Novak Djokovic is the rightful favourite, writes Jack Houghton, but is worth opposing at short odds in a format that isn't ideal...
"Given how much pressure Osaka faces, and her documented struggles with her mental ill-health, I'd be concerned about backing her at such short odds..."
As a punter, it's easy to be over-influenced by the most recent events. Assessing the tennis at Tokyo 2020, we would be forgiven, then, for thinking that the results at Wimbledon give us a form book to follow here. As I wrote prior to the All-England Championships, though, there were significant doubts around the state of the men's grass game going into that tournament, and - Novak Djokovic aside - we shouldn't have expected the usual protagonists to be reaching the latter stages.
Those warnings proved prescient. Here, though, we're back to something more familiar, and something for which we have a reliable form book: hard courts.
Novak Djokovic is the rightful favourite, but his odds of 1.664/6 look on the short side. Part of his advantage in Grand Slams comes from his experience at sustaining his effort over two weeks, and from having superior endurance when pushed to five sets. The Olympics offers a different experience, and Djokovic will need to make sure he begins every match at full tempo.
A better bet is Daniil Medvedev at around 5.509/2. He's had his best results on hard courts and is in the kinder bottom half of the draw.
Naomi Osaka (3.90) can justifiably claim to be the best hard-court player in recent years when examining her Grand Slam record, which includes a win at the 2021 Australian Open in February. Marginally, though, she is not the best player on recent from, with Ashleigh Barty ahead on my Elo ratings. It's surprising, then, that Osaka heads the market, with Barty a more attractive-looking bet at around 6.806/1.
Those odds on Osaka are informed, no doubt, by her home advantage. Given how much pressure she faces, though, and her documented struggles with her mental ill-health, I'd be concerned about backing her at such short odds. Barty is the safer bet.
Anna van der Breggen (4.2016/5) is the dominant rider in all disciplines of women's cycling and is a solid bet to retain her Olympic title on a course that will suit.
The biggest issue for her may well be the strength of her team. The Netherlands arguably have the four best riders in the race: track and road legend Marianne Vos (10.009/1); two-time winner of the Giro Rosa, Annemiek van Vleuten (5.409/2); and Demi Vollering (24.0023/1), who won La Course this year. Quite how they will organise themselves, then, is unclear. Van der Breggen has the versatility to deal with those ambiguities, though.
Britain's best chance is Lizzie Deignan (16.0015/1), but she will need to work off other teams, only having Anna Shackley as a fellow Team GB competitor. It's unlikely Deignan will medal here.
*Odds correct at the time of writing
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Jack Houghton's Tokyo 2020 P&L:
Staked (settled bets): 2.00