Are you ready to soak up some sun? I sure hope you are because the sunshine double is here! For those unfamiliar, the sunshine double refers to the 2 premier mandatory (masters for the ATP) tournaments in Indian Wells, CA and Miami, FL. The tournaments are played back to back over almost 4 weeks. Both are big draws, brackets of 128, and feature the very best talent the world has to offer. Up first is Indian Wells. Last year we saw a young woman by the name of Naomi Osaka win her maiden WTA title and show most of the world her incredible potential for the first time. So, who’s going to shine brightest this year? Let’s take a look at how matches in Indian Wells tend to go and then break down each quarter to see if we can find some value in the outright market and hopefully pick the winner.
The tables above show us what % of matches since 2010 have gone over a specific total. The top shows just Indian Wells and the bottom shows every hard court tournament. Start by comparing the bottom row, which shows us rates for all rounds of the tournament combined. I think you can see clearly that we tend to see longer matches in Indian Wells. Every point on that row is higher than the corresponding point below ranging anywhere from 3.66% up to 19.97% higher. As you handicap matches be wary of taking unders, especially on any total lower than 21 games. What about match spreads? Should we be looking to take the underdogs or lay the big number with the favorites?
The tables above show us what % of matches since 2010 would have covered various game spreads. The top shows just Indian Wells and the bottom shows every hard court tournament. Start again by comparing the bottom row, which shows us rates for all rounds of the tournament combined. It looks like matches in Indian Wells are tighter in score than your average hard court match. Matches end with spreads of 3 games (e.g. 7-6 6-4, 6-3 3-6 6-3) or less 14.8% more often in Indian Wells (24.7% vs 21.5%). Given that matches tend to be longer this comes as no surprise. Since the match winner is capped in the amount of games they can win (i.e. 12, 13, 14 in 2 sets or 18, 19, 20 or 21 in 3 sets) the loser would be winning more games if totals were larger. Don’t be afraid to take the underdog game spread this week.
Now, let’s break every quarter, see if there’s any value in the outright market and maybe even pick a winner:
The defending champion is the #1 seed and has a favorable draw. Bye, probably Saisai Zheng and then Danielle Collins which shouldn’t be too much trouble. To make the quarterfinals she’s likely to face Caroline Wozniacki, Belinda Bencic or Ekaterina Alexandrova. Wozniacki is the biggest name of the 3 and has a game that should suit these slower courts but given this is her first full season managing rheumatoid arthritis it’s going to be hard to trust her. Alexandrova has never played at Indian Wells and seemed to be carrying a knee injury in Budapest. I think Osaka will see Bencic in this spot and I think she SHOULD take care of business. This will be Osaka’s first tournament with a new coach, Jermaine Jenkins, who’s name I had to look up just now. When I asked another handicapper what he knew about Mr Jenkins, he merely replied, “his first name is Jermaine.” Tennis is the ultimate mental test and players rely on their coaches. It’s hard to know the impact this will have on Osaka , but I still think she’s the clear favorite to come out of the top half of the first quarter. Osaka is priced 8.5-1. She’s likely to face Pliskova or Sevastova in the quarterfinal followed by Kvitova or Kerber in the semifinal and whatever big name comes out of the bottom half of the draw in the final. I’m not counting out the defending champ, but the value just isn’t there so I’ll pass on Osaka.
Karolina Pliskova and Anastasija Sevastova look destined to meet for a chance to face Osaka in the quarterfinals. Pliskova has a bye then probably Ons Jabeur followed by Donna Vekic whom Pliskova beat twice comfortably last year. Sevastova also has a bye then probably Madison Brengle followed by either Monica Puig or Anett Kontaveit. I’ve got Puig in my bracket, but this is a toss up and Sevastova should have no problem beating either lady. The Pliskova/Sevastova match should be great. Sevastova leads 2-1 in the head to head having beat Pliskova on hard courts and clay, Pliskova beating Sevastova on grass. Look to the over here, over the total and over 2.5 sets. Whoever wins this match has a real chance to beat Osaka to win the quarter and here’s where I see some value in the outright market. Sevastova is 50-1 and Pliskova is 18-1. With a slightly easier pathway than Pliskova and a Pliskova/Sevastova match being a toss up, how is Sevastova priced 2.7 times cheaper than Pliskova? That seems kind of silly to me, so let’s grab Sevastova at 50-1 for a quarter unit and look to maybe hedge after Sevastova beats Pliskova. Pliskova at 18-1 looks like fine, but I’ll pass.
What an impressive start the year for Petra Kvitova. She’s already made 3 finals, wining 1 title in Sydney. That said, this will be one of the toughest draws she or anyone will face all year. Even with a bye she has a tough road ahead of her. Venus Williams then Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova followed by Madison Keys or Julia Goerges. If Kvitova survives all that she’s looking a match against Angelique Kerber just to win her quarter. Even though I’ll be watching a lot of her matches I will be passing her price at 11-1. Madison Keys at 33-1 is interesting, but for similar reasons I will also pass on her as well.
