Now that the Women’s BNP Paribas Open draw is out and the tournament is set to get underway, let’s look at the damsels that have descended on the Californian desert in order to determine where the best tennis picks are in the futures betting markets.

Azarenka the player to beat

If online sportsbook plaftorms were any indication, Victoria Azarenka is the player to beat. Bet 365 lists the Belarusian at +250 tennis odds. Then Australian Open champion Li Na comes in as the second favourite but at +450 to win outright, a considerable distance away from the Belarusian, she cuts a soft second threat. Finally, defending champion Maria Sharapova rings in as a far-flung third favourite to win outright at +700 at Bet365.

Image previewJust for comparison, William Hill odds makers have issued slightly different odds for the aforementioned top triplet, although the hierarchy remains the same. Azarenka leads the charge at +225 and Li Na is tipped slightly closer at +350 while Sharapova comes in at +600. Similar minor discrepancies in prices permeate throughout the women’s field, with the most notable exception Simona Halep, a dark horse contender that both sportsbooks offer at +800 tennis odds to win outright.

Without going into the nuances of all the futures odds, the prevailing impression of the women’s BNP Paribas Open betting market across all sportsbook platforms is quite clearly that it’s a wide-open affair. In the absence of the Williams sisters – which is nothing new really as they are into the 13th year of their boycott of the event –and incrementally increasing tennis odds suggesting no unanimous concession exists amongst odds makers, the whole market seems utterly undecided as to which player is the best tennis pick.

Perhaps the draw will better reveal which players might be the real contenders then and where tennis bettors should pile their precious coin.

Unlike the men’s draw, which seems entirely lopsided, the women’s draw seems rather well balanced with both Azarenka and Li Na facing their fair share of threats.

Top seed Li Na falls into the same section as Maria Sharapova, setting them on an intriguing course to a potential semi-final showdown. Prior to that – the final four is ages away – both will face several noteworthy threats.

Li Na has Klara Zakopalova, Sabine Lisciki (+6600) and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in her immediate way. The Czech Zakopalova is coming into this event on good form having won the Florianopolis title and reaching the Rio de Janeiro final. Pavlyuchenko meanwhile won the title in Paris.

Tennis Picks: Odds to Win BNP Paribas Open

What’s more Li Na also has Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova in her section. The diminutive Slovak is playing some of the best tennis of her career and she is flush off a victory in Acapulco that should send her into Indian Wells with measured confidence. At +2500 at Williams Hill to win outright, the Slovak presents good value as an outside tennis pick.

Others to spot in Li Na’s section are Petra Kvitova at +1600 at William Hill and +2000 at Bet365 and Ekaterina Makarova. Veteran Svetlana Kuznetsova is also a player that can’t be overlooked for her potential to do some damage in the early rounds.

Image previewSharapova’s title defence campaign faces many obstacles. Flavia Pennetta, an in-form player who is on the wrong side of 30 but playing some of her best tennis and, most notably, reached the quarters at the Australian Open and in Dubai, is floating in her section. As well as Ana Ivanovic (+2800) who beat Serena Williams in Melbourne earlier this year.

Also in the Russian’s path is Samatha Stosur (+5000), Angelique Kerber (+2000) and Sloane Stephens (+5000), although this triplet has been inconsistent of late.

In the bottom half of the draw (or third quarter to be exact), finds Azarenka drawn together with Simona Halep, the best priced dark horse of the tournament at +800. Halep, one of those reinvented players on the Tour –not unlike Sara Errani a few years ago – comes into Indian Wells on the back of a big title victory in Doha, a feat that largely explains her suddenly shorter price than usual. Azarenka and Halep would potentially meet in the quarterfinals unless another outsider crashes the party, such as tricky lefty Lucie Safarova (+6600) or rising Canadian starlet Eugenie Bouchard (+4000).

The fourth quarter by far is the most wide-open section with Jelena Jankovic (+2800) and Agnieszka Radwanska (+1000) flanking either side. What’s more, the section is the weakest of the four with lesser-known names and mostly inconsistent top players in the mix such as Caroline Wozniacki  (+4000), Alize Cornet (+10000) and Kaia Kanepi (+10000) to name a few.

Tennis Betting Verdict: In the absence of the Williams sisters this tournament is wide open for the taking. The top three players are struggling somewhat on form (read: a bit up and down) this season. Both Azarenka and Sharapova have yet to win a title and Li Na has fizzled somewhat since her win in Oz. Of course, either one could find form in the Californian desert in order to come through on her favourable odds. Of the lot, however, Azarenka emerges the best tennis pick on paper while you can never write off Maria Sharapova.

Simona Halep is a good outside choice but keep in mind she did suffer an injury in Dubai (Achilles heel) so in lieu of that injury it remains to be seen whether she’s worth the risk on your tennis picks.  If an outside pick is your leaning, Agnieszka Radwanska has a good section of the draw to make her a tempting choice at +1000. As well, Ana Ivanovic and Dominika Cibulkova are two stars to spot.

Tennis Free Picks: Top pick is Azarenka to win outright at +250 while outside tennis pick Radwanska at +1000.