ATP Indian Wells Preview: Nadal to edge Federer in bottom half of the draw
The 10-day ATP Masters 1000 event at Indian Wells begins this evening and tennis betting expert Dan Weston discusses the anticipated conditions and contenders...
"On hard court in the last 12 months, it's Djokovic with the best data - 111.6% combined service/return points won percentage, with Nadal back at 108.2% in second place. Federer is marginally behind at 107.8%, with fourth favourite Zverev actually higher than Roger, at 108.1%."
Big names waiting until the weekend
The focus of the tennis tour in March is on the two major Masters & Premier Mandatory events held in Indian Wells over the coming fortnight and later on in the month in Miami. The ladies event in Indian Wells began last night, and it's the turn of the men to get their event under way this evening at 7pm UK time.
In reality, most of the big names on the ATP Tour won't get their campaigns started until the weekend, with Thursday and Friday set aside for the round of 128 - the 32 players who don't receive first round byes, who are competing to join the 32 top ranked players in the draw, who automatically qualified for the last 64.
Djokovic a strong favourite to lift the trophy
Effectively, this is a 96-man field, and leading the way in the winners market on the Exchange is unsurprisingly Novak Djokovic, whose dominance on hard courts is illustrated by his price of [2.32] - and again, I re-assert, this is in a 96-man field. Yes - market prices indicate that he's got almost an implied 50% chance of winning an event with 96 players in it, which demonstrates the faith that the market has in him currently.
According to that market, there are only three other realistic contenders. Roger Federer is available at [5.8], while Rafa Nadal can be backed at [7.8]. Alexander Zverev is further back at [16.5], and its [40.0] or greater for the remainder of the field, with the overwhelming majority priced at three digits.
Slow conditions unlikely to suit Federer
So, is Djokovic a worthy heavy favourite? Conditions are likely to be on the slow side, with just 62.7% of service points won at the venue across the last three years - more than one percent down on the ATP hard court mean. Generally speaking, this shouldn't give any player a particular advantage over another, but I would be concerned about Federer's chances. The Swiss man's better performances on quicker conditions is well known, and I'm not sure at all that Indian Wells will be to his liking.
Federer did win the event in 2017, although he has only won twice since 2006, with Nadal (three) and Djokovic (five) dominating the event. Federer did also reach the final last year, although it must be noted that Djokovic was in poor shape a year back - he lost to Taro Daniel in round one, with his level nowhere near his current ability. Djokovic also did not compete here in 2017, and Nadal didn't in 2018, so Federer certainly had a favourable field in these last two editions - this year should be different.
On hard court in the last 12 months, it's Djokovic with the best data - 111.6% combined service/return points won percentage - with Nadal back at 108.2% in second place. Federer is marginally behind at 107.8%, with fourth favourite Zverev actually higher than Roger, at 108.1%.
With this in mind, on a slow hard court, Federer's price seems very short indeed. He won in Dubai a week or so ago, but didn't face a top ten player in the process, and again, his return data - he broke opponents around 25% of the time in the event - was solid as opposed to spectacular. I'm not convinced of his merits, at prices, at all.
Nadal represents better value at prices
I'd be much happier looking at Nadal at a bigger price than Federer. The market has probably been influenced by Federer's Dubai trophy, and Nadal's loss to Nick Kyrgios in Acapulco the same week, in what was an extremely bad-tempered match. Kyrgios does have the ability to turn it on against top-level opponents, but his status as around 5th/6th favourite here shows the market still doesn't pay an abundance of attention to longer-term data.
It's also worth noting that Nadal was 1/10 on break points against the Australian (Kyrgios only had one chance in the entire match), and Nadal won 52% of points in the match in his defeat - it's difficult to make a statistical argument for Kyrgios being the better player in that win over the Spaniard.
With this in mind, I'm much happier to favour Nadal on a slow hard court over Federer in the bottom half of the draw, and he can be chanced for a small stake at that [7.8] on the Exchange.
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Back Rafa Nadal at [7.8] to win ATP Indian Wells