2015 ATP Madrid Preview, Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Tennis Atlantic’s Niall Clarke, and Adam Addicott will both be in Madrid this week as credentialed members of the press, and they will be providing us with fantastic onsite coverage of the second clay court Masters event of the season, this one of course at the Magic Box in Madrid. As an appetizer for that, here is a preview, and some predictions for the men’s draw.
2015 ATP Madrid Open Preview
Mutua Madrid Open
ATP World Tour Masters 1000*
May 3-May 10, 2015
Prize Money: €4,185,405
*denotes joint ATP/WTA event
Top 8 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Roger Federer (2)
2: Andy Murray (3)
3: Rafael Nadal (4)
4: Kei Nishikori (5)
5: Milos Raonic (6)
6: Tomas Berdych (7)
7: David Ferrer (8)
8: Stan Wawrinka (9)
Novak Djokovic is the notable absence here, as the world number 1 cited fatigue in skipping Madrid, and he’s never liked playing at the venue anyway. In addition, Gilles Simon, Tommy Robredo and Andreas Seppi are the only other notables missing from the draw.
First round matchups to watch:
Nick Kyrgios vs. (Q)Daniel Gimeno-Traver
Both players are in great form going into this match, Kyrgios raced to the Estoril final in a surprise, though he lost rather routinely to Richard Gasquet, and DGT was a finalist in Casablanca, a semifinalist in Bucharest, and most recently a quarterfinalist in Istanbul before qualifying for Madrid with a pair of routine wins. They have never met before, and DGT has more experience on clay, while Kyrgios has more talent, and both should be about equally fatigued. I have Kyrgios winning, but it should be close, and it’s an interesting match.
Jack Sock vs. (WC)Pablo Andujar
Sock and Andujar have a split hard court h2h, while Andujar won a round in Munich, only to retire in his next match (previous to that the Spaniard reached the 500 series final in Barcelona on home soil with a shock run). Sock is playing his first tournament since taking the title on har-tru clay in Houston. The outcome of this match likely hinges on Andujar’s health, but it still presents a good opportunity for Sock to beat a solid clay court opponent, who is in some level of good form. If Andujar is healthy, he’s the favorite given his experience on the surface, but Sock has plenty of potential and he could well get this win, as it’s always notable when an American can win a match on European clay.
Fabio Fognini vs. Santiago Giraldo
This time last year, Giraldo was on-fire but he’s struggling now, and he will face off with the unpredictable Fognini who crashed out in the quarterfinals of Munich last week. Giraldo beat Fognini in Sao Paulo this year, and that evened their clay court h2h 3-3. Giraldo likewise won a round in Istanbul and then lost in an upset, and over their past two tournaments Giraldo is 2-2 and Fognini is 3-2, thus everything on paper makes this seem like an open match. It’s a hard prediction to make, but when Fognini isn’t facing Nadal (who he has beaten twice this year), I don’t trust him, and thus I have Giraldo winning.
Fernando Verdasco vs. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez
Verdasco is 3-0 at the ATP level on clay against GGL, but he’s lost two straight matches on clay, while GGL won Bucharest, and then comes off a semifinal result in Estoril. Over the past two weeks, Garcia-Lopez has beaten notable names Gael Monfils, Kevin Anderson and Borna Coric, however he may be fatigued from playing so many matches. Both are home players so they should feel comfortable with the home cooking in Madrid, and it’s hard to predict, but you have to go with Garcia-Lopez’s form at the moment and I have him advancing in the battle of talented shotmakers.
(9)Marin Cilic vs. Jiri Vesely
The Croat Cilic has never faced the Czech Vesely, and it’s an interesting matchup, as both are lanky hitters with a good amount of power but questionable movement. Cilic reached the quarterfinals in Monte Carlo with a pair of wins, but cooled off and was upset in Barcelona, while Vesely has been in good form on clay, reaching the final in Bucharest, and also a semi in Casablanca already this clay court season. He hasn’t beaten any top names on the surface this year, and he struggled in Munich, but I’d still give him an outside shot to upset Cilic if the Croat continues to be rusty coming off of injury. Cilic is the favorite, but watch out for Jiri here.
