Ah, March. Out goes (for some of us) frigid temperatures, snow, post-football angst; in comes March Madness, the NBA Playoffs, MLB Opening Day, good (better?) weather, and the Sunshine Swing in tennis. The best tennis athletes in the world converge on the US for two of the biggest non-majors in tennis: the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells and the Miami Open.
First up is Indian Wells, which gets started on March 7 and runs through March 17. These courts are typically slower than the typical hard court so some of the advantages for good servers we see in the indoor hard circuit go out the door. Furthermore, the fields for both the WTA and ATP tournaments are loaded, so don’t expect any shock winners. Instead we’re looking for value inside the top 50 that we can potentially hedge out of as the tournament moves along. I’m going to breakdown the tournament by delving into each quarter of the draw.
Not the easiest of draws for the Djoker here. Kyrgios is coming off of a win in Acapulco where he beat, in order: Rafa, Wawrinka, and (the good) Zverev, AND put on one of the great heel performances outside of the WWE. Kyrgios also beat Djokovic here in 2017, so he’s definitely a live dog, should he decide to show up for this tournament. Also in the top half we have Monfils, who is in great form and won on hard courts in Rotterdam, and Opelka, who just won in New York. The bottom half of this quarter isn’t quite as loaded, but there still is Borna Coric and Dominic Thiem, who are both more than capable of making a run. While picking against Djokovic is never the smartest move, I certainly don’t see any value in his future at +125 and would not be shocked if we saw another name emerge from this quarter.
The pick: Djokovic beats Coric
This quarter is loaded with young talent: Zverev, De Minaur, Raonic, Tsitsipas, Auger-Aliassime, Norrie all have the talent to make a run to the final. Personally, I find the price on Zverev impossible to pass up here at +1400 – his potential path to the round of 16 is Klizan, who’s always been more a clay court player, and Dimitrov, who routinely gets trucked by top 10 players. At this point I will (hopefully) see him face another one of my futures in Alex De Minaur at +10000. I’ve been a fan of De Minaur’s form to start the year, and think he’ll be able to carry it through to a round of 16 matchup vs. Zverev, where I could always hedge out. My last future in this quarter is noted Greek Philosopher Tsitsipas at +3300. He is coming off of a win in Marseille and a loss to Federer in the final at Dubai. At that price his talent and form is impossible to pass up.
The pick: Tsitsipas beats Zverev
Just a beautiful draw for Federer. He owns Stanimal (21-3 H2H), and while the top half of this quarter has some decent talent, it’s all mercurial, especially with Nishikori being out of form. Federer +550 is my favorite outright bet of this tournament.
That said, I don’t hate taking a stab at Tiafoe +20000. He just made it to the quarters at the Aussie and pushed Fed before at the US Open last year. It’s only a matter of time before he puts it all together and takes down an ATP event.
The pick: Federer beats Nishikori
Rafa should have smooth sailing to the final 16 (maaaybe Schwartzman gives him a match), but I don’t love the fact that he hadn’t played since the Aussie Open until last week (where he lost to Kyrgios), and the injury cloud around him. For that reason, I like taking a couple stabs at outrights from this quarter.
The first is Khachanov at +10000. His form has been atrocious to start the year, but if he’s able to rediscover it the quarter sets up really nice for him. The second is Isner, also at +10000. I may despise his style of tennis, but he always seems to play well in his home country and is most certainly capable of tiebreak-trolling his way to a finals appearance. If nothing else, he should be able to provide you with some really nice hedge opportunities.
My final outright play is Daniil Medvedev at +6600. He won in Sofia, lost to Monfils in Rotterdam, and took a set off of Djokovic at the Aussie. The form is there, and if Rafa is going to lose he’s as good of a candidate as any to be the guy who knocks him out.
The pick: Medvedev beats Isner
Semifinals picks: Djokovic beats Tsitsipas; Federer beats Medvedev
Finals pick: Federer beats Djokovic
Outright picks summary:
Alex De Minaur +10000