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Kovacevic is a man on the move up the rankings – he arrives in Indian Wells at a career-high of 107th, knowing victory in this contest could propel him into the top 100.
He also comes into this event off the back of a win on the Challenger Tour on outdoor hard in Texas, his second title at that level in 2023, while he also boasts a recent victory over Adrian Mannarino in Monterrey, a player ranked slightly higher than Giron.
Giron has started the season fairly well, reaching three quarter-finals, but conditions in the Californian desert should suit his compatriot. His booming first serve should be aided by the thin, dry air and if he serves well, then he should certainly compete.
I think that he’s worth a wager at +125 with DraftKings.
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Isner is a slight outsider here and could represent some value at odds-against.
OK, he does trail Nakashima 2-1 on the head-to-head but the younger American was woefully out of sorts in Acapulco last week, winning just two games against Mackenzie McDonald, and didn’t look right.
Facing Isner in these conditions won’t be easy. The elder statesman is a former Indian Wells finalist.
The serves will go through that little bit faster – and they already regularly fizz at 140mph – but the slow Plexipave court surface also kicks the ball up into his forehand hitting zone. That’s the other key shot in his arsenal.
Isner made the final in Dallas recently where eight of the 12 sets he played went to a tie-break, which shows how well he was served (and also highlights his poor return game). Then in Acapulco, he took the first set off Taylor Fritz, a match eventually settled by a solitary break of serve in the deciding set.
With both players poor on return, a first-set tie-break is also worthy of consideration, although that miserable display from Nakashima last time out if rather off-putting.
Djere spends a lot of his time on clay and while he did reach an ATP final on hardcourts (Winston-Salem) last season, I always feel he’s vulnerable on this surface.
He arrives here following a month on the South American clay and last time out on hardcourts he won just five games off Grigor Dimitrov at the Australian Open.
The big-serving Otte loves to play first-strike tennis and gets good conditions for that game style here.
As ever when it comes to the German, a key factor will be his fitness – all too often he seems to be carrying niggles that require treatment.
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All 32 seeds get a first-round bye in Indian Wells and a couple may well be worth opposing the first time out.
Andrey Rublev made the semi-finals here 12 months ago but he is likely to meet Jiri Lehecka, one of the breakout stars of the season so far.
The Czech beat three seeds en route to the quarter-finals of the Australian Open and has since backed that up with an impressive run to the last four in Doha where he really should have beaten Andy Murray, blowing five match points in the process.
It could also pay to go against Holger Rune.
An opening match with American Mackenzie McDonald, a player born, raised, and educated in California, looks problematic.
McDonald has been in decent form of late, making the semis in Delray Beach and the quarters in Acapulco, and will likely go off at a chunky price in any such meeting.
Defending champion Taylor Fritz enjoys these conditions as proven by the fact he won here in 2022 and made the semis in 2021.
His big serve will be assisted in the desert, while he’s also a player who likes the ball sitting up off the surface.
The American has been winning plenty of matches of late, claiming the title in Delray Beach and reaching semi-finals in Dallas and Acapulco.
He’s worth backing at +2200 with bet365.
For those seeking a long shot, you could do worse than Grigor Dimitrov.
He’s another with a proven track record here (QF 2022, SF 2021) where Daniil Medvedev – this year’s favorite – and Hubert Hurkacz have been among his victims.
Again, form signs are decent with a semi-final showing in Rotterdam and a quarter-final appearance in Marseille (where he lost from match points up). That all followed on from some good tennis at the Australian Open where he lost to Novak Djokovic but not before forcing set points in the opener.
bet365’s +10000 quote certainly looks a bit disrespectful.
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Andy is a sports journalist of more than 20 years’ experience and is a former betting editor of the UK-based website, Sporting Life. He has specialized in tennis for many years, previewing hundreds of ATP Tour events and reporting from tournaments such as the ATP Finals and Davis Cup final. Andy has also covered numerous other sports, with a particular interest in soccer and cricket.More info on Andy Schooler
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