2018 Indian Wells Predictions & Analysis: Federer Defends Title, #1 Ranking

  • When the odds for Indian Wells come out, there might be some betting value available.
  • Roger Federer is in the entry list and has everything to play for.
  • The havoc-inducing superteens are here, too, which should scare you a little bit.

The BNP Paribas Open, more commonly known as Indian Wells, is the closest thing to a fifth grand slam tennis has to offer. With the 2018 edition just around the corner (March 5th to March 18th) and (currently) no odds on offer, here’s what to look for when the odds sheet finally comes out.

When the odds become available, we’ll update this post.

UPDATE: Bet365 has added outrights for the tournament, and the tournament organizers released the draw. Both are worth a look. We’ve added a blurb under each heading with the relevant odds, for your convenience. (Read full Bet365 Review)

World #1 Roger Federer, here to defend his title

Roger Federer has 1000 points to defend at Indian Wells, and a grasp on the #1 ranking that isn’t much larger than that. Rafael Nadal only drops 90 points at Indian Wells, so Federer needs a good result or Nadal could be uncomfortably close with the clay season approaching.

It’s nice to see Indian Wells have some stakes for Federer; for too long, he’s been able to pick and choose which tournaments he cares about, and he wasn’t afraid to either withdraw or bomb out in the first round if he wasn’t feeling it. Heavy the head that wears the crown, and all that.

Federer will be listed as a ludicrous favourite, maybe as low as +250, I’ll advise bettors to look elsewhere, and then he’ll win anyway just to make me look stupid.

Betting Tip: If the odds aren’t too crazy, this is a tournament that an in-form Roger Federer will be very motivated to win.

Odds Update: Federer is listed at +120, which is one hand totally nuts, but on the other understandable, given that Federer is 12-0 this year and the best player in the history of the sport. You should also consider that Federer’s path to the final is, if the chalk holds, an absolute stroll.

Novak Djokovic returns from injury

This will be his first match back since his defeat at the Australian Open, and who knows how he’ll be feeling. Is whatever’s wrong with his elbow/wrist/body finally better?

Whatever the circumstances, we know that Novak will be among the favorites to win the tournament. Sportsbooks love to give Novak incredible odds regardless of injury or withdrawal or even recent form, he’s currently among the favorites to win the remaining slams on the schedule despite not playing much and certainly not playing well so far in 2018.

Whatever odds the sportsbook offer, they’re almost certain to be too short. Novak is just too big of a name, who’s been off his peak for too long, for these odds to be anything close to reasonable.

Betting Tip: These are going to be crazy odds for credulous rubes, likely in the +500’s or so. Stay away!

Odds Update: Djokovic is listed at +650, which is only slightly more reasonable than we thought. He also has a hellish draw, unlucky enough to get Nishikori in the second round. Not a prudent bet.

Marin Cilic could be a value pick

Marin Cilic is currently ranked third in the world, and by most accounts one of the only players with a realistic shot at beating Roger Federer. His Australian Open performance, where he forced Rafael Nadal into a fifth-set withdrawal and dragged Federer into a five-setter, should not be forgotten. Cilic plays with big, powerful strokes, which match up nicely with hard courts in a desert, but doesn’t get the kind of love you’d expect from fans or bettors.

As such Cilic could present a lot of value. If you end up with a Cilic/Federer final, it’s possible that Federer will be wary of grinding it out against Cilic.

Betting Tip: Anything over +1000 for Cilic to win the tournament could be great value.

Odds Update: Cilic is at +1600, but is on the same side of the draw as Del Potro, Nishikori, and Djokovic.

Shapovalov, Chung, Thiem: my rowdy sons are all here

Name a young player you’ve seen wreck a draw in the last year and a half. Denis Shapovalov beat Nadal in Montreal. Hyeon Chung very nearly made the Australian Open final. Dominic Thiem showed Novak Djokovic where the door is at the French Open.

They’re all on the start list at Indian Wells, and they’ll all be listed somewhere in the middle of the odds sheet. If trends persist, one of them will score an upset, knock your favorite player out of the tournament, then lose in the next round, leaving us all with a weird semifinal draw nobody predicted.

That’s not to say one of them will win, of course, but they usually do a great job of shaking up the draw and letting Grigor Dimitrov (or whoever) make the final.

Betting Tip: Take a look at the draw and make sure one of the moody man-children that have been delighting the tennis world for the last year isn’t in your pick’s path to the final. Also, keep an eye out for lines that have them as underdogs, as Shapovalov was against Nishikori last week.

Odds Update: Shapovalov is listed at +8000, but I’m not sure that this is the tournament where he breaks through. Maybe get him on match bets, not outrights. The book is maybe a little short on Hyeon Chung at +5000, and even given Thiem’s draw his odds (+2800) seem a little short.

Kei Nishikori
Sportsbooks struggle setting odds on Kei Nishikori, who is coming back from an injury. (Photo credit: Keith Allison (Flickr) CC License)

Some of the sub-favorites could be interesting

It’ll be interesting to see how the sportsbooks treat a few players who are just outside that elite class but still very much good enough to win the tournament. Juan Martin del Potro is currently serving as the woodchipper the ATP feeds young stars into, although Francis Tiafoe did get his comeuppance in Delray Beach. Dominic Thiem wasn’t so lucky at the Mexican Open, where Delpo won in straight sets.

Nick Kyrgios is injured, having withdrawn from Rotterdam and Delray, but capable of beating anyone on tour. David Goffin is 8th in the world but retired from the semi-final in Rotterdam. Kei Nishikori is on his way back to top form, although there were still a lot of weaknesses made obvious in his loss to Shapovalov. Lucas Pouille is currently a top-20 player but not really performing that way, although we’ll see how he fares in the later rounds at Dubai. It’s very difficult to reliably estimate how successful any of these players will be at Indian Wells, and as such the sportsbooks might create some value.

Betting Tip: Keep an eye out for wonky lines, as these players are highly ranked (or previously so) but for some reason or another very difficult to evaluate and very easy to overrate.

Odds Update: Del Potro is listed at +1000, given that he is 11-3 and won last week. Probably my pick for this tournament. Kyrgios is listed at his perennial +2200, but has dropped out of too many tournaments to warrant a bet. Kei Nishikori is all the way down at +4000 but, with his wrist still healing, not worth a look

Rafael Nadal is out

Nadal withdrew from the Mexican Open and announced that he will be missing Indian Wells and the Miami Masters. It appears that the hip injury that forced him to limp out of the Australian Open has not fully healed. Nadal has now withdrawn from six tournaments in a row.

Obviously Nadal’s priority is and should be winning the French Open and maybe getting the #1 ranking back that way. Expect to see him back on court in time for the Monte Carlo Masters and the big clay court tournaments.

Betting Tip: Fading Nadal has been a go-to strategy for the last few weeks. Look for his French Open futures to go down, at least slightly.

Geoff Johnson

MTS co-founder Geoff Johnson is a lifelong Mets fan, something he can't do anything about. He has a great track record when it comes to wagering on baseball – largely because he's more than willing to bet against the Mets. His career profits are impressive, but not quite as good as his handsome friend Frank Lorenzo. He wishes he hadn't let Frank write his profile.