Indian Wells 2021

Tennis is BACK in Indian Wells. It has been a long time coming, after the 2020 edition was cancelled in the days leading up to the tournament, and the 2021 edition was delayed from March until October.

With some of the big names missing, there is a massive opportunity for players to solidify or rise up the rankings. Conditions are forecast to be hot early, so it is worth checking the weather day to day before placing your wagers.

If you have any questions during the tournament, don’t hesitate to get in touch on Twitter. Enjoy the week and a half!

Quarter 1 seeds

Karolina Pliskova – I must say, it is a little strange seeing Karolina Pliskova as the top seed in such a large tournament. It has been a different Pliskova since the start of Wimbledon. After falling outside the Top 10 in the lead up to Wimbledon, her record since that point has included a Wimbledon Final, Olympics 3rd round (on the quick back-up from Wimbledon), Cincinnati semi final and the US Open quarter final. She holds an 18-8 career record at Indian Wells, and it will be interesting to see how she starts here as the top seed. Not a massive fan of the heat and slower court combination for Pliskova, so I will sit out of her price pre-tournament for now. If she looks strong in the early rounds, I may look to make a play if the cooler weather forecast for mid next week remains, given her draw.

Nadia Podoroska – Enjoys a first round bye as the number 29 seed. Although the temperature and conditions aren’t the worst for her, I don’t see her recent hardcourt form enticing enough for mine. If she makes the third round, she will be a good test for Pliskova.

Anett Kontaveit – After a year that has been largely filled with her best performances coming in the weeks before grand slams, Kontaveit was able to pull off an impressive run to the Ostrava title a couple of weeks ago. She didn’t drop a set, with wins over Cirstea, Badosa, Bencic, Kvitova and Sakkari on her way to the title. Like a couple of the other players in this draw that I will touch on, I feel she might be ever so slightly under the odds given the performances of that week. Likely to have a tough first match against Bouzkova, then potentially Andreescu in round 3. I think I am comfortable sitting her out at the current price.

Bianca Andreescu – Hard to gauge in this section, and part of why I haven’t found my way into too much liability pre-tournament. We know what her best level can be, however, given her injury history, the further away she is in the draw, the less of an impact her unknown becomes.

Ons Jabeur – Whilst she has shown some improvements in terms of playing and handling playing in the heat over the last 12 months, I don’t think I can quite justify her current pricing in the outright markets. I’d have rather seen her name fall in a different section of the draw, as Danielle Collins is a tough first seed to face looking at the projected draws. Whilst her first serve percentages have improved of late, I would need to see a pre-tournament price north of $26 to be interested. If Collins loses early, I may look to jump in for a trading spot.

Danielle Collins – Her body of work over the course of the North American hardcourt swing has been impressive. After winning a clay title in Palermo, Collins backed it up with the San Jose title a couple of weeks later and has wins over the likes of Halep, Pegula and Mertens. Her performances in recent years in warm conditions lead me to think she can handle what Indian Wells throws her way this week, and her style isn’t all that unsuited to the seeds she may encounter in this quarter of the draw. One to watch from a trading standpoint first up.

Sara Sorribes Tormo – I don’t think the long-term outdoor hardcourt form is enough to convince me of any type of trading stake here on the Spaniard. Maybe a win over Maria Sakkari in round 3 would sway my opinion. Conditions should suit, however, needs too many good players to struggle to consider for mine.

Maria Sakkari – Another very interesting prospect. Her rise over the years to become a top 10 player has been very impressive, as has her ability to switch to a more aggressive style of play this year. I have high hopes for her in terms of her continued progression in the years ahead, and the experiences she has gained over the course of 2021 will be huge in terms of that continued development. For what would likely be a trading spot, I would need just a slightly higher outright price to consider jumping in now. I will monitor her in the days ahead and make a call as to whether to jump in, perhaps if she makes her way out of this eighth instead of Sakkari/Jabeur.


Quarter 2 Seeds

Barbora Krejcikova – Last seen at the US Open causing some controversy against Garbine Muguruza, before dropping her quarter final to Aryna Sabalenka. Whilst it has been an incredible year for the Czech, I do wonder whether the volume of tennis this year, across singles and to a lesser extent doubles, is going to lead to a potential dip here late in the season. It wouldn’t be a shock to me; however, I am sure she will have benefited from at least having the last month off. This looks to be a very competitive quarter of the draw, and whilst I don’t anticipate trouble for her early in the draw, I do have her outright price a little longer than current quotes. One to monitor, and one I would forgive for a below-expected performance.

