Novak Djokovic is the favourite in a stacked field for the 2019 BNP Paribas Open this week.
The world number one leads the way in the betting odds at Indian Wells, but with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal both in the draw as well as a clutch of exciting rising stars, the Serbian superstar faces strong competition if he to win his sixth career title at this event.
Bet on the BNP Paribas Open Online at:
Djokovic has not played since the Australian Open, so it is unclear how his form and fitness are going to look, while the draw has given him a potential clash with Acapulco champion Nick Kyrgios, who is only seeded 31 this week, in the third round.
Federer and Nadal are in the same half of the draw and there could be a tasty all-Swiss clash between the veteran and Stanislas Wawrinka, also at the third-round stage. That would be a repeat of the final a couple of years ago, when Federer won fairly easily in straight sets.
Djokovic will have a bye into the second round – as is the case for all of the top seeds – where he will face a qualifier, so there will not be a lot of chance for the Australian Open champion to get up to full speed before that possible clash with Kyrgios.
The top bookmakers have Djokovic, Federer and Nadal a long way clear of the chasing pack when it comes to the odds for the BNP Paribas Open. But is there better value on offer elsewhere?
Federer Seeking Title Number 101
After reaching three figures in Dubai last week, Roger Federer heads to California having earned revenge over the Greek rising star Stefanos Tsitsipas, who knocked him out of the Australian Open to announce himself on the global stage.
Federer was the beaten finalist here a year ago, falling to Juan Martin del Potro despite having three championship points when serving to win the third set. He therefore missed the chance to claim a sixth career title at Indian Wells and will surely be determined to put that right over the course of the next week.
Having reached the final at the BNP Paribas Open in five of the past seven years, it is clear Federer is going to be tough to beat and his odds of 5/1 reflect that fact, with only Djokovic shorter. The world number one is offered at a very tight margin of 11/8 by most bookmakers.
Federer’s route to the semi-finals does not seem too tough either, with players such as Marin Cilic, Lucas Pouille and Kei Nishikori potentially awaiting in the last eight assuming he continues his fine head-to-head record against Wawrinka if they meet as expected in the third round.
It is hard to see Federer failing to get through to the semis, where Nadal may be waiting.
Nadal Aims for First Final Since 2013
Spanish great Rafael Nadal has won the Indian Wells title three times, but you have to go back to 2013 to find the last time he got to the final, when he beat Del Potro to claim the trophy.
Del Potro, by the way, is unable to defend the title he won here last year as he is continuing to recover from a knee injury. France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is among the others to have withdrawn.
Nadal is scheduled to come up against Diego Schwartzman in the third round, a clash that should not trouble him too much, while eighth seed John Isner could be up in the quarters.
Isner has never beaten Nadal in the seven previous meetings between the two players, so while the American is talented – and he won the biggest title of his career in Miami last year – that would not be a meeting that should give Nadal too many headaches.
A dangerous player in Nadal’s section of the draw is Daniil Medvedev, who had a brilliant start to the year and gave Djokovic a bit of a scare at the Australian Open. The Russian has a great future but it might be a couple of years until we start seeing him beating the big boys regularly.
Like Federer, Nadal can be backed at around the 5/1 mark and it would be quite a shock if they were to be knocked out before their enticing clash at the semi-final stage of the tournament. But Nadal has not won a title since August, a fact which backers ought to keep in their minds.
Zverev Leads Young Guns
Away from the big three of Djokovic, Federer and Nadal, the world number three Alexander Zverev will be hoping to justify his high seeding by making it through to at least the semis.
Kevin Anderson is in Zverev’s section of the draw but the giant South African is still making his way back to full fitness after recovering from an elbow injury. It would be impressive if he managed to get through to the quarter-final stage to book a meeting with the young German.
Zverev could have a sibling rivalry in his opening match as elder brother Mischa is taking on Martin Klizan in the first round, while Grigor Dimitrov (100/1) is in this mini-section as well.
A stacked quarter also features Tsitsipas – who is now ranked in the world’s top 10 and can be backed at 40/1 – and Roberto Bautista Agut (66/1), who are scheduled to meet in the third round, while there is also Milos Raonic (50/1) to worry about for those in this part of the draw. And even if Zverev navigates his path to the last four, Djokovic is almost certain to await.
A price of 14/1 reflects the fact Zverev has a tough draw but in the unlikely event of Djokovic being knocked out much earlier than anticipated, he might start to look decent value.
In-form Kyrgios a Man to Watch
Knocking out Nadal on his way to the Acapulco title showed Nick Kyrgios, on his day, is one of the best players in the world. His price of 33/1 for the Indian Wells crown therefore catches the eye.
Kyrgios got to the quarter-finals the last time he played in the BNP Paribas Open in 2017, when he was also coming off the back of some good results the previous week in Acapulco.
This would be the biggest tournament triumph of his career to date and he will relish the chance to take on Djokovic early in the competition. The bookies would have Djokovic as a strong favourite for that match but while you never know which Kyrgios is going to show up for a big clash he certainly has weapons that could hurt the top seed.
On an each-way basis at small stakes only, Kyrgios might well be worth a punt this week.
2019 BNP Paribas Open Picks
There is no hiding the fact that the most likely semi-final lineups at Indian Wells are Djokovic v Zverev and Federer v Nadal, with the bookmakers certainly expecting this outcome.
Djokovic is the man to beat but despite his incredible start to 2019 he is just too short to back, with Federer more worthwhile at a price of around the 5/1 mark. Both men have five titles here and a sixth for either of them would be a new record for the BNP Paribas Open.
There is some merit in backing Zverev even though he is in the same half as Djokovic as his 14/1 price looks to offer some each-way value, but there are others who are preferred.
One of them is Kyrgios, who could play Djokovic in the third round. If – and to be clear, it is a big if – Kyrgios were able to beat the world number one his 33/1 price would dramatically collapse.
Elsewhere in the draw, 40/1 on Tsitsipas will tempt those who are watching the Greek’s stratospheric rise with interest, while Isner at 100/1 is the best of the long shot options here.