STARNBERG, February 27, 2022 (by Cory Saunders)
On March 7th, the tennis world will descend on Indian Wells Tennis Garden in California, the second biggest specialist tennis stadium in the world, for one of the highlights of the WTA Tour, the BNP Paribas Open.
Last year’s event, won by Paula Badosa, who was claiming her first WTA title, made history as the longest final in WTA history. It took Badosa three hours and four minutes to get the better of Victoria Azarenka, who was bidding for her third title at Indian Wells.
Less than six months later, with the tournament back in its usual position in the schedule, after the disruption of the last two years, Badosa will be bidding to defend her crown.
So far, a number of top contenders have confirmed that they will be taking part, although there will be several wild card additions to the line-up, and the remaining places will be filled by those who come through the qualifying rounds – which will be held between March 7th and March 9th.
Still, we know enough to have an idea of which players will be among the favorites with tennis betting sportsbooks, and the reigning champion is likely to be in that group. Badosa’s stunning success last year came as a big surprise, but it was well deserved and since that tournament, she has continued to climb up the rankings.
Now ranked fifth in the world, she will be gunning for back-to-back successes here, which would make her only the second woman in history to achieve that feat, after Martina Navratilova, who won consecutive titles back in 1991.
She won’t, however, top the futures markets going into the tournament. That honor will most likely go to Ashleigh Barty, the current WTA World Number One, who will be looking for a first win in this tournament. She sat out the 2021 edition but had a stellar year overall, winning five singles titles and claiming her second career Grand Slam win at Wimbledon.
She’s started 2022 in the same form, winning in Adelaide, before claiming a third Grand Slam at the Australian Open. If she continues that level of performance, it will take a lot to stop her from succeeding at Indian Wells.
Still, she will face some strong competition from three top-ranked rivals, all of whom have yet to win this title. The 2021 Madrid Open champion Aryna Sabalenka, who is currently ranked second on the WTA standings behind Barty, should mount a serious challenge, along with the French Open champion from 2021, Barbora Krejcikova, ranked third and Karolina Pliskova.
Krejcikova went into October’s tournament having amassed the highest number of points on the WTA Tour, although she crashed out in the fourth round, and only got as far as the quarterfinals at the Australian Open, she will be aiming to re-stablish herself as the main challenger to Barty this spring, ahead of another try at the French Open.
The WTA fourth-ranked player, Karolina Pliskova, went into October’s tournament as the world ranked number one but went out one round earlier than Krejcikova. She does have a reasonable record at Indian Wells, having twice reached the semi-finals, but her chances in 2022 are likely to depend on how well she recovers from the hand injury that forced her to miss the Australian swing.
There will also be a strong challenge from two of the veterans of the Tour: last year’s beaten finalist Azarenka, who won in Indian Wells in 2012 and 2016, and Simona Halep, the 2015 champion.
They will be joined by a contingent of rising stars. Leylah Fernandez, Emma Raducanu and Coco Gauff, all under the age of 20, represent the immediate future of the WTA Tour. The battle between Raducanu and Fernandez in last year’s US Open was an indication of what could be in store over the next few years.
Raducanu’s victory was the eventual highlight of that tournament, but Fernandez also made a huge impact. It is worth remembering that she beat Naomi Osaka, Angelique Kerber, Elina Svitolina and Sabalenka on her way to the final. We can expect her to be a major contender for all the big events throughout 2022 and over the next few years.
The same applies to Coco Gauff, the youngest of the trio. This will be her second appearance at Indian Wells, but she made the quarterfinals in the competition last year – the third of her quarterfinal appearances in WTA 1000 events last year.
As she continues her rise up the rankings, she will be aiming to make a big impact in front of a US audience. There hasn’t been a US winner of this tournament since Serena Williams, all the way back in 2001. It would be a major achievement for Gauff if she could end that run in Indian Wells in March.