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Indian Wells tips: Jannik Sinner to shine in all-star California line-up

Planet Sport tennis expert Derek Bilton looks ahead to a potentially thrilling Indian Wells.

Billed as the biggest non-Grand Slam tournament on the ATP Tour, Indian Wells is – to paraphrase Ron Burgundy - kind of a big deal.

The first ATP Masters 1000 tournament of 2024 is upon us and there is nostalgia in the air as Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Novak Dkojovic all line up in the same tournament for the first time in a long time.

Djokovic has seemingly put the GOAT debate to bed, having won 24 majors and a record 40 Masters 1000 titles. He is the top seed here and the betting jolly. The Serb actually has not played in Indian Wells since a third round loss to the now retired Philipp Kohlschreiber in 2019, and you have to go back to 2016 for the last time he won here. Despite this, the layers have him as a 7/4 shout for glory.

For Murray and Nadal however, this year’s event could be the last dance at the BNP Paribas Open – the first leg of the ‘Sunshine Double’.

Murray has endured a wretched 2024, and seems as though he just cannot hold his own against the elite players on the Tour these days. The three-time major winner said last week that he only potentially had a few months left in his career, and while he gets a qualifier first up, the reward for winning that is a clash with fifth-seed Andrey Rublev.

‘Muzza’ has not claimed back-to-back wins at any tournament since August, and it would be a huge shock to see him reach the business end here.

As for Nadal, King Rafa has won 36 ATP Tour Masters 1000 titles in a hall-of-fame career but the odds compilers do not fancy his chances of adding to that stat in the desert, and you have to go back 11 years for his last victory here.

Back from his latest injury setback, Nadal begins against 2016 Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic in contest that has a real ‘old school’ feel to it.

Raonic is a former finalist here too and in 2015 outlasted Spain’s Raging Bull in Indian Wells in a dramatic three-setter. This is a match Nadal can win, but he also has Holger Rune in his quarter and probably starts as an outsider on hardcourt against the Dane these days. If you fancy Nadal to somehow roll back the years, Planet Sport Bet have him as a 33/1 outsider.

The Plexipave surface at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden is not for everyone, with thin air and a slower court surface difficult to master. The ball bounces higher than almost anywhere else in the US, while the altitude means the ball travels faster through the air.

Carlos Alcaraz suffered an injury scare at the recent Rio Open, leaving the stadium on a golf cart. However, the 2023 champion looked fine in a recent Las Vegas exhibition victory against Nadal. At his best, with a ton of ranking points to defend, there is a case for backing him at odds of 5/1.

However, it’s mind-blowing that ‘Carlitos’ has not won a single tournament since that sensational Wimbledon victory last summer.

In terms of a winner, Jannik Sinner makes plenty of appeal at 3/1.

World No. 4 Sinner made the semis last year (lost to Alcaraz) but has started 2024 like a train, winning his first major at the Australian Open and then dominating in Rotterdam.

Sinner possesses extraordinary speed and power off both wings, but also plays with a finesse that is rare for someone who hits the ball so hard. Two months ago this column advised readers to get on the Italian for Wimbledon at 14/1. I hope that a few of you listened as he is now as short as 7/2 to win SW19.

He is 12-0 so far this season and his ‘Go big or go home’ approach to matches means he is absolute box-office to watch. Big game. Big character. Moreover, if he is in the mood here he could be too hot for all of them once again.

Tip: Jannik Sinner win the BNP Paribas Open at 3/1 (Planet Sport Bet)

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