Wimbledon 2021 starts today with 32 first-round men's singles matches on the schedule. Dan Weston previews the pick of the action and picks his best bet...
"Last week's narrow loss at Eastbourne against Max Purcell is an interesting reference point. For that defeat, Monfils was priced up at around 1.454/9 versus an opponent who isn't massively worse than O'Connell, and we get over 50 ticks bigger today."
Rain could affect opening day at SW19
Day one of a Grand Slam is always a tricky proposition, with a number of players coming into the tournament with questionable preparation, but day one of this year's Wimbledon is even tougher, given the lack of recent usable grass court data on all the players on tour. On day two, when the other 32 first-round matches take place, we'll face the same issue.
Another hurdle which we may have to overcome is the traditional British weather. According to forecasts, there is around a 70% chance of rain for most of today and while a few matches will be able to be completed on the courts which have a roof, this could have a problematic effect on the majority of the schedule.
It is difficult to be overly confident about value spots today, but I'll give some thoughts on where I think the best spots lie - with the obvious caveat that we have little idea of the grass court level of most players on the tour given that they haven't played much on the surface since 2019.
Monfils potential value for O'Connell clash
It could be a trap but the price that stands out to me is Gael Monfils at 1.9310/11 for his match with qualifier Chris O'Connell. Despite having won just two matches this year, Monfils is still ranked top 20 - the lucky beneficiary of longer-term ranking rules which were brought in last summer - but if we look at his losses, they were either tight matches including several final set tiebreaks or defeats against decent opposition.
Last week's narrow loss at Eastbourne against Max Purcell is an interesting reference point. For that defeat, Monfils was priced up at around 1.454/9 versus an opponent who isn't massively worse than O'Connell, and we get almost 50 ticks bigger today.
Yes, Monfils is in bad form this year but the likes of O'Connell and Purcell aren't main tour regulars and the drop-down in opponent quality has the potential to help Monfils kick-start his season.
Vesely and Gerasimov should get the job done as favourites
A few favourites around the 1.608/13 mark look reasonable value as well, including Jiri Vesely at 1.625/8 for his match with Yannick Hanfmann, and Egor Gerasimov at a slightly shorter price of 1.4840/85 for his match against the British wild-card, Jay Clarke.
As for underdogs, Pedro Martinez Portero looks under-rated by the market at 4.2016/5 for his match with Stefano Travaglia, who really is nothing special at this level, while Bernabe Zapata Miralles could quite conceivably eliminate seeded opposition in Christian Garin, who tends to do his best work in slower conditions.
Murray makes long-awaited return to Wimbledon
We also see a number of big names in action, including Novak Djokovic, who faces the British wild-card Jack Draper, and also Andrey Rublev who takes on the Argentine clay-courter, Federico Delbonis. Both are priced below the 1.101/10 mark, while Stefanos Tsitsipas could have got an easier first-round draw than Frances Tiafoe, and could be more vulnerable for a shock at 1.192/11.
Finally, Andy Murray returns to Wimbledon today with what looks like a roughly even-money clash with Nikoloz Basilashvili. I make the Georgian a slight favourite - both have mediocre data over the last year or so - but I'm sure all the neutrals will be in favour of Murray at 2.0621/20 today.
Follow Dan on Twitter @TennisRatings
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