Murray can end 77 years of British pain at Wimbledon

THE GREATEST tennis tournament in the calendar comes hot on the heels of the finest flat racing meeting of the year and the cameras will flick from the lush grass at Royal Ascot to the trimmed lawns of Wimbledon on Monday for the start of the third Grand Slam of 2013.

Unsurprisingly, Novak Djokovic, the defending champion and world number one, heads the men’s betting at around the 7/4 mark. The Serbian started the season by clinching a record third successive Australian Open and has claimed titles in Dubai and Monte Carlo since.

That stunning straight sets win over Rafael Nadal in the final of the latter was particularly impressive considering the Spaniard had won the last eight tournaments there. But the clay king had his revenge in the French Open semi-final earlier this month on his way to making history by becoming the first man to lift the same Slam eight times.

There’s already been criticism of Nadal’s seeding – he’s only fifth – and that means he will be a dangerous floater in the draw for the likes of Andy Murray, Roger Federer and, of course, Djokovic. Nadal has two titles here and has been a beaten finalist three times, so it’s something of a mystery to see David Ferrer, who has never been past the quarters, ranked above him.

There’s little doubt Nadal will be a tough nut for anyone to crack but I’m happy to swerve him at 7/2 with Paddy Power. He’s had a long season already for someone who suffers with serious knees problems and I would fancy both Murray and Djokovic to beat him back on grass.

A lot of people will see the 7/4 on Djokovic as a fair price but I disagree. Aside from the Australian Open, that Masters title in Monaco is the only other big competition he’s won this season and he’s suffered surprising defeats to Grigor Dimitrov, veteran Tommy Haas and Tomas Berdych already.

Add in the fact the 26-year-old has won only one of the last five majors and he looks opposable.

Seven-time champion Federer is 31 now and his powers look on the wane. He landed his first tournament since August 2012 at Halle last week but has struggled against the elite of late.

Murray broke his Slam duck last season at Flushing Meadows and I’m confident he can pick up his second here and banish the memories of last year’s defeat to Federer in the final.

Mentally the Scot has improved leaps and bounds under the coaching of Ivan Lendl and Olympic gold on centre court will have done his confidence the world of good. After missing Roland Garros with an injury setback he proved his well-being by winning his third Queen’s last week.

He has outstanding claims and at 7/2 with Paddy Power is the selection to become the first British male since Fred Perry in 1936 to lift the trophy.

In the ladies’ singles it’s impossible to look past Serena Williams who, at 31, is playing better than ever. The powerful American looks nailed on for a sixth Wimbledon title at as short as 1/2.

■ Pointers…
Andy Murray at 7/2 with Paddy Power