5 min read
The first-ever fall edition of the BNP Paribas Open begins on Wednesday for the women and on Thursday for the men in Palm Springs, Calif. Universal Tennis INSIGHTS is providing intel into the favorites so let's take a closer look at who is competing in the desert with the women's preview first, followed by the men's preview on Wednesday.
It's the first time players are returning to "Tennis Paradise" since 2019 after the 2020 event became the first tournament on the calendar to get cancelled due to the pandemic. In 2019, Bianca Andreescu won the title as a wild card before going on to win the National Bank Open and the US Open. She returns this week, as does 2021 US Open winner Emma Raducanu, newcomer to the WTA Top 10 Maria Sakkari, No. 1 seed Karolina Pliskova, Ostrava WTA 500 champion Anett Kontaveit, and a newly married Simona Halep.
THE FAVORITES ACCORDING TO INSIGHTS
(2) Iga Swiatek — 8%
(18) Anett Kontaveit — 6%
(6) Maria Sakkari — 6%
(11) Simona Halep — 6%
(1) Karolina Pliskova — 5%
(21) Paula Badosa — 5%
(10) Angelique Kerber — 5%
(27) Victoria Azarenka — 5%
(19) Jessica Pegula — 5%
(8) Belinda Bencic — 5%
THE HIGHEST UTR RATINGS IN THE DRAW
The Top 10 list by highest UTR Rating isn't exactly the same as the INSIGHTS favorites Top 10 because of where the players ended up in the draw and their odds of advancing past certain opponents in their sections. It's still good to take note of who is going in at what UTR Rating.
MOST LIKELY TO WIN THE TITLE
(2) Iga Swiatek (UTR Rating 13.00)
Swiatek is coming to Indian Wells after a semifinal run in Ostrava in what has been her only event since the US Open. The first seed Swiatek could play is No. 25 Veronika Kudermetova (UTR Rating 12.58). Remarkably, the 2020 Roland Garros champion is making her main draw debut; her only previous trip to Indian Wells in 2019 saw her lose in the qualifying draw.
The 20-year-old Pole is favored to cruise through her section at the very bottom of the draw. She has a bye and will open against Petra Martic (UTR Rating 12.37), who defeated wild card Katie Volynets (UTR Rating 11.98). Volynets is one of the UTR Pro Tennis Tour competitors in the draw, having started her 2021 season at the PTT event in Newport Beach.
Swiatek is seeking her third title of 2021 and her first since winning the WTA 1000 in Rome in May. Her odds of winning the title are just 8% but she's the only female above 6% and the field is looking very even with nine players at 5% or 6% odds. The tight odds will make for a very exciting tournament as the title is truly up for grabs.
MOST LIKELY TO GO DEEP
(6) Maria Sakkari (UTR Rating 13.02)
Although Halep has the higher odds of making the final at 12% to Sakkari's 10%, Sakkari is in the top half of the draw opposite of Swiatek and has the highest UTR Rating of any female playing in the desert. Sakkari is enjoying the best season of her career with a semifinal run at Roland Garros and the US Open, and a recent debut into the WTA Top 10. Her best run in Indian Wells was reaching the round of 16 in 2018, losing to eventual champion Naomi Osaka.
MOST EXCITING PLAYER TO WATCH
(17) Emma Raducanu (UTR Rating 12.60)
All eyes will be on the newest superstar as the 18-year-old Brit accepted a wild card into the WTA 1000. She'll be playing her first tournament since becoming the first qualifier to win the US Open. Her stunning performance in New York turned her into a household name. She'll be seeded No. 17 in her Indian Wells debut.
“When I was at home, I still didn’t really go out,” Raducanu told press. “I didn’t go to a restaurant or anything. I was just at home with my family, I got some really cool invitations. It felt nice to receive the support and everyone’s kind messages and kind words, but yeah, I didn’t really get too caught up in it. I just focused on my tennis and my training.”
Raducanu has a bye and will first take on Aliaksandra Sasnovich (UTR Rating 12.21). The first seed Raducanu could face is No. 11 Halep, and she's in the same section as No. 7 Petra Kvitova (UTR Rating 12.92).
•UTR Ratings and INSIGHTS probabilities as of 9 a.m. EST, Oct. 5, 2021.