The women’s draw for the first of the Sunshine Double is out. In this post, I break down the prospects for the 10 women most likely to impress at Indian Wells this year.
The women’s main draw of Indian Wells, a WTA Premier Mandatory event, gets underway this week. All of the big names are set to be there. But who is most likely to claim the title?
Using GIG player ratings, which includes results thru the end of last week’s events, three players stand out as the strong favourites: Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka, and Karolina Pliskova. Williams takes the No. 1 position in the title picks with a more than 1 in 5 chance for the title win. If Williams capitalises on those odds, it will be her first title in the palm dessert since 2001, having only returned to playing at the event in 2015.
Williams is seeded 10th in the draw, a ranking that is out of keeping with her historical performance at big events as well as her recent strong showing at the Australian Open, where an unfortunate ankle roll appeared to give Karolina Pliskova the upper hand over her in the quarterfinals. This will be the first event Williams has played since that loss, leaving a lot of questions about how the gap in competition (not to mention the hobnobbing with royals and Oscar nominees) will affect her form. We were having the same debate with ourselves back in January, at the start of the Australian Open, but Serena put those doubts to rest in a string of dominant performances. We should expect to see the same in Indian Wells in the coming days.
No. 1 seed, Naomi Osaka, will have a lot of expectations for a big result on her shoulders. She takes the 2nd place among our top picks, with a 16% chance for the title. Osaka will be coming off her Major title in Melbourne, a second slam victory that solidified her place among the best who have ever played the game. Still, a poor result in Dubai and the mystery over her split with Sascha Bajin creates some doubt about whether we will see the same level from her as we saw down under.
With Serena and Osaka on opposite halves of the draw, Indian Wells has setup a possible rematch of the 2018 US Open final. Among opponents Serena could face-off against for the trophy, we are giving slightly more than a 1 and 4 chance that it is Osaka. Getting that result is even more reason to hope that they are both playing to their full potential.
With the draw landing Karolina Pliskova in Osaka’s quarter, it has made getting to the semifinals much more difficult for each. With Pliskova as the No. 3 pick for the title win overall, the chances that Osaka and Pliskova will have to battle it out in the quarters is very likely, exactly 63% according to our models. With a good result in Dubai, Pliskova will have the confidence of some recent wins on her side.
Quarter 4, Simona Halep’s quarter, has 3 players with strong chances at the title: Ash Barty at 11%, Halep at 10% and Elina Svitolina at 4%. It should make for some thrilling rounds from that side of the draw.
From quarter 2, the top prospect is also the top seed, Petra Kvitova. Kvitova has the 5th highest chances overall with a 1 in 10 chance. Kvitova has 2 other top 10 prospects she could have to face in her quarter, Aryna Sabalenka or Madison Keys.
A lot of eyes will be on Belinda Bencic, who is coming off a title win in Dubai. Although Bencic is still rated as an outside favourite, she did gain +124 points in her rating in her run in Dubai, which included wins over 4 top 10 players and top 10 picks for Indian Wells.