Here’s something you’ll hear about the BNP Paribas Open all tournament long, so let’s get it out of the way: the hardcourts at Indian Wells are some of the slowest you’ll ever find. The surface is more akin to a coarse sandpaper than any other hard court (except perhaps those at the recent Nur-Sultan Open, which featured hilariously slow speeds, indoors no less).

Players who hit the ball flat, and players with questionable fitness, will struggle. Fit players who hit heavy, with good kick serves and who like the ball up in their strike zone will perform well.

Sloane Stephens checks most of these boxes, and is listed as a -4 game favorite over Great Britain’s Heather Watson in the first round.

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Stephens beat Keys and Gauff at the US Open before falling to Kerber in a tight three-setter.

Stephens beat Keys and Gauff at the US Open before falling to Kerber in a tight three-setter.

Watson is no slouch, but owns just a career 6-6 record at Indian Wells. Stephens should win this match comfortably. But just how comfortably?

Laying four games in the first play of a new tournament is typically unwise, as it’s imperative to watch how each player responds to the week’s new conditions. But there was tremendous betting value on Stephens at the US Open and it appears to have carried over to the desert. If her fitness holds up, Stephens has a legitimate chance to win the title this week, and should take care of Watson without too much trouble.

The Pick: Sloane Stephens -4 games