Welcome to Indian Wells! It’s been over 2 years since I’ve gotten to even think about Indian Wells let alone be excited for tennis for one of the best events tennis has to offer. This event is normally in March, after Miami, as part of the sunshine double. In 2019, we saw a young Canadian begin one of the more impressive runs anyone has ever made in the WTA. A lot has changed since Bianca Andreescu won the last match in Indian Wells and it’s now at the end of the season instead of the beginning of the year. This changes the feel of the event as a few of the top names have withdrawn and several other players are beginning to show the wear of a long season. Regardless, this is one of the marquee events outside of the Grand Slam tournaments. Let’s dive into the draw, pick a winner, and hopefully find some value in the outright betting markets.
For the first time all year Karolina Pliskova is our top seed. She’s played very well the second half of the season finishing 2nd in Rome, 2nd at Wimbledon, 2nd in Montreal, made the semifinals in Cincinnati, and the quarterfinals at the US Open. Pliskova has made the quarterfinals or better in her last 4 appearances on these courts and is in good position to keep that streak alive. She has a bye followed by 2 matches in which she’ll be a heavy favorite and is likely the favorite in all of her matches until the semifinals. At 12 to 1, Pliskova is the 2nd betting favorite to lift the trophy which is right about where I would price her. Kontaveit or BVA could upset her in the 4th round, there are a handful of women who could beat her in the quarterfinal, and she is likely to face some of the best players in the field in the semifinal and final. If she continues her good form off a long break since the US Open, Pliskova could be the champion, but I need a better price to bet on it.
The rest of the top of this quarter will be defined by the aforementioned Anett Kontaveit and Bianca Andreescu who are 2 players moving in opposite directions. The Canadian, once lauded as the arguably the best hard court player in the game, is just 7-9 since retiring during the final in Miami. I thought she looked better in the US Open, but lost in the 4th round to Sakkari which she followed up with a 1st loss to Shelby Rogers in Chicago. She is only 20-1 despite her poor form and less than ideal spot in the draw. Kontaveit has 2 hard court titles since August and should be primed to make a deep run for the first time on these courts. Unfortunately, she withdrew before 2nd round match in Chicago just last week. She looked fine in her 1st round match and seemed to be having fun in Chicago the days afterwards, so perhaps it was more of a break before this event instead of serious injury or fitness issue. She’s available at 35 to 1 or better and as much as my friends & followers will laugh after several years of saying “Kontaveit sucks on hard courts,” it’s time to bet on Anett Kontaveit to win a hard court tournament.
The bottom half of this quarter has a several fun names to consider. Ons Jabeur has had one of the better years of anyone in the WTA. She finished 2nd in Chicago last week and was the only player who was able to take a set off Muguruza. She’s 16 to 1 in the outright markets and although she has a bye, is in a tricky quarter. I would need better than 30 to 1 to wager on her to best all the names I’ve listed and the ones to come on courts where she is just 1-2 in main draw matches.
The second round will hopefully bring us a great match between Marketa Vondrousova and Maria Sakkari. Vondrousova backed her silver medal with a quarterfinal in Chicago, semifinal in Luxembourg, and semifinal in Chicago last week. Unfortunately she had to withdraw in that most recent semifinal and might not be 100%. She’s 66 to 1 which is a big number, but not big enough. Sakkari was a semifinalist at the US Open and finished second in Ostrava. She is among the group of women priced between 16 and 20 at 18 to 1. Even with a bye, her draw one of the more difficult in the event especially if Vondrousova is healthy. I’m happy to pass on both although either could make the quarterfinals or further.
One of the reasons I’m so worried for those last few players is that Danielle Collins is sitting in one of the best spots in the quarter. Collins has been one of the best players on tour since July. She has 2 trophies and 3 other quarterfinal or better performances. Since recovering from her surgery for endometriosis Collins has played at a much higher level. I expect that she’ll be the favorite until her match against Jabeur and could be favored, albeit in a small way, in that match and beyond. Books have her listed at 30 to 1 which looks like a great number to me. Let’s add her to our portfolio of outrights.
There are 2 names that stand out to me in this quarter, but we’ll get to them later. Although I don’t expect this next group to win the quarter, let alone the tournament, they’ll be good to back in single matches. Coco Gauff and Paula Badosa are among the better candidates to upset the apple cart. Gauff, at only 17 years old, has shown flashes of brilliance but has struggled through the North American hard court season. She made the quarterfinals in Montreal, but with 2 opponents withdrawing, and hasn’t won more than 1 match in an event since Wimbledon. She’s out of form, in a tough quarter, and only 33 to 1. Badosa had a great start to 2021 and carried it all the way to the quarterfinals in Cincinnati when she retired in the 2nd set. She’s just 2-2 since then, in this quarter, and only 28 to 1. I’d love to see either find their best form and play well, but I’m not betting on it at those numbers.
