ANOTHER winning week for tennis analyst Gavin Mair (@gavinnightmair) last week. He's back to look at this week's Indian Wells event.
ATP Indian Wells | 6th-19th March 2017
Indian Wells plays host to the first Masters event of the season, as players arrive in the Californian desert hoping to leave with 1000 ranking points.
All the top players – with the absence of Milos Raonic and Richard Gasquet – are in town for what appears to be a very open, and lopsided draw.
Much of the talk arising from the draw noted that the bottom half is packed full of big name players – such as Djokovic, Nadal, Federer and Del Potro – all of whom have a decent record at Indian Wells.
World number one Andy Murray stands out as the player to beat in the top half of the draw but he has always struggled here, reaching the final only once, which marks a particularly poor return for a player of Murray’s calibre.
The Scot explained that his difficulties originate in desert conditions that change over the course of the day. The ball tends to fly through the air during the heat of the day and is hard to control, but at night the ball reacts slower and needs to be hit. Murray said he has not found a solution to bettering the conditions having tried a number of different preparations for this tournament over the years.
Each week I use my statistical model to inform views on the players likely to have a good week. Let’s have a look quarter-by- quarter in Indian Wells.
Murray heads the draw but he must be treated like a timebomb who could go off at any minute. Out-of- the-blue defeats to Federico Delbonis, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and Donald Young since 2011 can be read on the Murray resume.
However, the problem with opposing Murray this week is that there doesn’t seem to be an obvious opponent in his half of the draw that you would fancy to beat him.
The main competition in the first quarter comes from 2016 semifinalist David Goffin, and from the on form Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Goffin is having another very good season having made two finals already this season and possessing hard court statistics that point to an improvement in his overall level. Goffin has exceeded the performance of his pre-tournament seeding in both Rotterdam and the Australian Open.
Prior to a meeting with Murray, who has been a nightmare matchup for the Belgian, Goffin would have to defeat his conqueror in Rotterdam, Tsonga.
The Frenchman has found some of the best results of his career lately, but revealed following his Marseille victory that he is due to become a father for the first time this month, and it is not unfair to suggest that tennis may not be his number one priority for the time-being.
Given the potential for Murray to be upset by non-traditional matchups at this venue there is certainly no value in him coming through his quarter at the 8/15 price quoted. Goffin at 8/1 with Paddy Power to win Quarter 1 may offer a worthwhile investment, but I prefer the 22/1 on Goffin to make the final with Bet365 an even better selection.
It is not easy to find an attractive option to win this tournament from the second quarter. The wildly unreliable Stan Wawrinka holds the highest seeding but he has poor form in the desert coupled with a poor showing last week in Dubai. An early meeting with the always dangerous Alexandr Dolgopolov looks a tough encounter for the Swiss.
Beyond Wawrinka there are a couple of intriguing players, but all have rather large question marks. Gael Monfils made the quarters last year, but his results this season have underwhelmed. The same applies to previous Indian Wells finalist John Isner but his week-to-week form is even more abject than that of Monfils.
Dominic Thiem has the potential to enjoy the conditions but he played a ridiculous schedule lately and will be vulnerable to better players as the week progresses.
The third quarter hosts the ATP tour’s two form players – Jack Sock and Grigor Dimitrov. Of the pair it is Sock that I prefer to have a good week. The American has improved his hard court form over the long term and has reaped the benefits this season. I believe more in his ability to perform consistently to his improved level than Dimitrov, who also has a poor record at Indian Wells.
Marin Cilic and Kei Nishikori are the highest seeds in this section and neither has got going so far this year. Both players on their day are top level hard court players but their record over the years here suggests they could be vulnerable.
Acapulco winner Sam Querrey can’t be written off but after his big week in Mexico he is likely to make a less dramatic impact in his home state. Another open looking quarter. Sock at 18/1 with Paddy Power to win the 3rd quarter looks worthy of consideration.
This quarter is home to the five most recent champions at Indian Wells – 2016, 2015 and 2014 winner Novak Djokovic, 2013 winner Rafael Nadal, and 2012 winner Roger Federer – as well as former finalist Juan Martin del Potro, and the next generation pairing of Nick Kyrgios and Alexander Zverev. There is a stacked playing deck but it is Nadal who on current form is my favoured option to come out on top.
Djokovic’s route to the latter stages looks particularly difficult. Last week I tipped him to find little trouble in Acapulco. However, he was very fortunate to survive del Potro, who bullied the Serbian for the most part, before he lost to the confident Nick Kyrgios, who again relegated Djokovic to the position of spectator throughout that match.
Djokovic has now played in a series of events where he has good history, but he has underperformed time and again. Until he returns to something recognising his old form he has to be opposed.
Given that del Po has a few tournaments under his belt he will fancy his chances for revenge if they meet in the third round. Djokovic would then have to play either Kyrgios or Zverev, even before a quarterfinal meeting with Nadal or Federer.
Nadal has made two finals this season and will look forward to an Australian Open rematch with Federer in the fourth round. The Swiss lost at one of his historically better events last week to Evgeny Donskoy, who to put it into context, did not have enough ranking points to qualify this week and instead plays a Challenger event in Zhuhai, China.
Nadal to win outright at 10/1 with Boylesports is my outright selection this week.
ATP Indian Wells – David Goffin to make the final (22/1 Bet365)
ATP Indian Wells – Jack Sock to win Quarter 3 (18/1 Paddy Power)
ATP Indian Wells – Rafael Nadal to win outright (10/1 Boyelsports)