The tennis tournament at the Rio Olympics hasn’t suffered from the mass exodus that hit the golf, but it’s still going to be missing a few big names. Recent Wimbledon runner-up Milos Raonic (Canada) has withdrawn, citing Zika concerns, as has world no. 5 Simona Halep (Romania).
But the best in the world, on both the men’s and women’s side, will be in Brazil hoping to serve up gold on the hardcourts at the aptly named Olympic Tennis Center (August 6-17).
Let’s take a look at the odds and scrutinize the favorites.
Odds to Win Gold at the 2016 Olympics
Novak Djokovic: 6/5
Andy Murray: 3/1
Roger Federer: 7/1
If someone other than Djokovic, Murray, or Federer wins, it’s going to be a massive surprise. Actually, if someone other than Djokovic or Murray wins, it’s going to be a massive surprise. Federer can still look like his old, dominant self at times, but can’t string together an entire tournament’s worth of A-1 matches.
Djokovic won the first two majors of 2016, beating Murray in the finals of both the Australian and French Open. He was shockingly ousted by Sam Querrey at Wimbledon, but that just gave Murray the chance to show how big the gap is between the top two players in the world and everyone else. Murray romped to victory at the All-England Club, beating Raonic in straight sets in the final after dispatching of Tomas Berdych in straight sets in the semis. He also won the 2012 Olympic title, though that was back home in Great Britain.
If you want to pick someone from the field, Marin Cilic is one to consider. The hard-serving Croatian won the US Open in 2014, which is played on a similar surface. Don’t bother with the lighter-serving players, like Kei Nishikori (Japan) and David Goffin (Belgium). Their games aren’t suited to the setting.
Pick: Djokovic is the deserving favorite. He’s the best in the world by a decent margin. That said, he showed cracks at Wimbledon and the fast surface of the Olympics isn’t perfect for his style of play. I’ll roll with Murray, who already has a gold under his belt, to sweep in and take another.
Serena Williams: 1/1
Angelique Kerber: 8/1
Garbine Muguruza: 8/1
Victoria Azarenka: 10/1
It’s hard to be bigger chalk than Novak Djokovic these days, but his Wimbledon stumble coupled with Serena Williams’ grass-court domination has her at even money to win the Olympic tournament. Even though she lost the 2016 Aussie and French Open finals, Serena continues to stake her claim to the title of best women’s tennis player of all time. She’s too big and too powerful for anyone to compete with her on a regular basis.
Helping Serena achieve her best-ever status is the fact that no one else on the WTA has played with any consistency over the last couple years. Serena has been in seven of the last eight major finals. The other nine spots in those finals have been filled by seven different women. Only Muguruza and Kerber have reached more than one.
If one player is finally going to buck the trend, Kerber is the best bet. She beat Serena in Melbourne this year and reached the finals at Wimbledon. But those were the first two major finals of her career. And standing just 5’8, she’ll have a very tough time keeping up with Serena’s booming serve and overpowering groundstrokes on the hardcourts of Brazil.
Pick: Serena’s game is perfectly tailored to the surface. It’s hard to stomach 1/1 odds in any tennis tournament, but you look at the draw and tell me where she bows out. If Zika doesn’t get her, nothing will. Oh, she won the gold in 2012, too.
(Photo credit: globalite [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)