This week the tennis betting spotlight shines on Indian Wells where the BNP Paribas Open gets underway. A star-studded cast of the best in the women's game descends on the Californian desert, all part of 128-strong field led by tennis odds-on fave Serena Williams. Can anybody stop Serena?
Serena Williams +110 To Win Outright
Serena Williams ends a 14-year exile from Indian Wells, deciding to let bygones be bygones (so to speak) as she continues her quest for glory on the women's circuit. Ever since the Williamses decided to give this Premier event on the women's schedule a skip, their absence was an opportunity for the rest of the field to capitalise on. The tournament has seen 11 different champions over the 14 year stretch since Serena beat Venus in the 2001 final that drew such controversy. Three times it served up repeat champions, but none back-to-back. Kim Clijsters won it twice, 2003 and 2005, while Daniela Hantuchova won it twice as well, in 2002 and 2007. Maria Sharapova rounds out this triplet with title victories in2006 and 2013.
Now that Serena is back, it's no longer a wide open tournament, up for grabs by any player in the draw. Quite rightly, she's the player to beat at +110 tennis odds, a market stance that is underscored by her bright start to the season and picking up her nineteenth major title in Melbourne. She's a good deal shorter than her nearest rival for the title Maria Sharapova (+450), who falls into the second half of the draw and is a viable contender to reach the final.
With the tennis odds set and the tournament ready to get underway, let's look at the BNP Paribas Open draw in order to determine some of the best tennis picks to win the respective quarters and, in turn, gain a viable shot to win the title.
First Quarter: Tournament fave Serena Williams rules
Serena Williams (+110) falls into the first quarter of the draw, alongside some solid contenders that include seeded threats such as Svetlana Kuznetsova, Angelique Kerber and Lucie Safarova, and unseeded threats such as Sloane Stephens, Mona Barthel, Kristina Mladenovic, amongst several others. Arguably, her biggest threat in the section though is Ekaterina Makarova, who flanks the opposite end and is slated to meet Serena in the quarterfinals if all goes to plan. The player that could shake up this section is Lucie Safarova, who is after winning Doha a couple of weeks ago.
Top Pick: Serena to win quarter
Outside value tennis picks: Lucie Safarova and Ekaterina Makarova
Second Quarter: Simona Halep +900 leads the section
The second quarter of the draw is wide open with a whole slew of attractive tennis betting morsels to consider. Simona Halep (Dubai champion last month) leads the charge in this section and she's the third overall favourite to win it all at +900 tennis odds. But she's sure to have some stiff competition through the rounds. Not only is her section flanked by Agnieszka Radwanska (+3300 to win it all) and it includes seeded threats such as up-and-coming Garbine Muguruza (+2800 to win it all) and Karolina Pliskova (+5000) but also it boasts an in-from Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova and Carla Suarez-Navarro, as well as dangerous floaters Julia Goerges and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Indeed, this section has the potential to go tits up and a whole slew of players could climb down from their lofty tennis odds if they go deep.
Top Pick: Simona Halep to win quarter
Outside value tennis picks: Radwanska, Pliskova or Suarez-Navarro
Third Quarter: Wozniacki Top Seed and Fave
Former champion Carolina Wozniacki (2011) is widely expected to emerge victorious from this section, but it's not as straightforward as the odds makers would suggest. Seeded fourth in the tournament, the Danish star is the fifth overall favourite to win it all at +1800 on the tennis odds board. She has form coming into the tournament, and is one of few players that was able to give Serena Williams a good run for her money last season. All that makes her an attractive tennis pick, obviously. Still, she'll need to navigate a successful course through the rounds and with players such as Belinda Bencic, Jelena Jankovic, Kaia Kanepi, Daniela Hantuchova and Madison Keys all strewn carefully in her path to the quarters, it's not going to be smooth sailing. Should she reach the quarters, she could face Eugenie Bouchard (+4000 to win it all), Andrea Petkovic, Alize Cornet, amongst several others.
Top Pick: Caroline Wozniacki to win quarter
Outside value tennis picks: Madison Keys and Andrea Petkovic
Fourth Quarter: The Group of Death
The fourth quarter is shaping up to be one of the toughest sections of the tournament to handicap on your tennis picks, with four former champions in the mix, beginning with two-time champion Maria Sharapova and 2008 champion Ana Ivanovic flanking opposite ends. Followed by defending champion Flavia Pennetta thrown into the mix along with 2012 Victoria Azarenka. If that's not enough a couple of big hitters are also contained within: Caroline Garcia, Jarmila Gajdosova and Sabine Lisicki. As well, some established veterans such as Sara Errani, Francesca Schiavone, Yanina Wickmayer, Samantha Stosur and American hopeful Betthanie Mattek-Sands. And, finally, some young up-and-comers such as Tereza Smitkova, Madison Brengle and Taylor Townsend. Talk about a group of death draw. Just like Serena, Sharapova has the edge over the competition simply by sheer determination and will power. She's one of the toughest players to beat. Hence, she deserves to be the top pick in her section. As far as outside bets go, take your pick. The whole lot are worthy of consideration. For our money, we fancy Azarenka and Ivanovic.
Top Pick: Maria Sharapova to win quarter
Outside value tennis picks: Azarenka, Ivanovic and Garcia