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Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Tennis Outright Picks Indian Wells 2013 (March 6-17)

The first thought I had at the end of last week was 'he's back'... Rafael Nadal played some wonderful tennis in the last couple of matches against Nicolas Almagro and in particular against David Ferrer as he proved that he is feeling healthy and will find his best tennis in time to defend his title at the French Open.

It was great news that Nadal also decided to head to Indian Wells for the first Masters of the season considering many thought he would take a month off and only return when the Tour moves on to the European clay court season. However, it was great to hear Nadal talking about joining the Tour as it moves through a couple of hard court tournaments in the United States.

That doesn't mean I am expecting big things from Nadal immediately as this is the first tournament he will enter alongside the absolute cream of the Men's game. It is a positive sign that Nadal feels his knee is in a position to compete on the hard courts, but I'd be surprised if he gets beyond the Quarter Final regardless of the draw as he will likely have to play one of the top three that he has faced throughout his career at the business end of Grand Slams.

I'll be interested to see how Nadal feels after a couple of matches on the hard courts, but he did play an exhibition on the surface in a losing effort against Juan Martin Del Potro and I think we will see the Spaniard get back to something close to his best by the time the French Open comes around.

Novak Djokovic, Sara Errani and Ernests Gulbis were other key winners of events in the past week and the one that disappointed me the most was the last of those as I had tipped him to come through the qualifiers and possibly go all the way, but the layers hadn't put any prices up for the outright markets.

Other than the disappointment around Gulbis, it was a pretty standard week last time out after the positive results from the previous three weeks. David Ferrer was my one outright pick and his challenge was dismissed in the Final by Rafael Nadal, while the daily picks provided the smallest of profits. Overall, it was a slight loss on the week, but nothing major to be concerned about.

WTA Indian Wells
While this is one of the premier events on the WTA Tour, it is one that will not be featuring Serena Williams or Venus Williams as Indian Wells remains a tournament they choose to by-pass after some issues they had there a few seasons ago.

That leaves Victoria Azarenka as the absolute favourite to win the tournament and that really is not surprising considering her form to open 2013 and her general success over the last 14 months.

Azarenka did miss out a couple of weeks ago in Dubai as she was recovering from her exploits in Doha and I do think she will be in good shape to defend her title from a year ago. The draw has been very kind to her early on and I would think she can get through to any Quarter Final without too many problems.

One potential player that could have upset the apple-cart on some recent showings is Caroline Wozniacki but she had a poor loss last week and there are some rumours that she is having a few personal problems in her relationship with Rory McIlroy. If she isn't focused, then Victoria Azarenka should be a Semi Finalist without too many problems.

No doubt there are some big names that could face the World Number 2 in the Semi Final with the likes of Angelique Kerber, Sam Stosur, Mona Barthel and Ana Ivanovic as potential opponents, but none of those are playing at the level of Azarenka right now.

With the way the draw has panned out, there is every chance we could see a repeat of the Final of twelve months ago as Maria Sharapova is the Number 2 seed her in the absence of Serena Williams. Sharapova really couldn't have asked for a much better route to the Semi Final with a number of the potential opponents she can play in her section not really having the power to trouble the Russian consistently.

One player that may give Sharapova problems is Mona Barthel, but she has too often shown inconsistent form to get through matches when she isn't playing at her best and there is every chance the German won't get through to any potential Quarter Final.

However, I think the biggest danger to a repeat Final from last season is the in-form Petra Kvitova who won the tournament in Dubai where she showed the form that had a lot of people believing she was the player most likely to kick on in the Women's game.

Kvitova also pushed Serena Williams all the way in Doha and I think she will be able to grab another win over Agnieszka Radwanska in the Quarter Final and become the player most likely to meet Sharapova in the Semi Final.

The problem for the Women's game at the moment is that there aren't too many players that are showing the form to suggest they can win the big tournaments and the absence of Serena Williams has also skewed the tournament slightly.

Victoria Azarenka is main beneficiary as she seems to have a clear path through to the Final to retain her title and I think she is worth backing in the outright market. The World Number 2 and Number 1 seed here will be my main pick for the tournament, but I also think there is a good reason to take Petra Kvitova on the each-way markets to make it to the Final from the bottom half.

Kvitova has been playing some excellent tennis over the last three weeks and has finally showed the form that everyone knows she can reach. She doesn't have the best head to head against Maria Sharapova, losing the last 3 matches they have contested against one another, but Kvitova has certainly shown enough in the last month to think she can break that little run.

