to first Davis Cup title

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ZAGREB, Croatia — Leaving behind two injury-hit years, Juan Martin del Potro is looking to cap his successful comeback by leading Argentina to its first Davis Cup title.

The 2009 U.S. Open champion said host Croatia is the favorite in the best-of-five series, but believes Argentina is in a strong position after losing in four Davis Cup finals since 1981.

“Croatia has a very strong team, but we are looking forward to a very good weekend,” Del Potro said. “They are playing at home on a favorite (fast indoor) surface. But, I also like fast surfaces.”

Federico Delbonis will start Argentina’s quest for the title by playing Friday’s opening singles match against Marin Cilic. Thursday’s draw also pits del Potro against big-serving Ivo Karlovic, who returned to Croatia’s team after a four-year absence.

In the doubles, the Croatian pair of Ivan Dodig and Franko Skugor will face Leonardo Mayer and Gaudio Pella. Reverse singles are scheduled for Sunday.

“If I win, it will be a bit less pressure on Ivo and a bit more pressure on Delpo,” Cilic said. “I’m feeling quite positive.”

Argentina is the only nation in the Davis Cup’s 116-year history which has reached four finals without winning the title. Croatia, targeting its second Davis Cup title after beating Slovakia in the final in 2005, will be led by an in-form Cilic, who has reached a career-best year-end ranking of No. 6.

“We are hoping that this long quest for the cup title will come to an end,” del Potro said. “This is a very different team we have since the last finals, new players, new team captain (Daniel Orsanic). Hopefully, a different result as well.”

The 37-year-old Karlovic will be the oldest player in the Davis Cup final in nearly a century. The towering Croat said he hopes to have short points and many aces in the match against del Potro.

“I will try to evade long exchanges, he is better in long points,” Karlovic said. “More aces I serve, less able Delpo will be able to win.”

Croatia team captain Zeljko Krajan had to make a last minute change to his roster, leaving youngster Borna Coric out because of his recent knee surgery. Coric was replaced by doubles specialist Skugor.

“It was a very tough decision,” Krajan said. “Unfortunately, he is not fully fit to play long matches.”

Del Potro skips French Open to focus on grass-court season

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PARIS (AP) Juan Martin del Potro will skip the French Open to focus on the grass-court season.

The former U.S. Open champion, who dropped to No. 229 in the ATP rankings while recovering from his third wrist operation, said on Twitter he will not play on the Parisian clay this month.

Del Potro returned to the tour in February after an 11-month layoff, and said he decided the “the smartest move is to start my preparation for the grass season.”

The Argentine has not played at Roland Garros since 2012, when he lost to Roger Federer in the quarterfinals.