This is the third installment of the new series, which features fantasy tips and rankings for Racket Rally. You can find a more detailed explanation of the series here.
The February grind is almost over with Indian Wells right around the corner. This is a crucial tournament on both the ATP and WTP tours, giving the winner 1000 points. However, anything less than a title results in more points for WTP players, so don't pay more for an unseeded player on the ATP than an unseeded player on the WTA unless they have a very good shot at reaching the round of 32.
Tip of the Week: Drop a player every week
Every week you get one free sale, so do not miss it. Even if you only have five players on your profile, there is someone that needs to be sold. You can either sell someone who is defending a lot of points in the upcoming week, has a tough draw in the next tournament, or perhaps not even playing in the next week. There is a very small chance of actually having the perfect roster for a week, so there is some move that can be made to make your profile better. You can go out and buy a new player or buy more shares of who you already have.
Top Prospects vs. Drop Prospects
1. Vera Zvonareva, 30, RUS
Price per share: $333
Zvonareva is still a good deal, so whatever spare money you have should be spent on her if you don't already have 50 of her shares. She is by far the cheapest direct entrance into either draw in Indian Wells, where she will play an unseeded player for a shot at 35 ranking points. Then it will be the same scenario in Miami, but this is a buy for the long term. By the end of the year, her value will be at least double what it is now, so buy before the price goes up.
2. Benoit Paire, 25, FRA
Price per share: $512
Paire is another player that is drastically underpriced as he makes a comeback from injury. He is tearing it up on the Challenger Tour right now, so whether he plays in Indian Wells and Miami or stays with Challenger events, he is going to get you points. If you have enough cap space, by 50 shares of him. Buy while he is still cheap. He belongs in the top 50 in the world and he will be there soon. If you can pay the price of a player outside the top 100 for a player inside the top 50, that is a massive steal.
3. Marcos Baghdatis, 29, CYP
Price per share: $788
This isn't as good of a deal as it was when Racket Rally first started, but it still is a very good deal, yet few people have many shares of Baghdatis. He is a former top 10 player and still an excellent shot-maker. He will play in Indian Wells and Miami, but this is another buy for the long term. If you have 50 shares of Baghdatis, Paire, and Zvonareva, you are in a good spot right now. The one worry might be that Baghdatis retired from his last match at 6-6 in the third set. Buying on someone even slightly injured is never a good idea just because of how risky it is.
4. Steve Johnson, 25, USA
Price per share: $971
Johnson's name has not popped up much in Racket Rally talks, but now is the time to buy on the former college tennis champion. He has a ton of points in the non-countable category, which means he won't really get much cheaper than he is now. He certainly isn't underpriced, but over the next five weeks, he is someone you want on your profile. He will play Indian Wells, Irving (where he will be a top 4 seed), Miami, and Houston. Each of these events are in the United States, where he always does well, and there are no weeks off in between (unless he loses early in Miami, but there are no challengers that week). He is the highest-ranked male tennis player with four tournaments coming up in the next five weeks. However, its unlikely you will continue reaping the benefits of this buy after Houston. Be sure to sell all stocks of his after that week.
5. Serena Williams, 33, USA
Price per share: $9,592
The No. 1 player in the world is making her return to Indian Wells, and I normally wouldn't suggest spending over $9k per share on a player that is over 30-years old, but for one tournament this could be a good move. Williams is defending nothing at Indian Wells, but there are a few potential problems with this move. She is defending a title at Miami and then not playing anything until Madrid, meaning that this is a one week addition, and anything less than a title would not be worth the price. Still, Williams is the most dominant player on either tour. It seems like a safe bet that she will go on to win the title.
1. Laurent Lokoli, 20, FRA
Price per share: $230
The goal of Racket Rally is to get main draw wins and in six tournaments this year, Lokoli has just one main draw win, which means he has been worth a grand total of eight points all year to those who have bought him. After he qualified for the Australian Open, it looked like a good deal to buy him, because he costed very little and had the potential to win a lot. However, that hasn't been the case. Although he is now getting directly into Challenger main draws, just wait until he starts getting some wins. You will still be able to get him at a low price for a while to come if he does end up turning his season around.
2. Denis Istomin, 28, UZB
Price per share: $770
At 28-years old, it would be reasonable to think that Istomin could have the best year of his career in 2015, but we are two months in and that ship has already sailed. He is 3-7 this year without a single quality win. If you bought him early in the season like I did, because he was scheduled to play a lot of tournaments early in the year, you are paying more for him now than he is worth. That is an automatic sale every time. He doesn't have a lot to defend at any point this season, but if he keeps losing he will continually slowly drop in value.
3. John Isner, 29, USA
Price per share: $1,720
You don't need to read a fantasy insider piece to know that you absolutely do not want John Isner on your roster. He just lost to James Ward in Davis Cup, which is yet another disappointing loss since he started working with Justin Gimelstob. He is in a serious slump and very expensive. That money could be better used on many other players. He is certainly worth using a court coin on if necessary to get rid of him. Maybe he will be worth the cost when his 600 points from Cincinnati come falling off right before the US Open.
4. Ernests Gulbis, 26, LAT
Price per share: $2,045
Gulbis probably belongs at No. 1 on this list, but I think by now everyone has already sold their shares of Gulbis. If you are one of the few holding onto your shares of him, you are doing the rest of the Racket Rally Universe a big favor. Gulbis is a horrible 0-5 this year, largely in part to a right arm injury. Meanwhile, he has a ton of points to defend. Since he has continued playing tournaments, he won't get protected points when he drops outside of the top 100 in a few months. Maybe if his injuries are gone by then, he could actually be a really good buy. Until then, stop wasting your money.
5. Novak Djokovic, 27, SRB
Price per share: $13,165
In Racket Rally, it is nice to have one player in your roster that you know won't ever lose early. However, Djokovic hardly plays any tournaments, and not playing a tournament is no more helpful than losing in the first round. You can pay way less for a first round loss than you would pay to have Djokovic take up a spot in your profile. Also, Djokovic has a mountain of points to defend between now and Wimbledon. I've said it before, if you are completely stuck on the idea of having Djokovic on your team, at least wait until right before Canada to buy him back.
*All photos are from the racketrally.com site and are credited there.