Friday’s draw for the ladies’ singles at Wimbledon was jaw-dropping in the way it produced a loaded top quarter.

That section features defending champion Angelique Kerber, seven-time winner Serena Williams, former champions Garbine Muguruza and Maria Sharapova, and that’s before we get to top seed and title favourite Ashleigh Barty.

A strong title case could be made for most of those, at least prior to the draw, but only one will make it to the semi-finals and that means there has to be value elsewhere in the market.

My tactics will be to swerve the first quarter completely – best of luck predicting who will come through that. For what it’s worth I’d probably side with Kerber.

 

We saw at the recent French Open how wide open things can be in the women’s game and while I’d suggest that there aren’t so many potential champions on grass as there were on the Roland Garros clay, I can still see a big-priced winner, or at least finalist, emerging.

 

Pliskova looks strong

That said, I’m going to start with one of the market leaders, namely Karolina Pliskova.

With a booming serve and powerful groundstrokes, she’s long struck me as a Wimbledon champion in waiting, yet she’s regularly failed to deliver on this stage.

The fact that last year was the first time she’s made the second week in SW19 is certainly a concern but the Czech has been in outstanding form at Eastbourne this past week, demolishing her way through the field to set up a final with Kerber.

She’s already won in Brisbane and Rome this season, while back at the Australian Open she beat Serena Williams and came up just short against eventual champion Naomi Osaka in the semis.

Pliskova has landed in a decent part of the draw – the third quarter in which Elina Svitolina is nominally her main rival, although I’d be amazed were she to still be around come the quarter-finals.

Jelena Ostapenko, a player who I also considered, is also in this section but the former French Open champion was last seen limping away from Eastbourne and so a player who made the semis last year and the quarter-finals in 2017 is therefore overlooked.

When Pliskova is in the groove, like she’s been in Eastbourne this week, few can touch her and she looks worth backing at 7/1 to finally claim her maiden Grand Slam title.

 

Well-drawn Bertens offers value

From the mid-market prices, I like the look of 25/1 shot Kiki Bertens.

As those of you who read my pre-draw outsiders piece will already know, she’s another player with a big serve, a weapon which should win her plenty of cheap points on the lawns of the All England Club.

The Dutchwoman was among the favourites for the recent French Open but was forced to quit her second-round match due to an untimely illness. She’ll doubtless be looking to make up for that with a strong showing here and while clay would appear the surface on which she is most likely to succeed, Bertens has already proved she’s more than capable of grass.

Last year she beat both Venus Williams and Pliskova en route to the quarter-finals, while this past week she made the semis at Eastbourne to show she’s in decent nick.

Bertens has had no fewer than 16 top-10 wins over the past 12 months so facing the best players holds little fear.

In any case, a kind draw suggests she might not have to face many of those to reach the final.

The fourth seed heads up the second quarter in which Petra Kvitova is rated her biggest threat. However, Kvitova has been struggling with an arm injury and hasn’t played her regular warm-up events. That has to be a worry for anyone thinking of backing the two-time champion.

Bertens looks well placed to take advantage and at 25/1 is worthy of each-way support.

 

Venus rising again?

Finally, I simply can’t resist throwing some small change at the 80/1 quote about five-time winner Venus Williams.

OK, the last of those titles came back in 2008 but it was only two years ago that the elder Williams sister was in the final here and she remains a player who is truly happy on the grass – something that can’t be said about too many of the current top players.

If you wanted to know how seriously the 39-year-old is treating Wimbledon this year, you only have to note that she took the unusual step of hitting the grass early, playing in Birmingham and only losing to eventual champion and now world number one Barty.

Having beaten the likes of Kvitova and Victoria Azarenka this season, she won’t be overly concerned about landing in a fourth quarter which contains Osaka, Simona Halep and Madison Keys.

Consistency will be key if Williams is to come through this part of the draw but if it is there, then her power and grasscourt nous is capable of producing a memorable swansong to her career.

Tips:

Karolina Pliskova

Kiki Bertens Each Way

Venus Williams Each Way

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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