It’s the third month of the year, so that traditionally means that the North London clubs are out of the title race and pro tennis has taken over Indian Wells.
This Californian desert paradise has hosted top tier tennis for over four decades and now boasts a spectacular complex funded by billionaire Larry Ellison.
Considered the ‘fifth major’ by many in the game, let’s take a look at some favourites and outsiders for the 2019 event.
Roger Federer – 6/1
It’s no surprise that Novak Djokovic is the clear favourite for this year’s dance in the desert given his five title runs in the past and three majors-in-a-row only strengthens his case.
However, just for something different, let’s consider another five-time champion chasing a sixth title – Roger Federer.
38 in August, the Swiss is still performing at a brilliant level – a title-winning in fact. Last weekend, Federer captured the 100th trophy of his career with a straight-sets triumph over Stefanos Tsitsipas in Dubai.
He is closing in on Jimmy Connors’ overall singles title haul of 109 on the men’s side. To make you feel old, Federer won his first ATP title the month Oasis released Standing on the Shoulder of Giants (February 2000).
The 20-time Grand Slam winner is fit, confident and made the Indian Wells final in both 2017 and 2018. He should have a say at the end.
Nick Kyrgios – 33/1
I know you’ve heard this one before. Nick Kyrgios is playing extremely well and could do something special this fortnight, but for various reasons he probably won’t.
First, the good stuff. The Aussie looked outrageous last week in Acapulco as he dispatched Rafael Nadal, Stan Wawrinka and Sascha Zverev to claim the second ATP 500 title of his career.
He was playing so well that he did this to the hardly under-powered Wawrinka. The 23-year-old has the ability and form to beat anyone in the field, but the usual concerns apply.
How much effort will he give? Will he get distracted with nonsense during matches? Will his body hold up through a fortnight?
Watch this space, particularly on social media as Nick will probably add some hot takes through the event.
Simona Halep – 6/1
The world no.2 may be coach-less, but her movement, two-handed backhand and tenacity are still there. The Romanian competes to the last point and has had a solid, if unspectacular, time on court since the Australian Open.
In Melbourne, the 27-year-old lost a brilliant three-setter to Serena Williams in the fourth round. In the weeks since she notched up two Fed Cup wins, a final run in Doha and a quarter-final in Dubai.
While she’s not at the top of her game, she’s still competing at a high level and will be very difficult to beat. Halep lifted the Indian Wells title in 2015 and made the last four 12 months ago.
The just-released women’s draw has given here a manageable start before a potential fourth-round clash with Elina Svitolina.
Elise Mertens – 33/1
Mertens, not to be confused with Kiki Bertens, is a technically excellent player headed for the top 10 and beyond. The Belgian is currently ranked 16th and improving fast.
The 23-year-old is high on confidence after claiming the biggest title of her career in Doha. Mertens came back from a set and a break down in the final against Halep to prevail. It was her third top ten victory of the week, after victories over Angie Kerber and her (almost) namesake, Bertens.
Mertens already has five WTA titles from six finals, so winning is becoming a habit. If you haven’t watched her, the Belgian possesses a world-class backhand, all court game, solid defensive skills and excellent decision making.
She has the game to trouble the draw this coming fortnight.