WTA Indian Wells 2019 - Top contenders for the women's singles title

Leye Aduloju in WTA 6 Mar 2019
  • WTA Indian Wells is live from 7-17 March
  • We look at the top contenders for the women's singles title
Serena Williams is the bookmakers favourite to win the Indian Wells title. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

As the top stars prepare to start their Indian Wells campaign, we take a quick look at who the bookmakers are backing to go all the way in California.

Serena Williams (6/1 to win @ Ladbrokes)

Despite not playing since her quarter final exit to Karolina Pliskova at the Australian Open in January, Serena Williams heads into Indian Wells as the bookmakers' favourite. The great American is attempting to win her first title since returning from maternity leave a year ago, and also bidding to become the first woman to win three Indian Wells title. Serena's two titles came in 1999 and 2001, and she would arguably have won more had she not boycotted the tournament for 14 years after being subjected to alleged racial abuse during the 2001 tournament. 

She ended that boycott in 2015, and has participated in three of four editions since then, including last season when she famously made her comeback from maternity leave. As she has shown through the last 12 months, and virtually through her career, Serena doesn't need too much match practice to produce at these big tournaments, and she's again a heavy favourite make a deep run in California. It will not be easy, as she has got a difficult draw, but if anyone can do it, the great Serena Williams certainly can.

Simona Halep (8/1 @ Ladbrokes)

2015 Indian Wells champion, Simona Halep is one of quite a few top WTA stars still seeking their first title of the season, but after a slow start to the year, the former world No. 1 has got better through the weeks, and will hope to continue improving through the Indian Wells fortnight as she targets her first title since last August.

She missed the end of last season due to a back injury, and didn't start the new campaign until Sydney, where she was beaten by Ashleigh Barty in the opening round, but she has since put together a 10-3 run, reaching the fourth round of the Australian Open (beaten by Serena Williams), the final in Doha and the quarter finals in Dubai. She also registered a couple of Fed Cup wins in between, most notably against Karolina Pliskova as Romania beat Czech Republic to reach the semi-finals. Halep has made at least the quarter finals at Indian Wells four times in the last five seasons, winning the title once, and reaching the semi-finals on two occasions. It is easy to see why she is highly fancied to go very deep into the second week in California.

Naomi Osaka (17/2 to win @ bet365)

World No. 1, Naomi Osaka faces a difficult task in her Indian Wells title defence, with potential matches against Caroline Wozniacki, Karolina Pliskova and Petra Kvitova lining her route to the final. Osaka is competing as a defending champion at a tour-level tournament for the first time, having claimed her maiden WTA title at Indian Wells last season with a stunning run that included victories over Maria Sharapova, Pliskova and Simona Halep. Since then, she has won the 2018 US Open, the 2019 Australian Open and risen to No. 1 in the world in a whirlwind 12 months. 

Osaka is looking to become just the second woman in history to successfully defend the Indian Wells title, after Martina Navratilova in 1991. She has played just one match since her Australian Open success- a straight sets loss to Kristina Mladenovic in Dubai, but with her sheer power and ability, and her tendency to find her best level in these big tournaments, Osaka is right up there among the top contenders- she's No. 1 in the world after all!

Petra Kvitova (11/1 @ BetVictor)

Arguably the most in-form player on the tour through the first couple of months of the 2019 season, Petra Kvitova will attempt to improve her average Indian Wells record over the next fortnight. The left-hander made the quarter finals in 2013 and 2016 but she has never been beyond the last eight. Kvitova has already amassed a 17-4 record for the season, winning the title in Sydney and making finals at the Australian Open and Dubai. If she brings that sort of form to Indian Wells, the explosive left hander will be tough to contain.

Elina Svitolina (14/1 @ William Hill)

WTA Finals champion, Svitolina is also yet to win a title this season, but she has generally played at a consistently high level, and has had some bad luck at times. The Ukrainian was beaten by Aliaksandra Sasnovich in her first match of the season back in Brisbane, where she was defending champion, but she has hit back quite strongly since then, reaching the quarter finals of the Australian Open, where she was hampered by shoulder and neck injuries in a straight sets loss to eventual champion, Naomi Osaka, and making successive semi-finals in Doha and Dubai.

