Only four players since 2003 have won the men’s side of Wimbledon and lifted arguably the most coveted trophy in the sport, making it increasingly difficult to find merit in the sleepers’ market.
Wimbledon betting odds don’t identify sleepers nor define what constitutes one. The subjective nomenclature leaves some room for interpretation. A sleeper pick isn’t a favorite or long shot, but someone nestled nicely in the middle.
Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray have dominated the All England Club for almost two decades, with the three all-time greats securing 18 of the last 20 titles. Murray, the fourth of the quartet, is a two-time winner.
It’s a staggering display of dominance rarely seen in sport. Even Lleyton Hewitt, who won Wimbledon in 2002, was ranked No.1 in the world when he triumphed.
The old adage anything is possible, where underdogs, long shots, or sleepers are concerned, gets put on a two-week hold every time Wimbledon gets underway.
Goran Ivanišević, in 2001, was the last long shot to win Wimbledon. The Croatian, ranked 125th going into the tournament, was a 30-year-old afterthought who only qualified for the tournament after finishing second on three previous occasions.
Twenty-one years later, his fairy-tale run still proves that anything is possible at Wimbledon. Ivanišević’s storied Wimbledon triumph to this day provides hope for every underdog, long shot, sleeper, has-been, and never-was entering play at the All England Club’s hallowed grounds.
So before counting everyone but Djokovic and Nadal out, remember the 125th-ranked Croatian’s unprecedented, heroic tale of 2001.
Here are three sleepers, though not overlooked quite to the extent Ivanišević was, who have a chance to once again make people believe that anything is possible for underdogs at Wimbledon.
Casper Ruud (+8000)
At Wimbledon, Casper Ruud is a paradox.
The 23-year-old is ranked sixth in the world and third at Wimbledon, yet, according to Wimbledon betting odds, is an outrageously long +8000 to win. There is a method to the long shot madness, mostly revolving around Ruud’s overt lack of grass-court experience.
Ruud, who won his first-round match Monday, improved to 3-3 on grass since turning pro. This is his third Wimbledon appearance, the first two ending in the opening round. He was able to end that unenviable streak in his straight sets win against Albert Ramos-Vinolas on Day 1.
Recently, Ruud became the first Norwegian to make the French Open final, where he succumbed in straight sets to Nadal, the undisputed-in-perpetuity master of clay. Like Nadal, his idol and mentor, Ruud is a clay-court specialist. Seven of his eight ATP titles have come on the surface, made famous by Roland Garros. The other, a hard-court triumph in San Diego, occurred during the 2021 season.
The 10th favorite at Wimbledon has a favorable draw, especially after Hubert Hurkacz, the World No. 10, was eliminated on Day 1. Cameron Norrie, ranked 9th at Wimbledon, is the highest seed he’ll have to face before a potential semifinal date against three-time defending champion Djokovic.
While there’s a lot to suggest he isn’t ready to win Wimbledon – including his excessively long +8000 odds – there’s also enough evidence to support backing him as a sleeper.
Félix Auger-Aliassime (+1600)
According to Wimbledon odds, Felix Auger-Aliassime is the fourth favorite. However, don’t let those odds confuse the fact that he is still a sleeper pick. The world’s No. 9-ranked player (No. 6 at Wimbledon) has only won a single ATP Tour title and has never advanced to the semifinal of a major.
The Canadian has a respectable 30-15 record in the current campaign and has the skill set – including an excellent serve and ability to hit deep, penetrating groundstrokes – to concern most players. However, his lack of winning pedigree places him as an outsider at Wimbledon, despite what his +1600 odds suggest.
A strong case can still be made to back the 21-year-old. At last year’s tournament, only his second Wimbledon appearance, Auger-Aliassime advanced to the quarterfinals where he lost to Hurkacz.
In late May, Auger-Aliassime became only the third player to force Nadal to a decisive fifth set at Roland Garros. Eventually losing in that epic fourth-round match, Auger-Aliassime also got the better of Nadal at the Hurlingham Club preceding Wimbledon, albeit in a meaningless exhibition event.
If the draw pans out the way many expect, Auger-Aliassime will face Nadal in the quarterfinals. If he somehow vanquishes the 22-time Grand Slam champion, he might come across last year’s finalist Matteo Berrettini in the semifinal before potentially going up against Djokovic in the final.
There are a lot of weird happenings in the critically acclaimed Netflix show Stranger Things, all of which would pale in comparison to seeing Auger-Aliassime conquer center court come the final on Sunday.
Then again, stranger things have happened. Just ask Ivanišević.
Stefanos Tsitsipas (+2200)
Stefanos Tsitsipas has a dreadful record at the All England Club, including three first-round exits in four attempts. The other was a fourth-round exit in 2018. Ranked No. 4 for Wimbledon and fifth in the world, Tsitsipas is looking to have a career-defining tournament.
He won the Mallorca Open, his ninth ATP title, prior to Wimbledon. Tsitsipas beat Roberto Bautista Agut in the three-set final to claim his first grass-court title. The final of the Mallorca Open occurred on Saturday, June 25, just four days before his opening round match at Wimbledon, a contest against Swiss qualifier Alexander Ritschard.
It’s an incredibly short turnaround, but Tsitsipas will be hoping the momentum he gained from winning in Spain will spill onto Wimbledon’s lush courts.
If everything goes according to the Greek’s plan, he will square off against Berrettini in the quarterfinals before facing Nadal or fellow sleeper Auger-Aliassime in the semifinal.
Tsitsipas will have to surpass his best-ever Grand Slam result, a second-place finish at the 2021 French Open, to achieve his lifelong dream of winning Wimbledon.
Though an unlikely outcome, Tsitsipas enters the tournament on a high and doesn’t have to worry about the prospect of coming across a former champion until the semifinals.
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