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Indian Wells ATP & WTA Tournament Previews

The tennis circuit has supposedly slowed down a little since the Aussie Open but it kicks back into gear this week with the first of the American hardcourt swings, comprising the Masters Series (ATP)/ Premier Mandatory (WTA) events at Indian Wells and Miami. Big dollars and points at stake, but is everyone in prime physical condition? And what does history tell us about these events?

I've brought in fellow tennis guru Dan Weston with his stats-based analysis of the tournament markets. For more of Dan's work, take a good look at what he has to offer on his site, and follow him on Twitter @tennisratings.

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Indian Wells

With a few spare days before the WTA event starts on Wednesday (the ATP tournament begins on Thursday) I thought I'd write an advance preview of both tournaments prior to the draws being made.

The Indian Wells event is the first of two Masters/Premier Mandatory events in March with Miami following in a fortnight.

The fields in both events are comprised of 96 players, with the tournaments being played over an unusual 10/11 day format. The effect of this is that there are an avalanche of early matches, and then few in the second week.

Last year there were 62.1% holds in the WTA event which is 1.1% below the WTA hard court average, whilst the ATP had 75.9% holds - 2.4% below the ATP hard court mean.

On that basis it can be said that the courts will play a little on the slow side and there will be slightly more service breaks than the average hard court event. Therefore laying the server and laying the player a break up should have more application than the average tournament, and positive expectation opportunities will exist in this area in the next fortnight.

For those who are unaware, Masters and Premier Mandatory events offer large ranking points and financial incentives to players and it's pretty rare for a player not to give their all when those benefits are there, although those incentives do mean that injured players tend to turn up for their first round match with no real chance of winning, so that needs to be guarded against.

Due to the incentives mentioned above, favourites tend to thrive in Masters/Premier Mandatory events and looking at the 2013 historical data was interesting in this respect.

There was a clear discrepancy between the first round and subsequent rounds for favourite success, with the vast majority of underdog wins coming in the opening few days of the events.

The WTA had worse results blindly backing favourites, with a 68.8% win percentage incurring a -4.29% ROI loss in 2013. However the ATP actually managed a slight profit, with its 71.0% win percentage generating 1.51% ROI simply by backing the favoured player.

What is interesting to see is that since 2006, there have been no repeat winners of the event in the WTA - mainly due to the long-term absence of Serena Williams from the event. With Victoria Azarenka (2012 winner) and Maria Sharapova (2013 winner) having doubts about whether they are going into the event in their best form, the WTA event is particularly open this year.

Despite there being various winners of the event, only Daniela Hantuchova (14th seed) and Kim Clijsters (unseeded but clearly a top player) were winners from outside the top six seeds in the last 10 years so it's that area that needs to be considered for potential winners.

Only Caroline Wozniacki (8) and Marion Bartoli (15) were outside the top five seeds when runner up in the last 10 years, giving further weight to looking at the top six seeds for outright positions.

In the men's event, Roger Federer has won four of the last 10 tournaments but only once since 2006. He rolled back the years in Dubai last week with some superb tennis although statistics do not support his ability to reproduce this week in, week out.

Rafael Nadal has won three of the last seven here with Novak Djokovic taking two titles. Only Ivan Ljubicic (20th seed) has won in the last 10 years when outside the top five seeds, and realistically the top three seeds have the best chances with in addition only Nadal (5th seed only due to injury) winning from outside the top three seeds.

This makes life potentially difficult for Andy Murray, who hasn't recaptured his best form since back surgery and has a historically bad record here, with a solitary runner-up position being his best finish.

There have been a real mixed bag of runners up with John Isner, Mardy Fish and James Blake making the final in recent years, so whilst the top players in the market are most likely to win, outright backers of a long shot may have opportunities to trade out in the later stages of the men's event.

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