Camila Giorgi – I think the bus has been missed for catching Giorgi at a large price in such a tournament, as she ran through the field to win the title on Montreal in August. Too erratic to take on the outright, so I will instead monitor her match to match. Hard to gauge.

Paula Badosa – Another who has played a relatively heavy schedule in 2021, with 50 matches played. Whilst the year started with a rollercoaster in Melbourne due to COVID, she has certainly displayed a consistent level across the last couple of months across all surfaces. Injury impacted her US Open lead-up and losses in straight sets to Gracheva at the US Open and Anett Kontaveit in Ostrava. I won’t be actively opposing her early and may wait to see how that round 2 match with (most likely) Dayana Yastremska before jumping in to trade here.

Coco Gauff – I don’t think the recent form is enough for me to consider her in the outrights here, as I was hoping for a price north of $35 to consider trading. Much like Krejcikova and Badosa above, each player knocks the value of the others. If a path opens and a value price appears, I won’t mind trading.

Angelique Kerber – The German has showed some improved consistency since the start of the grass season, however, is it enough to trust her in the outrights here in Indian Wells. Her Top 20 scalps (that have not been due to injury) of late have come against less powerful opposition, and I do feel as though there may be an element of vulnerability here against a player with the style of a Muguruza or even Krejcikova/Badosa.

Daria Kasatkina – Over the years I have found myself drawn into Daria Kasatkina too many times unsuccessful, however, she presents as an intriguing prospect here. The conditions in Indian Wells look to be incredibly well suited to her, however, her success is likely to depend on her opponents producing a level below their best – something which becomes more difficult as she edges closer towards the final and comes up against players in form. Prefer to get involved here in particular matchups, and I am anticipating some value spots coming up in her first match or two at the game handicap.

Tamara Zidansek – This looks a little too tough, even though the slower conditions appeal.

Garbine Muguruza – Rounded into some solid form since Wimbledon. A selective schedule appears to be paying off for the Spaniard after injuries impacted her 2021. The silver lining here is she should be fresher than some players who have had a busier season, having played only 10 matches over the last 2 and a bit months. She is 30-9 on hardcourts across the last 12 months, with losses to Sakkari, Barty, Osaka, Kvitova, Andreescu, Rybakina, Siniakova, and Krejcikova. One to watch.


Quarter 3 Seeds

Petra Kvitova – It is very hard to find appeal in the price of Petra Kvitova here, especially when you consider her comments in recent days. Kvitova has made the decision to wrap up her 2021 season after Indian Wells citing fatigue. With hot conditions in the desert this week, it is hard to jump into her price. I will watch her early and may consider her mid-tournament if she is still in the tournament and the weather conditions look a little friendlier.

Victoria Azarenka – A player who has withdrawn from tournaments when I have backed her often in recent times. Prefer match to match as a result.

Emma Raducanu – The tournament favourite. Yes, you read that correctly, the tournament favourite. It would be an exceptional effort to back up from the US Open and just rattle off another title in Indian Wells. Whilst it may in fact happen, her outright odds as the favourite for the tournament have me looking elsewhere. I would love to see her battle against Simona Halep in a potential third round. Recency bias looks to be on show here for mine.

Simona Halep – Newly married in her personal life, and newly separated from her tennis coach in the tennis world. Whilst 2021 has been marred by injury and form issues on the court, her price here is on the intriguing side. Given the pre-tournament pricing I am anticipating a value price on her in the third round against Raducanu were they to meet, so as she is another player who has found injuries multiple times this year when backing her outrights, I will look match to match.

Elise Mertens – Form hasn’t been at the level to entertain in such a tournament, especially given the competitive nature of this section. She would need her form to turn around significantly to be a threat.

Jessica Pegula – One of the intriguing players in the draw, especially in this pocket with Mertens, Svitolina and Cirstea. Another player with north of 50 tour matches for the season, however, has only played three matches in the last month. I am happy to overlook the outlier low first percentage against Jabeur in Chicago last week and consider her a decent price to trade in this pocket of the draw.

Sorana Cirstea – Should enjoy the conditions, however, I don’t think her recent form is enough to warrant outright consideration.

Elina Svitolina – Top-ranked player in this section of the draw, thanks to a couple of top names missing this week. Her form has been solid since the Tokyo Olympics; however, she lacks recent wins over top names on her CV. As a result, it is hard to find appeal in her outright price. Pegula looms as a threat early.


