There were mixed results for our First Round accumulators which we outlined on our most recent podcast. My (Luke’s) accumulator had three winning legs courtesy of Murray, Shelton and Lehecka, but was let down by Monteiro and Sonego. However, Charlie’s four-fold of Murray, Lehecka, Daniel and Draper came in at odds of 2.72/1, meaning we are up 1.72 units so far! Now we enter the Second Round, in which the unseeded players who won their First Round match face off against one of the top 32 seeds. These can be hard to predict, given the lower ranked player has a win under their belt in the event which can help them massively, but it does mean that the bookies can be overly cautious with some of their odds, presenting some value opportunities. Here are our best picks for the Second Round matches:
Tiafoe to beat Giron 2/5
Frances Tiafoe had a huge breakthrough on the American hard courts last year, making the Semi Finals of the US Open, beating Nadal and Rublev along the way. Since then, he beat Tsitsipas at the Laver Cup, made the Final of Tokyo and was unbeaten in the United Cup (albeit against mainly low ranked opposition). Marcos Giron also had a breakthrough on the US hard courts last year, making his first ATP Final in San Diego (lost to Nakashima). He secured a decent win in the First Round here against rising star Kovacevic. However, Giron’s counter-punching gamestyle is better suited to quicker surfaces than Indian Wells, whereas I think these conditions, similar to the US Open, suit Tiafoe far better. Tiafoe’s excellent movement combined with extra time to unload on his large groundstrokes will make him tough to beat, and whilst Giron is also a decent mover, I don’t think the court surface will help him enough in putting Tiafoe under pressure during the rallies. These two players met twice last year, at the US Open and on clay in Houston, and Tiafoe won both in straight sets, and I expect the same outcome here.
Draper to beat Evans 4/9
Despite being on the Challenger Tour this time last year, Jack Draper already has wins on American hard courts over Tsitsipas and Auger-Aliassime, and has beaten Khachanov and Paul this year. He hadn’t played since an injury-hampered loss to Nadal at the Australian Open before this week, but apart from a rusty opening service game, looked like he had never been away in a crushing 6-1 6-1 win over promising youngster Reidi. Dan Evans presents a completely different challenge though: someone who doesn’t have Reidi’s power but has more variety and consistency as well as better movement. Evans usually starts the year well, but has not this time out. He won just one of four pre-Australian Open matches (vs Ramos-Vinolas), and never really challenged Rublev in a Third Round exit in Melbourne. Draper is a horrible first match for someone who needs a win, and the serve will be a huge differential here. Draper possesses an excellent serve, and he can target Evans’ weaker backhand side with his lefty slice serve. Despite Draper’s height, he moves very well, so in these slower conditions Evans will have to work very hard to get the ball past him. Moreover, Draper has good enough feel and hands to be able to deal with Evans’ drop shots and net play. On a quicker court with Evans coming in with confidence, this would be a tough one to call, but given how well Draper played on Thursday and Evans’ lack of form, I back Draper to get the win.
Rune to beat McDonald 2/5
Holger Rune hasn’t hit the heights of that Paris Masters title at the end of last year since, but has continued to pick up wins. He reached the Fourth Round of the Australian Open and made the Semi Finals in Acapulco last week. Mackenzie McDonald surprised many by beating an injury-hampered Nadal at the Australian Open, and also had a good win against Nakashima. Having also made the Semi Finals in Delray Beach (lost to Fritz), it has been a decent year for the American so far. However, I struggle to see how he can challenge Rune here. McDonald is more of a threat on quicker surfaces, as shown at the Australian Open this year and Wimbledon in years gone by. Against someone who moves as well as Rune, he will struggle to put Rune on the backfoot during rallies, and his good retrieval skills won’t be enough. He also does not have a great serve, whereas Rune does, so I expect McDonald to face much more pressure behind his serve than Rune. The Dane should open his Indian Wells campaign with a win.
Alcaraz to beat Kokkinakis 3/10
World number 2 Carlos Alcaraz has not played on hard since retiring in the Paris Masters. However, he has two solid weeks of clay wins under his belt: a title in Buenos Aires, and a Final in Rio de Janeiro (lost to Norrie). He did however pick up a hamstring strain in that Rio Final, which might explain why the odds are so generous. In terms of matchup, Thanasi Kokkinakis does not have much going for him. If you are reading this article I probably don’t need to go into Alcaraz’s strengths: he is one of the best players in the world, and these slower conditions will suit him perfectly. Kokkinakis has started the year quite well, making the Semi Finals in Adelaide, winning a Challenger event in Manama and winning two qualifying rounds and a First Round against wildcard Holt here. The Aussie does have a big serve, definitely better than Alcaraz’s, but as soon as Alcaraz makes the return, he is in trouble. Alcaraz should be able to dominate the majority of the rallies, it is just a question of whether he can effectively neutralise the Kokkinakis serve. Despite the question marks over his fitness, Carlitos has assured us that he feels “really good” and is “ready”, making this well worth the risk at these odds for one of the tournament favourites.
Paul to beat Struff 3/10
Tommy Paul is one of the most improved players of the last 12 months. He sensationally beat Alcaraz in Montreal and made the Quarter Finals, beat Nadal in Paris, and then made the Semi Finals at the Australian Open. He also made the Acapulco Final last week (lost to de Minaur), including a gruelling three set win over Fritz in the Semi Finals. Jan-Lennard Struff is a dangerous player, but for me a slow hard court is his least dangerous environment. His serve will be more returnable than on quicker surfaces, and he is not a good mover. Tommy Paul is an excellent mover, and often just making one more ball can be enough against Struff, who’s decision making is the main reason why he is currently outside of the top 100. These two played at the Australian Open, and Paul was able to break Struff 5 times in a straight sets win, and he also served over double the aces of the German. He has greatly improved on the front foot, and his forehand is now a weapon. Struff did not win a set in their other two meetings, and I don’t see him getting his first this time out.