Nadal looks ahead to defend his title
Arguably, Indian Wells was the scene of Nadal’s true arrival last season and the catalyst for what became one of the best seasons of the Spaniard’s illustrious tennis career.
In 2013, Nadal returned to action from a seven-month hiatus due to injury during the South American clay-court swing with much success – reaching a final and winning two events – but his victory over Juan Martin Del Potro in the final at Indian Wells (unlikely according to avid tennis-betting fans, pundits and a bevy of naysayers, at the time, given his lack of match play) – on a surface other than his beloved clay, was what really announced his intentions for the season. Although nobody at the time expected him to enjoy quite the year that he eventually did. All told, ten titles (two Grand Slams and five Masters titles). In a word: remarkable.
So are we headed for a similar result at Indian Wells this year? Can Nadal actually defend his hard court title – something he’s struggled to do on this surface in back-to-back seasons – or will there be another champion crowned?
If the recent Australian Open were an indication of potential contenders for the coveted title in the Californian desert then we’d be looking at an Oz quarterfinal redux (and onwards), which includes the usual suspects: Nadal, Djokovic, Murray and Federer. As well as familiar contenders in David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych and Stanislas Wawrinka, with the only exception (newbie) in the spotlight, Grigor Dimitrov.
Tale told, Nadal and Wawrinka navigated a course into the finals only for the latter, against the tennis odds, to emerge the victor. More than a few tennis bettors had their fingers burned backing Nadal’s short odds to win the Australian Open title, though, in fairness, none could have predicted the Spaniard’s back injury, which visibly hindered his ability to compete effectively against Stan the man. That’s not to say the Swiss wouldn’t have won but surely we can agree that he’d have been given a serious run for his money with a Nadal at 100% staring him down.
Working on the assumption that the Australian Open was a bit of an aberration – which it was in Grand Slam betting as it marked the first time in five years since Juan Martin Del Potro won the 2009 US Open that an outsider (read: a player other than Nadal, Djokovic, Murray or Federer) won a major title – it’s going to be hard to bet against this quartet at the Indian Wells. A fact underscored by their domination of the Masters Series events as well. Although, it’s worth noting that this quartet has been whittled down to a dominant triplet across sportsbooks these days with Federer increasingly becoming a bit of a spent force in the minds of odds makers.
One need only look at the odds for the 2014 US Open to get a sense of the tennis betting landscape across sportsbook platforms. Novak Djokovic remains the top contender for hard court events, at +175 tennis odds at Bet365 to win the coveted title, while Nadal and Murray closely follow as second and third favourites at +200 and +250, respectively. Federer’s good old days ended two years ago, a time when he was still considered a viable triple digit threat. Since 2012, odds makers have traded up Federer into the quadruple digits and since his upgrade (depends on perspective) he’s typically hobnobbed with the likes of Juan Martin Del Potro at +1200 and Stanislas Wawrinka at +1400. Contenders such as Ferrer and Berdych flatter to deceive at +3300 as they’ve been won’t to do for much of their careers.
This doesn’t mean there isn’t a potential for a big upset at the BNP Paribas Open. Certainly, Wawrinka’s victory over Nadal in Melbourne proved that anything could happen in tennis betting. But when such upsets are so few and far in between, it’s hard to back them, not least reoccurring so soon after Melbourne with any conviction.