Murray looking good but Nadal is an eye-catching price

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Andy Murray took the decision to swerve this year’s French Open in order to recover from a niggling back injury and ensure he was in top condition for Wimbledon.

And with his preparations on grass going according to plan – he won the Aegon Championship at the Queen’s Club at the weekend – it looks like the Scot made the right call.

The world number two was beaten in the final at SW19 last year but is 10/3 at BetVictor to go one better this time around while defending champion Roger Federer is perhaps now considered to be something of a fading force and is available at as high as 6/1 via Stan James to retain his title.

Novak Djokovic, who succumbed to the Swiss ace in the semi-final a year ago, commands favouritism at 15/8 with Skybet and he will certainly take some beating given that the world number one’s last 10 Grand Slam events have produced five victories, another two final appearances and three semi-final defeats.

However, Rafael Nadal demonstrated in his French Open success at Roland Garros, albeit on his favourite surface, that he is back in form and Paddy Power’s 7/2 marked against the Spaniard is arguably the most eye-catching outright price ahead of what should be one of the toughest to predict renewals in years.

The 27-year-old has prevailed twice on Wimbledon’s grass, in 2008 and 2010 and although his early exit last year combined with a seven-month injury lay-off means he will only be seeded fifth, meaning he’ll have to do it the hard way, Nadal’s 43 wins in 45 matches since regaining his fitness suggest he can be a match for anybody on Centre Court.

In the women’s event it’s not surprising to see Serena Williams odds-on at 4/7 courtesy of Ladbrokes to defend her title after she was so dominant recently in the French Open.

The American simply overpowered her opponents in Paris and if she can replicate that kind of form, she will be unstoppable at SW19, where she is already a five-time champion.

Stan James believe 2004 victor Maria Sharapova, at 6/1, is Williams’ main challenger having lost to the number one seed in the final at Roland Garros while second seed Victoria Azarenka is a 7/1 shot (BetVictor) and bet365 post 12/1 against Petra Kvitova in what bookies seemingly consider a four-horse race.

Despite their unexpected midweek defeat, the first of the tour, the British & Irish Lions head into tomorrow’s (Saturday) opening contest against Australia priced as Stan James’s 4/6 favourites to go 1-0 up in the three Test series.

Pubs across the UK are offering a range of early morning ‘bacon bap and a pint’ deals in anticipation of welcoming large numbers of rugby fans for the match which kicks off at 11am, yet it’s unusual to see the Aussies priced as underdogs (they’re 6/5 with in any sport, never mind one played on their home turf.

Few punters expect a high-scoring affair, a sensible conclusion which explains the popularity of Paddy Power’s 5/6 for the Test to yield fewer than 42.5 points – the same firm chalks 8/15 about the match producing fewer than 4.5 tries.

Elsewhere, Ladbrokes post a generous-looking 6/4 against the Lions winning by between 1-12 points and bet365 post even money about a Lions victory when they kick off with a four-point deficit.

Bet365 consider the chances of the game’s first scoring play being a Lions try as a 5/1 shot, while William Hill post 4/5 about the Lions registering the Test’s opening score.

Next season’s football fixtures are already out and rarely ones to miss a trick, the bookmakers have already priced up the first few rounds of Premier League matches.

Manchester United begin the defence of their title at Swansea’s Liberty Stadium and new boss David Moyes is odds-on at 8/11 with BetVictor to make a winning start as manager of the champions.

Also starting with a new man at the helm are Manchester City, who are 3/10 via Stan James to begin the Manuel Pellegrini era by seeing off Newcastle at the Etihad Stadium while Jose Mourinho is 1/5 (bet365) to mark his return to Chelsea by overseeing a victory against newly-promoted Hull at Stamford Bridge.

Elsewhere, Paddy Power post 4/5 against Spurs as they tackle top flight new boys Crystal Palace, Stan James go 2/5 about an Arsenal triumph at home to Aston Villa and Ladbrokes quote Liverpool at 1/2 to send Stoke home empty-handed in what seems like an opening weekend full of potential bankers.

Bet of the week: Rafael Nadal to win Wimbledon – 7/2 (Paddy Power).

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