The clay-court season rolls into the Caja Magica, the place the world’s greatest stars will compete for an ATP Masters 1000 title on the Mutua Madrid Open.
5-time titlist Rafael Nadal leads the way in which as he pursues a record-tying thirty seventh Masters 1000 crown, whereas World No. 1 Novak Djokovic tops the draw. All eyes will even be on the quickly rising Spanish star Carlos Alcaraz, who will attempt to make a deep run in entrance of his dwelling followers.
ATPTour.com appears at 10 issues to observe in Madrid.
1) Rafa Returns: Nadal will chase his sixth title this week in Madrid, the place he owns a 54-13 document. The lefty has not competed since Indian Wells attributable to a stress fracture in one in every of his ribs, so he will likely be eager to make a fast begin to his clay-court season.
Earlier than the harm, Nadal was the most popular participant on the ATP Tour. The Spaniard has received 20 of his 21 matches this yr, together with a run to his document twenty first main trophy on the Australian Open. Nadal’s most up-to-date title on the Caja Magica got here in 2017, and final yr he reached the quarter-finals. He might face a stern check in his opener towards in-form Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic or Kazakhstani Alexander Bublik.
2) Novak Rounding Into Kind: Djokovic made a sluggish begin to his clay-court season with a gap loss in Monte Carlo. Nonetheless, the Serbian rounded into kind on dwelling soil on the Serbia Open in Belgrade, the place he received three three-setters earlier than falling in a deciding set within the last towards Andrey Rublev.
The three-time Madrid titlist will attempt to carry that stage to the Caja Magica, the place he’ll start his run towards Frenchman Gael Monfils or wild card Carlos Gimeno Valero. If Djokovic faces Monfils, he’ll take a 17-0 lead of their ATP Head2Head collection into that matchup.
3) Alcaraz Rising: No person has created extra hype this season than Alcaraz, who final Monday cracked the High 10 of the ATP Rankings for the primary time at World No. 9. The 18-year-old — who turns 19 on 5 Could — has obtained loads of consideration, together with a latest look on well-known Spanish talkshow El Hormiguero.
However the teen, who claimed his maiden Masters 1000 title in Miami, will likely be focussed on the duty at hand, which is making a deep run in entrance of his dwelling followers. Alcaraz will play Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili or Italian Fabio Fognini within the second spherical, with a blockbuster showdown probably looming towards Nadal within the quarter-finals in the event that they each advance that far. The #NextGenATP star made his debut on the Caja Magica final yr, when he defeated Frenchman Adrian Mannarino earlier than shedding to Nadal in straight units.
4) Tsitsipas Flying Excessive: Stefanos Tsitsipas will carry loads of confidence to the season’s second clay-court Masters 1000 occasion after lifting the trophy on the first in Monte Carlo. The Greek star has additionally performed effectively in Madrid earlier than, having made the ultimate in 2019 with three-set wins towards Alexander Zverev and Nadal earlier than shedding to Djokovic. The 23-year-old must be sharp from his first match, which can come towards one in every of two former High 10 gamers in Karen Khachanov or Lucas Pouille.
5) Zverev Two-Time Champ: Zverev is a two-time champion on the Mutua Madrid Open, the place his booming serve and luxury in the back of the courtroom have mixed for good outcomes prior to now. The German earned three consecutive High 10 victories en path to the title final yr, together with a straight-sets triumph towards Nadal within the quarter-finals. This version he’s the second seed and can start his event towards 2017 Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters finalist Albert Ramos-Vinolas or former World No. 3 Marin Cilic.
6) Murray-Thiem Blockbuster: When the draw got here out, one first-round match specifically stood out: a tantalising encounter between former World No. 1 Andy Murray and former World No. 3 Dominic Thiem. This would be the pair’s fifth ATP Head2Head conflict, with every man profitable two of their earlier conferences.
Murray is a two-time Mutua Madrid Open champion, triumphing in 2008 (on laborious) and 2015 (on clay). He final competed on the Caja Magica in 2017 and had deliberate to skip the clay-court season this yr earlier than taking a wild card into the occasion. Thiem made the Madrid last in 2017 and 2018, and is constant his comeback from a wrist harm that stored him out for eight months.
7) Spaniards To Watch: All eyes will likely be on Nadal and Alcaraz, however there are different Spaniards to observe in Madrid. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina superior to his first Masters 1000 last, whereas Pablo Carreno Busta and 2014 semi-finalist Roberto Bautista Agut are seeded sixteenth and seventeenth, respectively. Ramos-Vinolas, a four-time ATP Tour titlist, is at all times harmful on clay and will play Zverev within the second spherical.[NEWSLETTER FORM]
8) Harmful On Clay: Whereas they may not be on the very high of the favourites’ checklist in Madrid, Casper Ruud and Andrey Rublev, the fifth and sixth seeds, respectively, are harmful gamers on clay. Ruud made the semi-finals eventually yr’s Nitto ATP Finals on a tough courtroom, however he made his ascent off the again of spectacular clay-court play. The Norwegian has claimed six of his seven ATP Tour titles on the floor, together with a victory earlier this yr in Buenos Aires. Ruud opens towards Croatian Borna Coric or a qualifier.
In contrast to Ruud, Rublev is understood for his hard-court play along with his booming groundstrokes, particularly his forehand. However his sport has translated effectively to clay, on which he has earned three titles, together with one final week in Belgrade, the place he upset Djokovic within the last. The second seed, who’s making his second look in Madrid, will face Italian Lorenzo Sonego or British wild card Jack Draper within the second spherical.
9) Granollers/Zeballos Defending Champions: Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos are the defending champions in Madrid, however they must battle by way of a troublesome discipline if they’re to retain their crown. The highest seeds are Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury, the latest Monte Carlo winners who’ve lifted two Masters 1000 trophies and two main crowns collectively.
10) High 10 Singles Stars Taking part in Doubles: The singles stars are plentiful within the doubles draw, with 5 of the High 10 gamers within the ATP Rankings competing. Alcaraz is taking part in with Marc Lopez, Tsitsipas along with his brother Petros Tsitsipas, Zverev alongside Marcelo Melo, Rublev is partnering Karen Khachanov and Felix Auger-Aliassime is competing with 2017 Nitto ATP Finals champion Grigor Dimitrov.