Last Updated: 2019-03-07
The fifth Slam? The first leg of the Sunshine Double? The biggest Master Series event? So many options with what to call this event.
It’s Indian Wells, baby!
Indian Wells and Miami are super unique events on the tour; 10 day events that are bigger than their Masters Series brethren yet, not quite Slams. Unseeded players have to play seven matches, just like a Slam. Seeded players get a bye in the first round (32 byes). This gives us a 96 player field. Just about everyone is here — the only three top 30 players who are absent are Del Potro, Chung and Gasquet, all due to injury. So, the field is loaded and motivated (over $9,000,000 in prize money up for grabs). Let’s dig in.
The courts here are on the slow side of medium and the weather can be hot (it’s in California). Tournament history suggest we’re going to see a chalk-filled final with the past fifteen winners being Del Potro, Federer (x5), Djokovic (x5), Ljubicic, and Nadal (x3). Amoung those, only Ljubicic could be considered a surprise. So, we’re looking for elite players, with solid return games, and with it being a Slam-like atmosphere of playing every other day, we’re probably also looking for someone with some Indian Wells or Slam experience.
Now for the draw.
The first quarter is naturally dominated by the Novak Djokovic. He would appear to be in near-peak form, after dominating his way to an Aussie Open title six weeks ago. If that Novak shows up, this tournament is over before it even begins. Now, saying that, the outright price looks low. At +120 pre-tournament, there is a better option. You can roll over his moneyline prices. HIs first match will be against a qualifier where he will be a massive favorite but after that Djokovic actually has a surprisingly difficult path for a #1 seed. Presuming there are minimal upsets of big-name players, Djokovic’s path could look like this: Kyrgios, Monfils, Coric/Thiem, Zverev, Federer. Those five matches should be lined in the vicinity of -250, -600, -300, -300, -250. Those five prices would pay about +275 in a parlay. So, if Djokovic is your man, maybe rollover his matches instead of taking the outright.
The biggest roadblock for Djokovic is probably the first one, Nick Kyrgios. A brief thought about Kyrgios. He is nearly impossible to bet on, as you never know which guy will show up — the guy who didn’t drop a set in winning Acapulco over Alex Zverev (and beat Nadal and Stan along the way) or the guy who loses to Radu Albot in Delray Beach. But, know this; he has beaten Djokovic both times they have played and not dropped a set in doing it. Kyrgios has four previous titles on tour and he was able to back them all up with decent showings the following week, so when he gets in a mood to play it usually lasts for a while. The rest of the quarter probably doesn’t matter — this court suits Djoker perfectly and he won it three straight times before his motivation waned and he fell apart for 18 months. He’s won the last three Slams though and other than Kyrgios there doesn’t seem to be a major impediment to him winning this event either.
The second quarter is loaded with big names and is easily the most intriguing part of the draw. Alex Zverev, Grigor Dimitrov, Alex DeMinaur, Milos Raonic, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Bautista Agut and Kevin Anderson all landed in this quarter. It’s impressive. Let’s discount some to get started. Grigor Dimitrov hasn’t played tennis in six weeks. If social media is any barometer he spent much of the past month and a half travelling around Bulgaria. Likewise, Kevin Anderson hasn’t played tennis since the Aussie Open. It’s pretty tough to find evidence of someone winning this tournament without any kind of competitive tennis between Melbourne and Indian Wells. Alex DeMinaur has Milos Raonic in his path and then Zverev. He does not match up well with Zverev at all (0–4, 3 smackdowns). And DeMinaur hasn’t fared well against the bigger hitters on tour, of which Milos certainly counts, so the Aussie is probably out. Bautista Agut routinely has these great runs to start the season and then begins to fade — he’s won events to start each of the last four seasons but he has never been past the third round in Indian Wells, so he’s out. That leaves Zverev and Tsitsipas. Both of their games can be suited to these conditions — Zverev has four clay court titles and has won on outdoor hards in Washington and Montreal; Tsitsipas has two indoor titles but, he broke out on tour in 2018 by making the clay final in Barcelona and the outdoor hard final in Toronto. These two players should thrive here and meet in the quarter-final. Seeing as Zverev is 12/1 and Tsitsipas is 33/1, the Greek seems the better option.
Roger Federer. He’s won this tournament five times and lost in the finals another four times. It’s incredible. There is a good chance he rolls through this draw and meets Novak in the final — it’s happened three times before. Seeing as Novak won all three of those contests it is best to take Federer each/way on the outright or be prepared to hedge in the final. This tweet sums up the thought process:
Kudos to the author of that tweet!
How motivated is Rafael Nadal? He’s won this event three times but since 2013 (his last title) he has lost to Roanic, Dolgopolov, Novak, been waxed by Federer and skipped it. How focused is he on the impending clay season and defending his deca-whatever at Barcelona, Rome, Madrid and Roland Garros? At 4/1 his price doesn’t seem worth it. A big number to look at here would be John Isner’s. The slower courts shouldn’t suit him yet he has had some impressive success here and his draw and price are wonderful. He’s been to the semis once and the finals once, losing to Novak and Fed respectively, and his draw this year looks like Munar, Gulbis, Khachanov/Berdych, Rafa. The first two should be winnable. Khachanov is in terrible form in 2019 and while Berdych owns a splendid head-to-head with Isner, this isn’t 2017’s Tomas Berdych. Should Rafa get upset early Isner gets roll into a semi with Federer, should he meet Rafa then 100/1 should be hedgeable somehow.
Who is kidding who? This is a chalk draw. Novak probably wins this in his sleep. Buuuuut, if you are looking for ‘value’ look for guys with big, big numbers and an easy first two rounds. If the seed in their section gets surprised you’ve got a lottery ticket. If the number is big enough, you can probably hedge and make a few dollars. Two to start with would be Taylor Fritz and Hubert Hurkacz in the top section of the third quarter. They both have winnable first two matches and then they match up with Cilic and Nishikori, respectively. Cilic may not be 100% healthy so Fritz may have a chance and Hurkacz beat Nishikori two weeks ago in Marseille. At 300/1 each these are not bad lottery tickets to throw $5 or $10 at.
You may not have heard of Ilya Ivashka. He is no tour regular. Actually, at 25 years old, he plays most of his matches on the Challenger circuit. But, he lines up two clay courters coming travelling from Brazil and the Golden Swing in his first two matches. These courts are slower, for sure, but should he be in form, Ivashka may be able to power past Andreozzi and Djere. The seed in his way is Kevin Anderson, who as mentioned above, may not be 100% healthy and hasn’t played tennis in six weeks. It’s a lottery ticket, for sure. But, at 300/1, it’s at least a fun one.
Djokovic moneyline rollover, x1u
Federer each/way, 5.5/1, 2u
Tsitsipas 33/1, x0.5u
Isner 100/1, x0.2u
Fritz 300/1, x0.1u
Hurkacz 300/1, x0.1u
Ivashka 300/1, x0.1u
Four units in. Let’s have some fun. Good luck.
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