Quarter 4 Seeds

Belinda Bencic – The form is there, but there are fitness question marks based on her injury against Rybakina last week. I need to see her on court before considering her in any capacity.

Jil Teichmann – Flies under the radar and looks to be suited by the conditions. She is the type of player that would benefit from a Bencic withdrawal, however, the likes of Rybakina/Swiatek are likely to be a touch too good in these conditions on recent form. Won’t be opposing, but don’t like her odds either.

Leylah Fernandez – Like Raducanu, we aren’t exactly getting an appealing price here. The form is impressive; however, I do feel in these slower, hotter conditions she is likely to be overpowered at some stage. To consider the price value you need to throw all your eggs in the basket of one recent tournament performance, and that isn’t something I plan on doing.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova – A tricky floater in the draw and presents as a tough opponent for anyone in this eighth of the draw. Find it difficult to confidently see her making it out of this quarter, so I am happy to pass.

Elena Rybakina – Another with a busy year on tour, however, is a very intriguing name at odds north of $20. This looks to be a big-hitting section, and I don’t think the recent form of Ostapenko can sway me from taking a small position on Rybakina this week. My one concern? She retired last week in Chicago, with conflicting reports as to the exact issue. If she looks solid in her first match, I would anticipate an outright stake from me.

Jelena Ostapenko – Too up and down to even contemplate trying to catch her at her current odds.

Veronika Kudermetova – Too close to Swiatek to entertain, however she has struggled this year more than I anticipated. Curious to see when her form heads north.

Iga Swiatek – Not a player who has set the world on fire in North America across the course of her young, but successful, career. I do still have some slight question marks around her composure in the tighter moments, and I wonder if those question marks might be exacerbated a touch with the heat in Indian Wells as well. No appeal in her current outright price.


Unseeded players in the draw to monitor: There is less appeal in the unseeded brigade here with all the top 32 receiving a bye in the first round. Of those unseeded, the list of players to monitor closely for me are: Liudmila Samsonova, Madison Keys, Marie Bouzkova, Marketa Vondrousova, Viktorija Golubic, Sloane Stephens, Marta Kostyuk, Donna Vekic, Kim Clijsters, Katerina Siniakova, Amanda Anisimova an Dayana Yastremska.


Summary

Going against my usual style of selections here with a couple of names standing out for pre-tournament staking.

I haven’t been too involved in Garbine Muguruza in outright markets, however, her name does stand out here. She has solid recent form, and perhaps the injury niggles through the middle part of the year have allowed her to remain fresher than some of the top names in the back end of the season. She has shown in Australia that she isn’t too worried by warm conditions, and slower hardcourts are an ideal environment for her. I am happy to make a play on her given her draw.

Another outright to commence will be on Jessica Pegula. It came down to Halep and Pegula out of their section at their current odds, however, the appeal lies more so with Pegula at the current prices. She is surrounded by favourable matchups early and should also thrive in the conditions.

From a trading standpoint, I am going to start the tournament with a trading play on Danielle Collins. The first quarter does look competitive, however following the trend of other selections here she is an aggressive player that should enjoy the Indian Wells conditions.

Keep an eye on Twitter after round 2, as I am likely to add a selection to Elena Rybakina if she looks solid in her first match. With conflicting reports between a physical injury and food poisoning in Chicago last week, I want to see her with my own eyes before investing.


Betting Strategy

Outright Selections

BACK – 0.7 units Muguruza to win outright (recorded at $13)

BACK – 0.4 Pegula to win outright (recorded at $26)

Trading Selections

BACK – 0.5 units Collins to win outright (recorded at $27)

Players to Monitor

Elena Rybakina
Iga Swiatek
Paula Badosa

Quarter 1 Seeds

Daniil Medvedev – The top of the draw here, with Novak Djokovic deciding to skip Indian Wells. Medvedev is hot on the heels of Novak for the number 1 spot, and it will be interesting to see how he backs up from the biggest win of his career at the US Open. The Laver Cup didn’t quite have the competitive edge to consider as recent ‘form’, however, he did still look solid there. Issues with cramping in the heat have been an issue in the past, so it will be interesting to see how he starts here. I do recall a 5-set battle in the heat against Krajinovic last year in Melbourne, and these two could face off in round 3. I won’t be laying him, but at the same time, I don’t see value in his outright price.

Filip Krajinovic – Not enough recent outdoor hardcourt form to entice in the outrights.

