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ESPN Sports Betting’s Bearman, Analyst Gilbert Explain Handicapping A Wide-Open Wimbledon

For various reasons, both the Gentlemen's and Ladies' fields are wide open. How do Daily Wager's experts see Serena Williams and other stars faring?

SLIDESHOW ABOVE: Since ESPN’s first year in SW19 (All England Tennis Club’s postal code), 2003, 15 times the men’s winner was either the favorite or the second choice. Meanwhile, for the women (next slide), the champion came from those slots only six times while there were seven occasions where the victor was outside the top five. (ESPN SIG)

One of sports’ truly special events, The Championships, Wimbledon, began this morning, and ESPN once again is presenting daily marathon telecasts from the suburbs of London while every match not on linear can be seen on either ESPN+ or ESPN3. This weekend, ABC has its first-ever live coverage from the prestigious tournament.

For various reasons – including injuries, retirements, and Wimbledon’s ban on players from Russia and Belarus – both the Gentlemen’s and Ladies’ fields are wide open. Few in the field have much of a track record there. Trying to forecast who will still be playing deep into the second week is a tough task.

Dennis Renno (L), a content producer who works on “Daily Wager,” and David Bearman. (David Bearman, ESPN)

Even the two top seeds – three-time defending champion Novak Djokovic and Iga Swiatek, respectively – are no sure things. He’s had a rocky road since losing the US Open final (and a Grand Slam for 2021), and she is only 3-2 in two appearances on the grass courts in London.

Then there’s Serena Williams and her remarkable 98-13 record with seven trophies in SW19. But how do handicappers gauge her chances at 40 and without match experience since being injured in the first round of Wimbledon 52 weeks ago?

“We use Caesars [Sports Book] and they have Serena at 16-1, which tells you they think she’s good enough to win, but they don’t think she will,” explains David Bearman, deputy editor who oversees ESPN.com/chalk. “Others have her at 18-1 or even 24-1.”

“It’s a balancing act,” he continues. “When she’s at her top, she’s been 2-1 to 4-1. But they can’t justify that this year. But they can’t give her too long of odds. What if she wins? They’d take a bath.”

After the favorite, Swiatek, who flew to London riding a 35-match winning streak, there’s a big drop off to the rest of the field.

“Coco Gauff is the second favorite, but she’s way down at 10-1, then there’s everyone else,” says Bearman.

For tennis expertise, ESPN’s sports betting news and information television program Daily Wager, which Bearman works with extensively, depends on Brad Gilbert. “BG” is the former pro and successful coach who has been with ESPN for 18 years. He makes frequent appearances from the Majors or from his home.

“On clay at the French Open, Iga was a big favorite, but here it’s wide open,” says Gilbert, once No. 4 in the world. “On the men’s side, if you don’t think ‘Djoker’ will win, take a flyer on three to five guys. Bet on an unseeded guy to reach the semis.

“Look for players with a good history on grass since the Club no longer adjusts the rankings for grass-court success in making the seeds,” he advises.

Serena Williams. seen here competing in the 2019 Wimbledon Championships, returns to the play Tuesday on ESPN.
(Scott Clarke/ESPN Images)

Explaining Gilbert’s Unreal Memory and Knowledge

Brad Gilbert (L) interviews Roger Federer in 2014 during the 134th staging of the US Open.(Scott Clarke/ESPN Images)

Watching ESPN’s exclusive live coverage of Wimbledon, you will be amazed at Gilbert’s uncanny ability to recall precise details of matches and players many years ago, as well as his familiarity with today’s athletes. In fact, Jamie Reynolds, Vice President, Production who has overseen ESPN’s tennis portfolio for many years, calls Brad “a tennis savant.”

How does he do it?

“You know what’s funny about the brain?” Gilbert asks. “Stuff is stored there you don’t know is stored there. But when I’m asked a question, bang, I’ve got it.”

What’s the secret to his memory?

“For my generation, Google was the Encyclopedia Britannica,” the 60-year-old states. “You had to remember things. Now, nobody knows any phone numbers.”

And how does he stay on top of today’s game?

“I do my homework,” he declares. “I go to YouTube. I watch a lot of TV. Doing the qualies [qualifiers] in recent years at the US Open, I see lots of young players. I study players as if I were still coaching.”

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