The bottom half of the second quarter sets up very nicely for Angelique Kerber. Her first tough match doesn’t come until the 4th round where she’ll face either Aryna The Amazonian Warrior Sabalenka or Lesia Tsurenko. Kerber should be able to beat either if she’s close to her best. She looked exhausted losing to Su Wei Hsieh in Dubai, but she took last week off and should be fresh. After that she faces the winner of the top half of the quarter, likely Kvitova, but that lady should be fairly fatigued by then. I like Kerber’s chances to win this quarter and will put half a unit on her at 16-1. Depending on who comes out of the first quarter, I see no reason to hedge this until the finals most likely.
Full disclosure, I am terrible at knowing what Kiki Bertens is going to do. If I bet against her, she wins comfortably. If I bet on her, she loses. Keep that in mind for these next few sentences. The top half of the 3rd quarter sets up nicely for Kiki Bertens. She has a bye then Petra Martic, who I like very much, but should lose to Bertens without much trouble. After that she’s likely to face Johanna Konta. That will be a tough match, but I think Bertens comes out the victor. Kiki Bertens is priced at 33-1 and Konta is priced at 66-1, both seemingly nice numbers until you look at the who’s beneath them. Lurking below is Serena Williams. We haven’t seen one of America’s most notable mothers since her collapse against Karolina Pliskova in the Australian Open during which she appeared to injure her ankle. There hasn’t been any talk of an injury and I think she’s had ample time to recover. Serena doesn’t have the easiest road as she’ll face Victoria Azarenka and then Garbiñe Muguruza. Muguruza has beaten Serena twice, but both times on clay. These courts are thought be slow hard courts, but nothing like playing on clay. Serena should have no problem getting to Bertens. Serena is 3-0 lifetime against Kiki and I expect her to win that match and the quarter without much trouble. All that said, her price to win the tournament is 5-1 which is much too expensive for anyone in this draw.
The bottom half of the 3rd quarter is a mess and I don’t see anyone who is likely to beat Serena. Sloane Stephens hasn’t had any substantial success in this tournament. Her price at 20-1 is too high for anyone who has to go through Serena to win her quarter. We should see a lot of fun matches though. Anisimova/Mertens with the winner playing Qiang Wang will be great. Bianca Andreescu should face, and I think defeat, Dominika Cibulkova to face Stephens. So they’ll be a lot of fun before someone has to try to defeat the tournament favorite and mother of the year candidate, Serena Williams.
Huge props to the tournament organizers for giving us Yafan Wang and Sofia Kenin round 1. The 2 played each other just days ago in the final in Acapulco. I’m very excited for the rematch, but the winner will surely lose the following round to Elina Svitolina. The top half of this quarter looks to be Svitolina’s to lose. Dayana Yastremska will make her work hard in the 3rd round, but Svitolina should prevail. She’ll likely face Ashleigh Barty to make it to the quarterfinals. Svitolina is 4-0 against Barty and I don’t expect that to change. I’ve stared at Svitolina 14-1 for a while and I’ve decided to pass on that. She has a good chance to get the quarterfinals, but in Serena’s half of the draw I’m hesitant to take anyone that expensive.
In the bottom half of the quarter is Simona Halep. Halep has a bye then Barbora Strycova followed by either Katerina Siniakova or Aliaksandra Sasnovich. All very talented players, but Halep should dispatch them without too much trouble. I am, however, concerned about Halep’s ability to make a deep run here. She seemed to tweak her back which ended her season last year. At 8-1 I’m passing on Simona. With that in mind, I see some value in a young player who’s had a great start to her year, Marketa Vondrousova. Vondrousova has a easy draw before she gets to Halep. She’ll face Laura Siegemund, the ghost of Daria Kasatkina and either Viktoria Kuzmova or Jelena Ostapenko who somehow earned a bye. At 80-1 I’m going to put down a quarter of a unit and look to maybe hedge against Halep.
Look to bet overs, matches in Indian Wells tend go longer than your average hard court match
Look to bet underdogs on the game spread this week as matches here tend to be tighter
3 outrights that I’m betting:
o Half of a unit (.5% of my bankroll) on Kerber at 16-1
o Quarter of a unit (.25% of my bankroll) on Sevastova at 50-1
o Quarter of a unit (.25% of my bankroll) on Vondrousova at 80-1
Here’s how my bracket looks:
o 1st Quarter Osaka over Sevastova
o 2nd Quarter Kerber over Kvitova
o 3rd Quarter Serena over Stephens
o 4th Quarter Svitolina over Halep
o Kerber beats Serena in the final
Follow me on twitter @_Noops where I’ll be posting picks (and maybe a daily write up?) for the entire tournament. Thanks for reading!