ATP Indian Wells Masters
It is the first time since Wimbledon that the 'big four' players are all in action at the same tournament and the first thing to notice is that Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have been scheduled to meet in the Quarter Final.

That could be important news for Andy Murray as he has a chance to move into the World Number 2 Ranking if he wins this tournament and Federer fails to make the Final. However, he has been placed in the same half of the draw as Novak Djokovic and it will be tough for the British player to make it past an in-form World Number 1.

The top half of the draw has a number of big name players that can be very dangerous as Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Juan Martin Del Potro, Milos Raonic and Marin Cilic certainly capable of pushing the big names at the very least. However, I would suggest that both Djokovic and Murray will be too good, although I couldn't fully trust the latter after some poor performances in these early Masters tournaments over the last couple of seasons.

The bottom half of the draw is highlighted by the potential Quarter Final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, but both will need to put a couple of big wins in place to get there. Federer could get the chance to avenge his loss in Rotterdam as he could potentially face Julien Benneteau and the dangerous John Isner before the Quarter Finals.

Obviously the biggest fight Nadal has on his hands is getting through the tournament without any new issues with his knee. The likes of Janko Tipsarevic have been a little out of form, while Mikhail Youzhny is not the player of old that used to trouble Nadal so much. With that in mind, the Spaniard does have the easier path to the Quarter Finals, but doubts about his ability to complete a hard court tournament would put off some backers.

The other side of the bottom half has the in-form Tomas Berdych and he will be looking to reach his third Final in a row, although he did fall short in Marseille and Dubai. The Czech player was in good form at those events, but I am a little concerned that he hasn't shown his best at Indian Wells in the past.

Berdych should get through his early matches without too many issues, but potential matches against Richard Gasquet and David Ferrer will be incredibly tough matches to negotiate. Ferrer in particularly has been a match up nightmare for Berdych on all surfaces, but the Spaniard has only ever reached one Quarter Final in the past here and may find the change from clay courts to the hard courts a little tough to negotiate.

A potential clash with Kevin Anderson in the Second Round could be tough for Ferrer and may just open the door for Berdych to make a run.

The problem for the Men's game at the moment is that there hasn't been too many winners of the top events outside of the usual suspects and that means the prices are skewed to the top four players. It says quite a lot about the Men's tournaments that someone as good as Juan Martin Del Potro has failed to ever win a Masters tournament.

Novak Djokovic looks really short in the market considering the presence of Andy Murray in the section, but the draw looks a good one for him and Murray has been an early loser at this event the last couple of seasons. Djokovic has won 2 of the last 5 tournaments in Indian Wells and he was unlucky to lose in the Semi Final last season and I do think he is worth keeping on-side here considering his start to the 2013 season.

Another couple of players worth backing here are Roger Federer and Tomas Berdych from the bottom half of the draw and I'll have an interest in them each-way. The latter has been in good form and looks like he has been rewarded with a nice draw, while I still think Roger Federer is going to be too strong for an undercooked Rafael Nadal.

Federer is the defending Champion here and has won the event four times, while he is also missing Miami so can focus fully on this tournament. It's not the easiest draw, but I think he showed enough in Dubai to think he can at least get to the Semi Final here and that would make him a dangerous prospect here.

Berdych is in as good form as anyone not called Novak Djokovic and he did reach the Final at the Miami Masters in 2010 to suggest he can put in enough solid performances to possibly reach the Final. David Ferrer's presence is a concern, especially with his record against Berdych, but he has struggled at Indian Wells in the past so the Czech player is another I'll keep on my side this week.

MY PICKS: Victoria Azarenka @ 2.50 Blue Square (4 Units)
Petra Kvitova @ 10.00 Paddy Power (1 Unit E/W)
Novak Djokovic @ 2.25 Ladbrokes (4 Units)
Roger Federer @ 6.50 Paddy Power (1 Unit E/W)
Tomas Berdych @ 23.00 Stan James (0.5 Units E/W)

Daily Picks: 11-11-1, + 0.60 Units (44 Units Staked, 1.36% Yield)
Outright Picks: 0-1, - 1 Unit (1 Unit Staked, - 100% Yield)

Season 2013+ 36.07 Units (294 Units Staked, + 12.27% Yield)

Season 2012+ 49.21 Units (855 Units Staked, 5.76% Yield)
Season 2011+ 82.02 Units

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