Bidding to follow up a 40/1 winner in Acapulco last week, Andy Schooler previews the first Masters 1000 event of the season, the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.
Tennis betting tips: BNP Paribas Open
1pt e.w. Taylor Fritz at 22/1 (BetVictor, Coral, Ladbrokes)
0.5pt e.w. Grigor Dimitrov at 100/1 (BetVictor, Betfred)
1pt Hubert Hurkacz to win the first quarter at 6/1 (Coral, Ladbrokes)
Sky Bet odds | Paddy Power | Betfair Sportsbook
BNP Paribas Open
- Indian Wells, USA (outdoor hard)
Masters 1000 tennis in 2023 begins on Wednesday in California where the unique conditions have long made things difficult for players.
A combination of dry desert air and a fairly slow Plexipave court surface is one not seen elsewhere on tour and ensures that the Penn ball – not the Dunlop one which has caused much controversy in recent weeks – fizzes through the air quickly but also kicks up off the court and into the hitting zone, rather than staying low.
They are conditions in which Andy Murray has certainly struggled over the years – this is one of few titles he is yet to win in his career – and while the other members of the ‘Big 4’ did all conquer Indian Wells, they also suffered shock losses at this event. Think Roger Federer succumbing to Guillermo Canas in 2007 or Novak Djokovic losing to Philipp Kohlschreiber in 2019.
That’s a decent segue to explain that Djokovic isn’t in the field this year – the US still won’t let the Serb into the country given his unvaccinated COVID status.
At least he had the decency to pull out before the draw this year, a fact which means Carlos Alcaraz is the top seed.
However, he’s one of several big names I’m keen to oppose.
Alcaraz was last seen limping his way through the final in Rio before confirming his injury was the same one which forced him out of the Australian Open. That was just 10 days ago and has to be a concern for potential backers, not to mention that fact that this will be his first event on an outdoor hardcourt since his US Open success back in September. He’s only played on clay so far in 2023.
Alcaraz has at least shown a propensity for Indian Wells having made the semis here last year.
That’s not something you can say about several of the other leading seeds, including number two Stefanos Tsitsipas and the man considered the title favourite by the bookies, Daniil Medvedev.
Tsitsipas has a 5-4 win-loss record at this venue, with his only run of note coming in the autumn-based 2021 event when he reached the quarter-finals. When the tournament has been played in this calendar slot, the Greek has suffered three early exits.
Medvedev hasn’t even been past the last 16 with his five visits producing just six match victories.
OK, he’s the form man having captured three ATP titles in as many weeks in Rotterdam, Doha and Dubai – and you can see why the layers want to keep him on side – but I’m not ready to back him at 3/1 at a venue which has clearly troubled him in the past.
Casper Ruud (3-4) is another big name who has struggled here, while Jannik Sinner withdrew from his last scheduled tournament due to injury.
Taylor made for title defence
Essentially, I feel this is a tournament where it’s very much worth looking for a value play or two further down the market.
After all, the last four winners have all come out of such a position – Juan Martin del Potro, Dominic Thiem, Cameron Norrie and, last year, TAYLOR FRITZ.
At 22/1, I’m prepared to take a run with Fritz again 12 months on.
He’s certainly pushed on since that breakthrough success, a fact highlighted by his seeding this year of fourth.
With a semi-final appearance in Indian Wells in 2021 also on his CV, it’s clear he’s one of those who is happy to play in these conditions, which is hardly a surprise.
His big serve gets that cut through the air, while he’s a player who likes the ball kicking up, giving him that little extra time to line up his devastating forehand.
The draw looks to have been fairly kind with Fritz in the second quarter where his two biggest rivals, Sinner and Holger Rune, are on course to meet at the last-16 stage.
Fritz has been playing on outdoor hard for a few weeks already too, capturing the title in Delray Beach before suffering a final-set tie-break defeat in the Acapulco semis where it really was a bit too sluggish for his liking.
As already explained, this event should suit much better so at 22s, the American gets the nod.
Up in the first quarter, I’m tempted by a small bet on HUBERT HURKACZ to win it.
Alcaraz certainly looks a favourite worth taking on and Felix Auger-Aliassime, a player who has struggled to find his best form so far in 2023, is the only other player ranked higher than Hurkacz in this section.
The Pole made the last eight here in both 2019 and 2021 and is another whose game looks well suited to the conditions – much like Fritz he should get purchase off his serve and be able to get stuck into his forehand behind it.
He won in Marseille last month and it took Djokovic to halt his charge in Dubai, so 6/1 to win the quarter looks worth a small poke.
Finally, I’m going to head to the bottom half and back a player who has caught the eye in recent weeks at a whopping price.
GRIGOR DIMITROV has made a strong start to 2023 without having the big results to really attract attention.
At the Australian Open, the Bulgarian lost in round three to Djokovic, although not before forcing set points in the opener. Had he taken them, that could well have got a lot tougher for the eventual champion.
Since then, he’s made the semis in Rotterdam (beating Hurkacz and Alex de Minaur before losing to man-of-the-moment Medvedev) and then the quarter-finals in Marseille where he was edged out in a final-set breaker by Alexander Bublik having squandered two match points.
While that form is encouraging, it will need to be built on in a field of this quality but Dimitrov’s record in Indian Wells certainly offers hope that could happen.
Last year Dimitrov made the quarter-finals, following on from a semi-final run in 2021 during which both Medvedev and Hurkacz were toppled.
All things considered, I believe 100/1 is a bit over the top.
Posted at 1605 GMT on 07/03/23
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