Daria Kasatkina has 2 titles on hard courts and a 2nd place finish in August in San Jose. She has a bye and a few winnable matches after that, but will at some point face a run of players who’s talent is more than Dasha can handle. You can back her at 80 to 1 odds, but I think you’ll do much better match to match instead of putting down your money now. With her bye, she has to win 6 matches and a price of 80 to 1 implies she’d average a money line of +108(2,08). She’ll be a favorite, and possibly a big favorite in her first 2 matches, but will be a much bigger underdog than 1.08 to 1 in her next 4 matches. This one of the many times you’ll be better betting her in each round and not grabbing an outright ticket.
The best match I got to see at this year’s US Open was Angelique Kerber’s comeback win in the first round over Yastremska. She was 11-2 on grass, backed that up with a semifinal in Cincinnati, and won 2 more matches after beating The Human MTO at the US Open. I was excited to see her find a very high level that was required to win, but I can’t forget how hard it was for her to do that. For the rest of the event she played well, but looked physically worn down from that strong run of tennis. Kerber has had time to let her body recuperate in preparation for that last big event, or possibly an event, for her this year. At only 28 to 1 I’m going to pass on her in the outright market, but will keep a close eye on her early matches in the hopes of backing her as an underdog against some bigger names in the later rounds.
Alright, enough dilly dallying, let’s get to what I expect to be a great quarterfinal match. I have written a lot of nice words about Barbora Krejcijova and there are more to come now. She is 43-13 in 2021 with titles in Strasbourg, Prague, & Roland Garros as well as a 2nd place finish in Dubai. Krejcikova has played in 16 tournaments and made the quarterfinals or better in 7 of them. She has 3 wins streaks of 5 matches or longer this year. I expect her to walk into the quarterfinals without too much trouble. He opponent in that match ought to be Garbiñe Muguruza. The Spaniard dropped only 1 set last week in Chicago and is 9-2 in her last 11 matches. The 2 losses were to the same person, Barbora Krejcikova. Both women are priced at 12 to 1 and although I like Krejcikova better, I don’t like either enough to wager on them at such a small number. They have to beat one another just to win their quarter. The winner is likely to be favored in the semifinal, but not enough to justify a bet at 12. I’ll look for some exotic or derivative markets to see if I can back them to meet in the quarterfinals or to make the quarterfinals. Maybe I’ll even “dutch” the 2 to win the quarter when that markets open up if I can do it at +125(2,25) or better.
This looks like the most wide open quarter in the tournament even though it features the favorite to win, Emma Raducanu who is just 6 to 1 in the betting markets. Until June of this year, she played almost exclusively ITF events. Raducanu made good use of her Wimbledon wild card winning 3 matches, lost in the first round in San Jose, and then began an 18-2 run that included not only qualifying for, but winning the US Open without dropping a set. I have no clue what to make of all of this and am floored that she is all of a sudden the favorite to win a WTA1000 event with several of the big names involved. It could be the right number, it could be way off, I really don’t know. All I am certain of at this point is that I will definitely not be holding a Raducanu outright ticket. Maybe she really is the new, world’s best hard court player. I guess I’ll have to wait and see.
Unfortunately, it’s 2021 and not even 2020, because the idea of Victoria Azarenka facing Petra Kvitova for the 9th time in their careers would feel more exciting. Kvitova won Doha to start the season, but has won more than 2 matches at a tournament more than twice since then. She picked up a few injuries during the clay season which could explain the struggles, but for whatever reason, Petra hasn’t looked right in months. Azarenka has just 3 tournaments this year in which she won more than 2 matches and withdrew before her last match in Chicago last week. Both are in the mid 20s to 1 range in the betting markets which would have been shocking last year and even early this season. Now, it’s just a reminded of how far they have fallen because I’m happy to pass on both even if they were priced in the 30s. I’d love to see them meet in the 3rd round, play an incredible match, and carry that moment though the rest of the event, but I’m not optimistic about it.
Speaking of players who have had a tough year, let’s talk about Simona Halep. The former Indian Wells champion has struggled with injuries all season and only played 7 tournaments since the Australian Open. Her form looked better at the US Open, but she still lost to Svitolina in 2 quick sets. She has a bye and a winnable match before facing Raducanu and the winner of Azarenka/Kvitova just to make the quarterfinals. I stared long and hard at her price at 22 to 1 and almost pulled the trigger. If I could find a number in the mid 30s I would make the wager, but that doesn’t seem to be a thing. I’ll back her as an underdog in single matches at any point if she looks fit, but let’s wait and see if that happens.
Elina Svitolina won a bronze medal, a title in Chicago, and 2 quarterfinal appearances at the US Open and Chicago the second time. She’s in fine form and 22 to 1, but this event has been a struggle for her in the past. She did make the semifinals in 2019 and with the event later in the year may have a bigger edge with her high level of fitness. It could be a cushy quarter as Svitolina will be a favorite up to and possibly through the quarterfinals, but names like Martincova, Li, Cirstea, and a few others will present a bigger challenge than the 22 to 1 price implies. She would have to average a price of -145(1,69) to get to that number and I expect her to be cheaper than that as early as the 4th round. I will repeat that Svitolina is one of the most fit players on tour and not enough can be made of that edge this late in the year, so I won’t be shocked if she wins. I’m just not betting on it.
