The first ATP Masters 1000 event of the year, the BNP Paribas Open, is set to begin on March 6. It takes place in Indian Wells, Calif. All of the top players will be playing with the exception of David Ferrer, who withdrew after suffering a leg strain last week.
Let's see who the odds makers believe have the best shot at taking down the 2014 BNP Paribas Open title. Only seven players were given 25-1 or better odds at winning the tournament, so I will focus in on those seven.
Juan Martin Del Potro: 25-1
Talent has never been a question when it comes to Juan Martin del Potro. The question has always been: Can he stay healthy? Unfortunately for del Potro, the answer has been no for the last few years.
Last year's runner-up comes into Indian Wells banged up once again. He was forced to withdraw last week in Dubai.
Juan Martin del Potro retires from Dubai Championships due to wrist injury http://t.co/UiaCDIiwgQ— ESPNTennis (@ESPNTennis) February 25, 2014
With the injury concerns hovering, del Potro making another run to the finals seems doubtful. Don't expect del Potro to be holding up the trophy at the end of next week.
Stanislas Wawrinka: 12-1
There is only one man in the top 10 with a perfect record on the year, and that record belongs to Stanislas Wawrinka. Wawrinka beat all odds in taking down the 2014 Australian Open.
Will his success continue, or will he drop back down to a fringe top-10 player?
Tennis is a very mental game. If you are confident, you can play with the best. If your confidence is shaken, you can lose to anybody.
With all of the confidence he picked up in Australia, I see him playing closer to the game's best. He will need to prove the rest of the year he belongs near the top of the rankings, but at 12-1 odds, he is not a bad bet.
I would rank him as the fourth-most likely player to win this week, above Tomas Berdych and Andy Murray. He has never won a Masters title, but then again, he had never won a Grand Slam either.
Tomas Berdych: 10-1
Tomas Berdych made a nice run before losing to Rafael Nadal in last year's semifinals. Berdych has one ATP 1000 Masters title to his credit, but that was all the way back in 2005.
He has a nice draw to the semifinals again this year, but I don't see him advancing past that. Novak Djokovic will most likely be waiting for him there, and he has owned Berdych in his career.
Djokovic leads their head-to-head matchups, 15-2, including a 13-0 edge on hard courts. Unless someone knocks out Djokovic, Berdych won't be advancing past the semifinals.
Andy Murray: 9-1
After season-ending back surgery, Andy Murray is still trying to find his form in 2014. He has yet to make it to a final this season and has lost to three players outside of the top 20.
Murray has never won the BNP Paribas Open, and he has lost in the first round at Indian Wells in two of the last three years.
His odds are based more on his name, not on his performance this year. On top of not playing well, Murray is in the loaded top half of the draw. He is in Nadal's quarter, and if he made it to the semifinals, could potentially face Roger Federer or Wawrinka.
Don't expect Murray to win his first title at Indian Wells this year.
Roger Federer: 7-1
Roger Federer is playing great to start off 2014. Last week, he beat Berdych and Djokovic to win the title in Dubai and improved his record to 14-2.
With the way he is playing, I like his chances against anyone not named Nadal. Unfortunately, he is in Nadal's half and Wawrinka's quarter.
It is a tough draw, but he still has the mental edge over Wawrinka in a head-to-head matchup. He has beaten him 11 times in a row.
Nadal still did not look 100 percent in his title run at the Rio Open, but he did have an extra week to recover. If his back injury is still a problem, then Federer will have as good a chance as he ever will to beat Nadal. If Nadal comes back at the top of his game, then I don't see him getting past him.
If he does reach the final to play Djokovic, I give him the slight edge. Federer has played better this year and beat him just last week.
Rafael Nadal: 2-1
Rafael Nadal comes into Indian Wells as the defending champion. The world No. 1 would be the favorite if it weren't for lingering injury concerns.
His back held up at the Rio Open, but he did not face the tough competition that he will see this week. Pablo Andujar was the highest-ranked player he faces at No. 40. The tournament was also held on clay, which is much easier on the body.
As long as Nadal can stay healthy, he is the favorite to win the 2014 BNP Paribas Open. He has an easy draw to reach the semifinals with Murray currently playing poorly.
Assuming he is healthy, I like Nadal to win the tournament.
Novak Djokovic: 3-2
Although Novak Djokovic is off to a slow start in 2014, he was given the best odds to win this tournament. With Nadal facing injury questions, it makes sense Djokovic is the best bet to come out on top.
He is in the easier half of the draw, with Berdych and an injured del Potro in his half. He has dominated Berdych in his career, and things are not looking great for del Potro after withdrawing from a tournament just last week.
I would be surprised not to see Djokovic in the finals. Ultimately, I see Djokovic and Nadal squaring off in the final.
A Djokovic vs. Nadal final could always go either way. However, I like Nadal to come out victorious in a close three-setter.
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