Having not played at the same event as any of his nearest rivals since Wimbledon last year, Rafa Nadal will make his long-awaited return to top-class action at Indian Wells.
When Rafa made his official comeback on the clay a few weeks ago, I didn’t expect him to turn up and win his first event. And he didn’t. Although he has gone on to win a couple of titles since.
For me, this very first hard court campaign since returning from the knee injury is going to serve as a gentle return to real competitive action for the Spaniard.
Rafa toyed with the idea of missing out on Indian Wells and Miami completely – knowing that he would then be onto the clay and wouldn’t have to worry about hard courts again until the summer. However, given the success he has had on clay since returning, I think it would have been very difficult for Nadal to justify missing these events and he has therefore been almost forced to play at this event at least.
The 9/1 on offer may appear like terrific Tennis betting value for a man who has won this event on more than one occasion and but for injury would probably still be no.2 in the world. It’s not!
Nadal will not be risking any form of injury ahead of Monte Carlo in April and ultimately Paris in May. So whilst he may come through a round or two early on, I really can’t see him even reaching the semis here.
Murray wants this one badly. The Scot has never won this event and has been ousted in the first round in the last two years. That means a good run could earn Murray a huge rankings points boost, enabling him to close right in on Federer and perhaps even Djokovic later in the year.
Murray missed the Dubai event in February in order to come to America early and get himself ready for Indian Wells and Miami. Whilst success in both events will be paramount, the Indian Wells title is the one which is missing from his resume, so for me he’ll be going all out for this one.
I can’t see anybody putting Murray out ahead of the semis, although Del Potro might have a good go in the quarters, so it looks like we may get a Djokovic v Murray semi-final. You can get betting odds around 5/1 on the Scot to bag the title, which isn’t bad value for a man with only one defeat this year.
Roger won here last year and has won this event many times before. You can never write off the Swiss, but there are signs that he may not be quite at the level he was this time last year.
After losing out in the Aussie Open semis to Murray and falling to Berdych at the same stage in Dubai, I think it may be difficult for him to successfully defend the title.
That said, the draw hasn’t been unkind and we could be looking at another semi-final with Berdych before the Swiss comes under any real pressure.
Intriguingly though, Nadal and Federer are seeded to meet at the quarter-final stage which will be a bit of a collector’s item if it comes off.
Another epic start to the season. Undefeated and with a Grand Slam already under his belt. Can the Serbinator be stopped in the desert?
It’s almost impossible to see anybody putting him out before the semi-final. He’ll more than likely come up against Andy Murray in that semi-final and that will probably be the key match in deciding who’s going to win this tournament.
I’ll be going with Djokovic, because I just can’t go against him at the moment, but Murray is probably the only man with a real chance of defeating him, so if you want the best sports betting value, it’s Murray at 5/1 over Novak at 5/4.
Berdych and Del Potro are the two obvious men capable of causing an upset. Berdych reached the final in Dubai last week and is in a section of the draw which will give him every chance of doing the same again. Del Potro hasn’t been at his very best this year, but did win in Rotterdam and generally performs well in the desert. He’ll likely need to defeat Murray and then Djokovic in the semis and quarters, so he’s not a tip to reach the final for me this time.
Elsewhere, look out for Jerzy Janowicz who reached the final at the Paris Masters last November – his massive serve gives him a chance against anybody, and we may see a great match between Janowicz and Berdych in the early part of the tournament.
I still can’t go against Djokovic, but take somebody from the bottom half of the draw at each-way odds and see how you go. Janowicz would be my pick at 250/1, but the likes of Isner and Seppi may also do well.