Grigor Dimitrov – Looked a little better last week, with wins over Fucsovics and Karatsev before losing to Ruud in San Diego. This would be a significant jump in level though. Prefer in particular matchups.

Reilly Opelka – The 4th round loss to Lloyd Harris at the US Open was one of his more disappointing efforts in recent times. A little too close to several decent names to consider here. It would be a monumental effort for him to get out of this quarter (although I wouldn’t mind it with some of my picks coming from other pockets of the draw)

Denis Shapovalov – One of the hardest players in the draw to gauge. The further the tournament progresses, the harder it will be to trust the Canadian. Happy to look elsewhere pre-tournament.

Aslan Karatsev – Showed in Melbourne that he doesn’t mind the warmer conditions on the hardcourt. Is his form since then good enough to consider in this pocket of the draw? I will pass on current odds.

Seb Korda – Korda has looked like a young player running out of gas a touch after his first full year on tour. It is amazing to think that Korda was ranked 119 at the start of the year and wasn’t in the frame for Australian Open main draw. Now a seed at the ATP Masters 1000, it has been a successful year for the American. The recent form leaves question marks though. If he does continue to drop his form here, don’t hold it against him come January in Australia.

Hubert Hurkacz – Edging closer and closer to the Top 10 is Hubie. Another impressive effort in France a couple of weeks ago, taking the Metz title without dropping a set. Faded out on the quick backup in San Diego, however, needs to be respected. I do have some question markets around him playing in the heat, so that is enough for me to sit out the price at present in what looks a stacked quarter.


Quarter 2 Seeds

Andrey Rublev – Looks to be a very appealing price. Whilst he hasn’t always managed his best form in the heat, the best of 3 set format certainly suits him in this instance. This looks to be a relatively friendly quarter as far as this draw goes, and it is difficult to see a match in this quarter where the match isn’t largely on his racquet. I am anticipating Rublev to be active on court here as we near the second weekend, so his price appeals. I might look to up the stake a touch with the intention of laying off if his odds look a little short come the final 4.

Dusan Lajovic – Hard to be enthused by his 2021 hardcourt form. Prefer others.

Cam Norrie – Looked good in San Diego until he was wiped off the court in the final by Casper Ruud. His 7-9 record against Top 20 players in the last 12 months isn’t enticing me into an outright play, as he is likely to see a significant uptick in opposition quality this week.

Roberto Bautista Agut – Perhaps his career regression is slowly underway? These conditions suit the Spaniard; however, it is hard to find a decent patch of form recently that RBA (and myself writing this) can hang a hat on as a body of work worth justifying an outright play.

Diego Schwartzman – Whilst his form has certainly improved in recent months, his loss to Rublev in San Diego highlights the major weakness for him on hardcourt. He is too reliant on opponent after opponent producing a level below their best. Likely to encounter someone in this quarter who is too powerful for him in the conditions.

Dan Evans – The Brit has been able to string together some wins on the North American hardcourts in recent months, however, none have come against Top 60 players. Might find the going here a little too tough when it comes to the outrights.

Lloyd Harris – Last seen carrying an injury in San Diego, where he played out his match against Schwartzman. His best tennis can challenge most on tour, however, his consistency and ability to maintain his level is the next stage of his development as he aims to move closer to the Top 20 in the rankings. Prefer match-to-match if he is fit.

Casper Ruud – Coming off his fifth title last week in San Diego. A player who is likely to enjoy hot, yet slowish conditions in Indian Wells. Whilst there has been some fanfare over the San Diego title, he beat Murray, Sonego, Dimitrov and Norrie to win. This is a step up. Looks under the odds for mine.


Quarter 3 Seeds

Matteo Berrettini – A really intriguing piece to the puzzle of this draw. Whilst I don’t necessarily see him as a value selection here at the current odds, he also draws me away from almost every other player in this section of the draw. As a result, I will likely not be entering into this section of the draw pre-tournament, in a similar way to sitting out the first quarter pre-tournament.

Taylor Fritz – Taylor has lacked the consistency and form in his game to consider him in the outright picture of a Masters 1000.

John Isner – With more success at ATP250 and 500 level, it is hard to get excited over Isner. Prefer match to match rather than needing his serve to be “on” the entire tournament for an outright.

Jannik Sinner – Looked solid during his quick trip to Europe to win the tournament in Sofia, where he beat Gerasimov, Duckworth, Krajinovic and Monfils. Another player who doesn’t have an exceptional track record in the heat, I will watch him with interest early. Closest player I came to backing pre-tournament out of this quarter.

