The Indian Wells is a big tournament on the tennis circuit as it forms part of the Masters collection of events, which reward players with greater prize money, more ranking points and prestige, although of course you can’t cash that in at the bank.
Novak Djokovic, the five-time winner of this event, is once again favourite with the bookmakers at 8/11, but as such a short price – and given his recent wobble – we have to take him on.
In his last ATP Tour match he had to retire with an eye infection, and on his comeback in the Davis Cup against Mikhail Kukushkin, ranked in the world, the Serb needed five sets to see off his opponent after losing the first and being taken to a tie-break in the second. He may well come good here of course, but given the parameters we have to challenge his authority.
Roger Federer met Djokovic in last year’s final but misses out through injury this time around, so it is left to the likes of Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka and co to carry the fight to the world number one.
So who are the main contenders for his crown?
This isn’t a happy hunting ground for the Scot historically, and he hasn’t gone past the semi-finals in his last three attempts. Last year he was dumped out by Djokovic in the last four, but prior to that his record reads first round-quarter final-third round, which hardly gets the juices flowing.
Factor in a physically and emotionally draining Davis Cup tie with Japan at the weekend, which included a pulsating five-set encounter with Kei Nishikori, and we could argue that Murray isn’t in the best of shape heading into a tournament he doesn’t seem to enjoy all that much.
The fourth seed is another who hasn’t lived up to his reputation in this event, having failed to proceed past the round of 16 in his last three attempts.
The Swiss star has never looked all that comfortable on hard courts, despite the couple of titles he has to his name, and the rarefied desert air out in Indiana Wells plays into the hands of others more than he.
Anyone with even a passing interest in tennis will know of Rafa Nadal’s travails in the past 12 months, and despite a brief resurgence at the tail-end of 2015 the last few months have been tough for the Spaniard. Defeat in the first round of the Australian Open was followed by semi-final defeats in clay court tournaments he was expected to win.
He has history in this event, having lifted the trophy last in 2013 and reaching the quarters last year, but in a field of this quality it is hard to make a case for history to repeat itself.
So having written off the chances of most of the big names, who are our betting tips for the Indian Wells Masters?
Milos Raonic (25/1)
The Canadian-Croat is something of a hard court specialist, and he has a fine history in this event: he reached the last 16 as a young whippersnapper in 2013 and took a set off Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, was usurped by the occasionally brilliant Aleksandr Dolgopolov in the quarters in 2014, and succumbed to an inspired Roger Federer in the semi-finals last year.
All in all, Raonic boasts a 58-23 career win/loss record on hard courts, and in his last outing he was 2-1 up in sets over Andy Murray in the semis of the Australian Open before succumbing to the injury that has kept him out for the past five weeks. We’re hoping he’s back and firing on all cylinders here.
Nick Kyrgios (50/1)
When placing an each way bet on a tennis tournament it is well worth siding with players on opposite sides of the draw to Djokovic as they pay out on players reaching the final. Raonic satisfies this criteria, as does our second pick Nick Kyrgios.
He’s a strange old character is Kyrgios, that’s fair to say. His on-court outbursts border on the obscene, and his off-court rants are hardly ‘Disney proof’ either. The hope is that he can live up to his potential in the game, otherwise he’ll be just another big mouth who couldn’t cash the cheques his vitriolic tirades wrote.
Still, he’s won a decent event already this year, ATP Marseille, and reached the semis in Dubai where he tanked to his old nemesis Wawrinka.
We’re not saying the Aussie is an ‘easy back’ – he has a habit of sabotaging himself, and thus our betslip – but having won already this year and beaten the likes of Tomas Berdych, Marin Cilic and Richard Gasquet along the way, we have to give Kyrgios the chance to redeem himself at such a long price.