Check out my Tennis Picks & Predictions for the Mens Singles
After successfully defending her Aussie Open title in Melbourne at the start of the year, Azarenka went on to defeat Serena in the final of the Qatar Open, meaning she arrives in the Californian desert with the same record as a year ago.
The young Belarusian will be disappointed at having lost her no.1 ranking to Serena, but she’ll know she’s achieved everything she possibly could have done so far this year and knows a successful defence of her title here, followed by a strong showing in Miami at the end of the month, will put her back at the top of the pile.
With betting odds of just 11/10 to repeat her 2012 success here, I probably wouldn’t be putting huge amounts on Azarenka and my thinking is that she may well be focussing on having a decent run here before really going for it in Miami.
She’ll be tough to beat though and certainly won’t be turning down the opportunity to claim another title if it’s handed to her on a plate.
Maria Sharapova has had a fairly typical start to the season. Looking like the best player on the planet at times, only for it all to suddenly evaporate and let her down at a crucial moment.
Sharapova may well be more motivated than anybody to prove her critics wrong and come through to claim the title here. The Russian will no doubt come out and blow away her first couple of opponents but there has to be a concern that at some point the confidence will go AWOL and she’ll be dumped out of the tournament in a flash.
Despite all that, I am really tempted by the 4/1 on offer and feel there’s definitely a bit of tennis betting value there – particularly with Serena being missing.
Having won in Dubai last week, Petra Kvitova looks like she may finally be putting an awful run of form behind her and just maybe the Czech can do something here in Indian Wells.
Having won Wimbledon in 2011 and finished that year as the World Tour Champion, Kvitova did have a very patchy 2012 and will want to get back to her best as soon as possible this year.
My concern is that despite coming through in Dubai, it wasn’t the strongest field ever and her performance in Melbourne, where she was an early loser to young Brit, Laura Robson, left a lot to be desired. She’s the third favourite for this one at 8/1, but I just can’t see her winning back-to-back events, so I’ll be staying away from Petra for the time being.
There’s definitely some potential for one of the lower ranked players to come through and do well here.
Laura Robson has done fantastically well in her last couple of hard court slams and if she can get herself through the first couple of rounds, she could be a decent each-way bet. Robson has shown she can beat Grand Slam champions aplenty and sooner or later she will have a great run at one of these events. If you think it may happen in the next week then the 150/1 on offer could earn you some big returns.
More realistically though, we’re looking at the likes of maybe Wozniacki, who won here a couple of years back, and Angelique Kerber. You can back both these women at tennis odds of around 40/1 – although for me, neither appears to be in the kind of form that suggests they’ll go all the way.
I’m going to go with Sharapova at 4/1 for this one.