Svitolina's record at Indian Wells is not great, as she hasn't crossed the fourth round in six attempts- can this be the year when the supremely consistent Ukrainian makes her first big move in California?

Angelique Kerber (16/1 @ bet365)

Angelique Kerber is a two-time semi-finalist at Indian Wells, but her last trip to the last four was in 2013, and her best effort in the last five years was her quarter final run last season. While Kerber hasn't been poor this season, she hasn't quite found the form she showed around this same period in 2018, and heads into Indian Wells still seeking her first title of the season. In fact, the German hasn't won a title since her superb triumph at Wimbledon last July.

She has played well in spells this year, but has also suffered some bad losses, most notably her 6-0 6-2 defeat to Danielle Collins in the fourth round of the Australian Open. Despite her unconvincing campaign so far, Kerber is a three-time Grand Slam champion, and can never be discounted in these big tournaments. She is probably due a title!  

Karolina Pliskova (18/1 @ BetVictor)

Karolina Pliskova arrives Indian Wells looking to continue her good start to the season, and looking to maintain her impressive recent record at the tournament. Pliskova opened her season with a title run in Brisbane, and followed it up by reaching the semi-finals of the Australian Open, where she memorably overturned a 5-1 final set deficit against Serena Williams in a stunning quarter final victory. 

Pliskova however suffered an ironic reversal of fortunes in her most recent tournament in Dubai, blowing a 5-1 lead in the final set of her quarter final against Su-Wei Hsieh. That remains the one really bad loss she has had this season, and she will be keen to make amends with another strong performance at Indian Wells. She's yet to win the title in California, but she has been good in the last few seasons, reaching the semi-finals in 2016 and 2017, and making the quarter finals last season.

Aryna Sabalenka (20/1 @ bet365)

Rising star, Aryna Sabalenka makes just her second appearance at Indian Wells, after reaching the third round on debut last season. Sabalenka was ranked 63rd heading into Indian Wells last season, and was 60th after the tournament, but what was then a steady rise gained acceleration as the season progressed, with the Belarusian ending the year at 13th after claiming titles at New Haven and Wuhan, among a series of other fantastic results.

She took that momentum into the 2019 season, and began with another title run in Shenzhen, breaking into the top ten in the process, but she has slowed down since then, suffering early exits in Sydney, the Australian Open and Dubai, and squeezing in a St. Petersburg semi-final in between. Sabalenka hasn't been in her best form lately, but like many of the biggest hitters in sport, the world No. 9 is very capable of flipping the switch at any given point. 

Sloane Stephens (22/1 @ William Hill)

Sloane Stephens is only 5-4 for the season, with three of her five wins coming in a fourth-round run at the Australian Open, and so, she will be keen to get her season going at Indian Wells. She is yet to win back-to-back matches outside Melbourne, stuttering to a 2-3 record between Brisbane, Sydney and Acapulco.

The American has also got to address an ordinary Indian Wells record, which reads just one quarter final in eight appearances. The world No. 4 has obviously got the talents to make up for her indifferent start to the year, and her Indian Wells struggles over the years- will she finally produce in the desert in the next fortnight?

Kiki Bertens (33/1 @ Ladbrokes)

Kiki Bertens has carried on from where she left off last season, racking up the wins without attracting as much attention as her fellow top-ten stars. She has quietly crept up to a career-high ranking of 7th. Bertens has already won one title this season, in St. Petersburg, while she made the semi-finals in Sydney and the quarter finals in Doha. It has not been all plain sailing, as she could not get past the second round of the Australian Open, losing to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, and fell in the opening round to Viktoria Kuzmova in Dubai, but it's still been a solid start the season, and she will be dangerous at Indian Wells. Her record there is not great, as she has only made the third round once in five previous attempts, but it wasn't until later last season that Bertens emerged as a hard court force, and if she is on her game, the powerful Dutchwoman will do some serious damage in the next fortnight. 

Dubai champion, Belinda Bencic (25/1 @ bet365) and Ashleigh Barty (28/1 @ Ladbrokes) are also getting some love from the book makers, while former champion, Caroline Wozniacki is at 33/1 to win the tournament @ BetVictor.

WTA Indian Wells is live from Indian Wells from 7-17 March.

*Geo restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify

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