It felt like a redundant question even after Andy Murray had won recent back-to-back grass court titles at Surbiton and Nottingham.
Yet, after his early exit from Queen’s Club – his usual Wimbledon prep tournament – the naysayers were out in force again.
However, could the Scot go deep into the latter stages of this year’s Wimbledon?
Murray the outsider
On paper, Murray going deep into the tournament at SW19 feels very unlikely.
Even if the bookmakers place the 2013 and 2016 champion somewhere close to the top 10 in the Wimbledon betting, some have him at 20/1 to lift the trophy; most around the 33/1 to 40/1 range.
Yet, despite losing at Queen’s in the First round 6-3 6-1 to eventual finalist Alex de Minaur – a defeat which has most likely cost Murray his Wimbledon seeding – there are some things in the Briton’s favour.
Defeat to the Australian was damaging to the Brit’s confidence, but was by no means terminal for his hopes going forward.
“I don’t want to overanalyse,” said Murray after defeat.
Keen to concentrate on the two titles he’s just won, which have propelled his world ranking to No.38 – the highest it has been since surgery on his hip in 2019 – Murray is on a high.
Chances on the wane
However, winning second-tier tournaments at Surbiton and Nottingham are one thing; attempting to do so against a higher calibre of opponent, Murray was again found wanting.
Indeed, that remains a common theme; the valiant Scot manfully battling in the Slams without any great success.
“It’s obviously not the same level of opponents, but I won Nottingham last week without dropping a set. I only lost one set in Surbiton,” he added after the de Minaur match.
”I was holding serve very comfortably, moving well, hitting the ball good. There are a lot of positive signs there.”
It feels somewhat closer to do-or-die for Murray this year at SW19.
A decade on from finally adding another British name to Fred Perry’s on the famous trophy after nearly 80 years of hurt, if 2023 was an ultimatum, Murray would be the footnote.
Punters can, of course, expect the relentless Novak Djokovic to dominate once more.
With many bookies having the Serb shorter than odds-on to clinch a record-equaling eighth title at the All England Club, his opposition would be right to feel a little sheepish.
If Murray does not challenge, it could though, be a new Iberian threat to take the mantle.
The Wimbledon pretender
From a Wimbledon betting point of view, the main man stopping Djokovic from matching Roger Federer’s number of titles is the young upstart, Carlos Alcaraz.
The Spaniard, at 20, has limited experience on grass and was beaten in the French Open semi-finals by Djokovic only last month.
However, on his debut visit to south-west London last term, the Murcia native showed glimpses on a largely alien surface.
Denied only by Jannik Sinner of a place in the second week, Alcaraz, after his Queens’ victory last weekend has moved up in the world.
Then, there is the not insignificant statistic of last year becoming the youngest US Open men’s winner since Pete Sampras in 1990.
Alcaraz is second favourite at 7/2 with BetUK, and it’s likely to be a straight shootout between the young pretender and veteran in Djokovic.
As if to fan the fires or rivalry, Alcaraz has already caused a stir with comments he made (or didn’t make) about Djokovic when talking about grass court greats of the past and present.
“On grass, you have to move well,” he said. “I like to watch videos of Federer, of Murray, who move best on grass.”
Despite being misquoted as having criticised Djokovic in the same interview, the needle is nevertheless there for the media to hype.
Either way, it’s clear that Alcaraz, rather than Murray, is the main hope for those wanting to see Djokovic dethroned.
Wimbledon 2023 might just see the first new name on the trophy since Murray’s 2013 triumph.
Selected Wimbledon men’s outright odds:
Novak Djokovic – 8/11
Carlos Alcaraz – 5/1
Daniil Medvedev – 10/1
Jannik Sinner – 14/1
Nick Kyrgios – 22/1
Andy Murray – 33/1