There is one player who I think can take advantage of this quarter and it’s one of my favorite players to back, in general. Jessica Pegula is 10-4 since returning to North America with losses to Camila Giorgi, Karolina Pliskova, Belinda Bencic, and Ons Jabeur. She has a bye, Stephens, Mertens, Svitolina, and I guess Raducanu to win this quarter. There isn’t really a name on that list that presents the challenges of the 4 women who beat Pegula over the past few months. I’m seeing 30-1 in the outright betting markets and I would have her at 20 to 1 or even lower. Once more into the breach with Ms. Pegula , dear friends.
This quarter is stacked full of not only some of the WTA’s best, but the best over the last several weeks. None better than the name at the top, Belinda Bencic. The 8th seed in this event hasn’t done worse than a quarterfinal appearance since winning gold in the Olympics. Yes, she has had some help with byes in small events, but her high level of play cannot be denied. The only fly in the ointment is the injury she picked up in her loss to Rybakina last week in Chicago. Thanks to the event starting mid week and her 1st round bye, there is a chance she can recover, but the injury looked severe. I hope she’s ok, but I certainly can’t back her knowing that she’s not 100%.
Leylah Annie Fernandez beat Konjuh, Kanepi, Osaka, Svitolina, and Sabalenka on her way to a 2nd place finish at the US Open. She won the title at a smaller event in Monterrey this March, but struggled from that point until her run through the field in New York. Fernandez is in a soft spot, especially for this quarter, but at only 22 to 1 I can’t bet on her to back up the best performance in her career by winning Indian Wells. She might win this quarter, even make the final, but there’s just not enough value in that price to bet on her keeping such a high level after a month away from competitive play.
Another grand slam finalist I’m passing over is Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. The runner up in Roland Garros has more 1st round losses than quarterfinal appearances since then. She’s a smart player who is a threat to win any match, even at 50 to 1 I’m not excited to bet on her now. Pavs has a bye and a winnable match to get comfortable at the courts, but things are rather treacherous after that. If she’s playing well I won’t hesitate to bet on her as underdog to some of those better players, but I have no interesting in putting down money now.
There is a name that I’m excited to back in the top part of this quarter. Jil Teichmann made back to back semifinals in Adelaide and Dubai, but picked up an injury in Miami and reaggravated it in in Strasbourg & Palermo. This effectively wiped out April through July this year. She made her return in Montreal where she lost, but in 3 sets to Collins. Teichmann then went to Cincinnati and won 5 matches without dropping a set before losing to Barty in the final. Teichmann is just 5-3 since then, but losses are to good players and I think the market has overreacted to that short stretch of play. I was able to grab a 50 to 1 which I saw at a few spots, but there’s numbers as high as 80 out there for some of you lucky folks. At 50 to 1 or better, she’ll be the 4th player I bet to win the tournament.
Starting the bottom half of the quarter is Elena Rybakina, another of my favorites. As much as I love her game, not even I can support Rybakina at only 20 to 1 to lift the trophy. She retired in her last match and before that has struggled to win late in tournaments all year. She has the talent to win matches in bunches as we’ve seen before, but this price is far too small for her recent form and her spot in this quarter loaded full of talent.
Among the players tied for 2nd favorite in the outright betting markets at 12 to 1 is Iga Swiatek. Iga won titles in Adelaide and Rome, but for the 2nd time in her young career has struggled in North America late in the year. She lost her first match in Cincinnati, lost in the 4th round of the US Open, and did make the semifinals in Ostrava, but only had to win 2 matches to do that. Similar to Gauff, it’s hard to forget how young Swiatek, only 20, is for a player with an even higher level of success than the American. She has very good chance to right the ship in this tournament. As talented as the players in this quarter are, Iga is more talented. In my bracket, which of course disregards price, I have Swiatek going very far and I might even pick her to win when I finish, but I’m definitely not wagering her in the outright markets.
Quarter 1 – Collins over Kontaveit
Quarter 2 – Krejcikova over Muguruza
Quarter 3 – Raducanu? over Pegula
Quarter 4 – Swiatek over Teichmann
Final – Swiatek over Krejcikova
RECAP OF WAGERS
0.48U – Kontaveit at 35 to 1 or better
0.55U – Collins at 30 to 1 or better
0.55U – Pegula at 30 to 1 or better
0.34U – Teichmann at 50 to 1 or better
GLOSSARY OF DATA HEADINGS
Avg Rk – This is the average rank of opponent’s faced over that period.
Avg Spread – This is the average games more(or less) the player wins than their opponent. For example, 1.3 means that player averages 1.3 games per match more than their opponent.
Avg Total – This is the average total games in matches this player has played
Hold% – % of total games won on service
Break% – % of total games won on return