Gael Monfils – Gael has rounded into some improved form since his wedding. Not enough to consider for the outrights of a Masters 1000 though in these conditions.

Lorenzo Sonego – Not sure he will enjoy being in this pocket of the draw. Too many other seeds likely to be too strong to consider Sonego in the outrights.

Carlos Alcaraz – Haven’t seen him since his retirement at the US Open in the Quarter Final. His performances in the lead-up and during the US Open were impressive. Whilst I won’t be backing him, I would love to see him upset Zverev in the third round for the purposes of other selections. I would have loved to have seen him in the 2nd of 4th quarters.

Alexander Zverev – Looks a little short for mine based on the strength of this draw and the warmer conditions on offer to start the tournament. One to monitor for mine, whilst also monitoring the conditions.


Quarter 4 Seeds

Felix Auger-Aliassime – I was hoping the Canadian would find a pocket of the draw that was favourable, however, it doesn’t appear to be the case with Stefanos Tsitsipas looming in this quarter. The US Open was a step in the right direction, however, he needs to now use that as a springboard for similar performances consistently at Masters 1000 Level. I’d be after $36 in the outright market to jump in pre-tournament.

Nikoloz Basilashvili – Whilst he has had some success on hardcourts this year, this is a significant step up in opposition quality to tournaments where he has been successful. Prefer in individual matchups.

Karen Khachanov – It has been a solid year for Khachanov, who showed he can handle hot hardcourt conditions with his performances in Tokyo on his way to a silver medal. His 3-9 record against Top 20 players over the course of the last 12 months (wins against PCB, DSS and Wawrinka when injured) leaves a bit to be desired. Will be watching.

Pablo Carreno Busta – A name that stands out, although feel as though he is always likely to find a player better than him by the time the last 8 or 4 comes around. PCB and Khachanov kind of cancel each other out for mine, with neither price appealing enough to consider backing both in this pocket of the draw. Happy to look elsewhere.

Cristian Garin – 2-6 on hardcourt over the last 12 months. Pass.

Alex De Minaur – Hasn’t looked the same since his COVID diagnosis after Wimbledon. Even there he was struggling with some form and confidence issues. He is difficult to watch when his form has dropped. It will turn; however, he looks to be a player screaming for the end of the year to come.

Fabio Fognini – Not enough hardcourt form to consider.

Stefanos Tsitsipas – An intriguing player here given his struggles through the grass and North American hardcourt swing. After Roland Garros he looked to be a player that was desperate for some time away from the court. This looked to be exacerbated again with toilet break dramas plaguing him at the US Open. After a month off, this looks to be a great spot and draw for him to regain form. He is a player that is suited to the conditions, and it appeals to see Medvedev on the other side of the draw. Happy to jump in at the price given the draw.


Unseeded players in the draw to monitor: With 32 seeds all receiving round 1 byes, there aren’t as many unseeded players to note. If any stand out, I will comment on them midway through the tournament. If I had to pick a couple of names to watch, I would suggest Frances Tiafoe, Soonwoo Kwon, Brandon Nakashima, Jenson Brooksby and Holger Rune. For outright purposes though, there aren’t any prices I will take pre-tournament.


Summary

These tournaments are a little more open without the presence of Djokovic, Nadal, and Federer. It is a glimpse into the future, and I cannot wait to cover the next 5-10 years of this tour.

With my current prices indicating Medvedev and Zverev are slightly under the odds, my eyes are immediately drawn to Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev. They are in quarters away from the two favourites, and both should be able to make their way to the last 8 at a minimum. With heat forecast early (which may have an impact on Medvedev), and Zverev’s quarter looking stacked in terms of talent in the conditions, there is every chance that Rublev and Tsitsipas can come in quite a way from their respective outright prices come the pointy end. I will stake into both players, however, may look to lay off come the final if necessary.

Of the rest, the most appealing name at their current prices is Jannik Sinner. It will be a fascinating first couple of rounds, so I may look to manoeuvre in and out of a few names if value pops up.


Betting Strategy

Outright Selections

BACK – 0.75 units Tsitsipas to win outright (recorded at $8.60)

BACK – 0.75 units Rublev to win outright (recorded at $17)

Trading Selections

No trading selections (for now)

Players to Monitor

Jannik Sinner/Matteo Berrettini
Carlos Alcaraz (fitness)


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