Roger Federer may be the best tennis player of all time. His 17 major titles are three more than his nearest competition, and he achieved “the greatest” label during perhaps the best era in his sport. (All-time greats Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic rank second and fourth in most major titles, and Federer has had to contend with one or both of them for most of his career.)
A couple months shy of his 35th birthday, Federer is currently seeking a record ninth Wimbledon title.
He won’t achieve it, and there is money to be made betting against him.
On Monday, Federer beat Guido Pella (7-6, 7-6, 6-3). He looked a little sluggish, but outclassed a much lesser opponent. It was a typical early round match for the Federer of the last few years: unimpressive, but good enough.
He’ll face Marcus Willis, ranked 772nd in the world, next. To the shock of nobody, Federer will be in the third round. That’s when things could get interesting.
Federer hasn’t won a grand slam in his last 14 appearances. (Wimbledon 2012 was his last triumph.) Since then, he’s reached three finals, four more semifinals, and another three quarters. He also has some earlier exits, twice getting ousted in the fourth round, once in the third, and once in the second. In other words, he has been equally as likely to bow out in the quarters or earlier as reach the semis.
If seeds hold, Federer will face Alexandr Dolgopolov in the third round. They have met three times before, and Federer has won each meeting, including a straight set triumph at the Australian Open. All three matches have been on hard courts. Dolgopolov has never made it out of the third round at Wimbledon, and wasn’t dominating in a four-set win over Evgeny Donskoy on Monday. There are not a lot of great reasons to back Dolgopolov, but my strategy is to fade Fed and, at a huge price, I’ll be making a small play on the Ukrainian.
After Gael Monfils was beaten on Monday, the most likely fourth round opponent for Federer is Gilles Simon, who reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon last year. Federer is 6-2 all time against Simon and 1-0 on grass. Simon faces upstart Grigor Dimitrov, sometimes called “Baby Fed,” in the second round. Dimitrov reached the semis at Wimbledon in 2014. While Federer is 5-0 against Dimitrov, they have never met on grass, and their matches have become increasingly competitive. Both Simon and Dimitrov would be big dogs against Federer, and again, I will make a fairly small play against the GOAT.
In the quarterfinals, Federer could see Kei Nishikori, Milos Raonic, or Marin Cilic. This is the stage where a still highly favored Federer is most likely to lose.
Nishikori has reached just one major final, but he has been in three quarterfinals in the last six majors. He’s 2-4 against Federer and 0-1 on grass.
Raonic has all the credentials to beat Federer. He’s a big server (27 aces in his first match this year) and made the semis at the All England Club two years ago. While he’s 2-9 against Federer, he won fairly easily in their only meeting this year. He also has played well against Federer in two losses on grass.
As for Cilic, he lost his first five matches to Federer, but won the most recent. He’s been in the quarters of Wimbledon in two straight years.
Federer will be a favorite against any of this trio. But, in reality, he isn’t playing particularly well, and any top-ten player is probably 50/50 or better to beat him. He is aging and is ripe for an upset at a big price.
(Photo credit: Squeaky Knees [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)