New month, same hot topic. World No. 2 Novak Djokovic (that’s weird to type) may or may not play the Indian Wells ATP Masters due to his vaccination status. The men’s singles draw has been released and he sits in the bottom half while new World No. 1 Daniil Medvedev drew the one seed in the top half. Although Djokovic is included in the draw, he’s actually not expected to compete.
Before attacking his quarter and examining who could come out the victor, we have to look how the draw will be affected if Djoker doesn’t play.
If Djokovic withdraws before the first day’s order of play is announced, then the highest-ranked unseeded player will move into his spot, which would be Grigor Dimitrov. Currently set to play Tommy Paul in the first round, Dimitrov would instead receive a bye to the second round. A lucky loser (a player who loses in the final round of qualifying) will take Dimitrov’s spot and face Paul instead.
If Djokovic withdraws after the first day’s order of play is announced, then he will be replaced by a lucky loser.
If Djokovic does not withdraw after the tournament starts but remains unable to play, then his potential second-round opponent (either Jordan Thompson or David Goffin) would receive a walkover and advance to the third round.
Most books have odds off the board with the pending news of Djokovic’s participation, however, BetMGM does have Djoker listed as the favorite.
Current top five ATP betting odds to win Indian Wells Masters:
Novak Djokovic +185
Rafael Nadal +350
Daniil Medvedev +400
Alexander Zverev +700
Stefanos Tsitsipas +900
(Here’s the full list.)
What to watch for in each quarter of the draw
It’s been a long time since Djoker hasn’t been in the top first quarter of the draw. Now that he’s No. 2, Medvedev holds the one seed. In his quarter di lui, Medvedev could have some interesting challenges by potentially facing Frenchman Gael Monfils in the third round, Spain’s rising star Carlos Alcaraz Garfia in the fourth round and Acapulco finalist Cam Norrie in the semifinal, who won this event last year.
Though Indian Wells is often considered ATP’s fifth major, it is still a best-of-three tournament and not a best of five. This matters because even the best players are vulnerable in a best of three as we saw from Djokovic losing to qualifier Jiri Vesely in straight sets in Dubai last month.
Indian Wells is a hardcourt surface but plays slower than the Australian Open and faster than Acapulco, which means I’m still more inclined to target the better hardcourt player with a well-placed serve. The big serves matter on faster surfaces, but here, I’m looking to the servers who can hit their marks.
Medvedev is +125 to win the first quarter. The player I am more interested in is Alcaraz (+700). Meddy is 1-0 head-to-head against the 18-year-old but that was at Wimbledon and Alcaraz doesn’t have a serve to contend on grass. This year, Alcaraz has won the NextGen ATP Finals, lost to Italy’s Matteo Berrettini in a coin-flip fifth-set tiebreak at the Australian Open and won ATP 500 Rio on clay. Depending on the time of day this potential match is played and if the temperature is cooler, Alcaraz can most definitely contend. If the Spaniard didn’t do as well at the US Open I’d be less interested, but my ears are up.
Could 21-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal really win another tournament? I can’t wait to find out. Rafa is undefeated in 2022 with three straight title wins, most recently in Acapulco. Nadal has a very soft draw in the early rounds and likely won’t be tested until the fourth round with a potential matchup against Canada’s Denis Shapovalov. These two went the distance at the Australian Open and the same could happen here. Nadal holds a 54-10 record at Indian Wells. Of those 10 losses, six were against either Roger Federer or Djokovic. At -120, there’s no value to back Nadal to win his quarter of him because he’s played a lot of tennis and has a clay court season to rest and prepare for. Instead, I’d be looking to back Shapovalov as an underdog against Nadal if this matchup were to come to fruition. Shapo (+1000) to win his quarter di lui has some long-shot merit.
Third and fourth quarter
Although Djokovic is unlikely to play, he’s still in the draw. Messing with quarter bets with this still being the case is just not worth the hassle. However, the player I am interested in backing throughout the tournament is Canadian Felix Auger Aliassime. Similar to Alcaraz, FAA is having himself a year. After nearly upsetting Medvedev in the Australian Open, Aliassime went on to win ATP Rotterdam, breaking his 0-8 in Finals streak. Then he made it to the Finals again, this time in ATP Marseille, before ultimately losing to Russian Andrey Rublev. I think fatigue was a factor in that match more than a discrepancy in ability. At +400, FAA to win the third quarter could be the play. However, I’ll be looking to matchplay instead.
A best of three brings a lot more volatility than a major tournament. This is a tournament where I want to see how players develop and see how the weather and layoff comes into play. Plus, we are out of the era where, “Djokovic is winning. Nadal is winning. ” Taking pre-flop shots at favorites is more risk than reward.
Though a Masters 1000 event, there is a reason we have seen five different winners in the last five events played at Indian Wells. If there was one wager to make, however, it would be Shapovalov to win the second quarter at +1000. That would mean getting through Nadal.
What I like about his game as of late: His match win against Zverev at the Australian Open showed me that both he and his team recognized the need to just start the point and get into a rally. As a player who tends to overplay his opponent, this commitment to a patient return of service is against his normal approach di lui, which means there is maturity breaking through in how he executes. Hopefully he can scale that moving forward.