The next major event on the ATP Tour is the BNP Paribas Open which takes place in Indian Wells, California from March 10 – March 20, 2022. This preview looks at the data behind the big names on the ATP Tour and gives insight into the dynamics of the outright market.
Following the drama of the Australian Open - with Novak Djokovic being deported from Australia and Rafael Nadal winning the title after defeating Daniil Medvedev in an epic five-set final - the unofficial ‘fifth major’ on the tour, the BNP Paribas Open, is next on the schedule. This event follows a week away from the main tour, with Davis Cup matches taking place on March 4-5, and it’s worth clarifying that this preview was written in advance of those Davis Cup matches.
BNP Paribas Open: Who are the favourites?
Conditions at Indian Wells in recent years have been slow compared to the average ATP hard court event, with both Aces per Game and Service Points Won percentages markedly below the ATP hard court mean figures. In theory, at least, this should be of benefit to the more return-oriented players (including, potentially, those who perform well on clay) and less so for the big-servers and players who like quicker conditions, such as Daniil Medvedev [3.900]*, who is one of the outright market leaders.
The dominance of Medvedev, plus Djokovic, Zverev, and Nadal on hard courts is accurately shown below.
Conversely, these slower conditions should assist Nadal [3.500]* although the Spaniard hasn’t had much success in this tournament over the last decade. He last competed in the event in 2019, withdrawing ahead of his semi-final clash with Roger Federer, and also lost to the Swiss legend in 2017 (he skipped the event in 2018). He also experienced a semi-final loss in 2016 – this time to Djokovic - and we have to go back to 2013 to find a year where Nadal lifted the trophy here in California.
Federer - who of course, is not going to compete given his long-term injury issues - has an excellent record here over the last 10 or so years, so there’s a gap for other players to thrive in his absence. Whether Novak Djokovic is that man is up for debate, however, given that the world number one hasn’t had much game time this season following his absence from the Australian Open.
With plenty of question marks surrounding the market leaders - including Alexander Zverev [6.000]*, who was recently defaulted from an event in Acapulco, Mexico for bad behaviour - it’s worth having a look at the 12-month hard court data to see which players are stronger on the surface than others. The chart below illustrates the Service Points Won and Return Points Won during this time period for major contenders for the Men’s Singles title (Note: data correct at 23/2/22):
Given that the ideal place to be positioned is the top-right corner, it’s clear that Medvedev has an edge over the field based on hard court data over the last year. If the Russian can answer the question marks surrounding his ability to perform in slower conditions, he looks like a real contender here.
The aforementioned quartet being closest to the top-right corner, and they have a marked ability differential over the rest of the field. Following the drop-off of Andy Murray and Roger Federer, are these players the new elite four? It’s certainly a viable argument.
BNP Paribas Open: Who are the outsiders?
There also appears to be a clear ‘second tier’ with Andrey Rublev [10.000]* and Stefanos Tsitsipas [8.000]*, and perhaps Jannik Sinner [41.000]* (who certainly has the upside, at the very least, to break through into the elite) clearly fitting into this next bracket. The chart above shows that Rublev’s serve numbers are unspectacular, compared to the best, while Tsitsipas’ return ability is what is preventing him from making the step up to elite level.
Return ability is also an issue for Felix Auger-Aliassime [19.000]* and Matteo Berrettini [26.000]*, and unless they can improve in this area, will only succeed in major tournaments if the draw opens up for them or they enjoy a very high variance event and are clinical on break point chances and in tiebreak situations. The tournament winner market appears to have worked this out, which sees them both as capable outsiders.
So, as with all major tournaments in men’s professional tennis, the performances of the top four on tour dictate pretty much everything, and a winner coming from outside this quartet would be a real surprise in Indian Wells this year.
Click here to read Dan's BNP Paribas Open WTA Women's singles preview.