Juan Monaco vs. (WC)Nicolas Almagro
Monaco beat Almagro in a high quality contest in Buenos Aires this year, but he’s just 2-5 overall on ATP clay against the Spaniard, who will be playing on home soil of course. Monaco is 2-2 on European clay in his past four matches, while Almagro reached the quarters in both Casablanca and Estoril. Almagro has not been quite up to par with his former self, but neither has Monaco, as both were formerly reliable top 20 players who maximized their games, now with their current versions it’s a 50/50 matchup, and I’m going with Monaco as I felt Almagro did not play that well in Estoril.
3 time Madrid champion Roger Federer, who won the Istanbul title, will open with either Kyrgios or DGT and NK could catch Federer on the downswing and pull off a huge upset, though he may be too fatigued from Estoril. Federer has struggled in Istanbul, dropping a pair of sets to much lower ranked players, and those are worrying signs for the Swiss champion. That said, given this is clay, I don’t have the confidence to pick Kyrgios, and he could even lose to DGT as mentioned. Federer beat DGT in three sets in Istanbul.
Look for Federer/Kyrgios to advance to the quarters over John Isner most likely, as the American has a weak draw of Adrian Mannarino, and a qualifier Thomaz Bellucci/Jeremy Chardy. Chardy is struggling, and the qualifier Bellucci may have a shot here as well. Isner is actually 0-2 against Chardy, and they have never met on clay. Isner won a pair of matches in Monte Carlo to reach that same R16 stage though. Bellucci has beaten Isner before on clay, and he comes off quarterfinals in Istanbul.
Tomas Berdych has been on fire this year, the Monte Carlo finalist (most recently), is most likely to face Richard Gasquet, who he is just 1-2 against on clay in his opening match. Gasquet is a current finalist in Estoril, and he’s playing well, though his back has been giving him problems. Presuming he stays in the draw, Gasquet will need to defeat non-clay courter Ivo Karlovic to reach the second round. Given how well he’s played all season, Berdych should be safe to reach round 3, where he will face either Andujar/Sock or Lukas Rosol/Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The Munich and Bucharest quarterfinalist Rosol has played decently well as of late, while Tsonga has lost two straight. He still should win the mathc against Rosol as he beat him last year on clay, and I’ve picked him to do so, before falling to Sock in an upset, as I feel Sock is playing well enough right now to pull off a pair of upsets, before falling to Berdych in round 3. No matter, a Federer vs. Berdych quarterfinal is the most likely outcome of this interesting section of the draw.
Four time and defending champion Rafael Nadal has been struggling this season, but he still should be safe against Steve Johnson/qualifier Alejandro Gonzalez in his opening match. In the third round, his opponent is uncertain, the seed Kevin Anderson lost early in Estoril and is not a clay court player, later falling to Simone Bolelli in Sunday action. Bolelli is an unpredictable player who is decently good on clay (a quarterfinalist in Bucharest) just below Anderson in the draw. Also here is Bernard Tomic who has lost two straight on clay, but has the talent to excel in theory. I look for Tomic to beat a qualifier, and then Bolelli to beat him. Nadal should then beat Bolelli, as he has done four times previously.
8 seed Stan Wawrinka, a former finalist here, is struggling mightily and appears dazed and confused on tour right now, still Jerzy Janowicz is the type of opponent he’d like to start with, as he’s a high risk power player, not a reliably smooth ball striker, and thus should spew enough errors to give Wawrinka a chance to get his footing in the match. Janowicz will need to defeat lucky loser Joao Sousa and end a two match losing streak on clay to get the Wawrinka matchup. Wawrinka is just 3-4 since winning Rotterdam, but he’s beaten JJ on clay before and more likely I see Wawrinka going out to either Grigor Dimitrov, who beat him in Monte Carlo, or the Fognini/Giraldo winner in round 3.
Dimitrov is an interesting case, he will open with Donald Young, who is poor on clay, and he should be favored against either Fognini or Giraldo. He beat Fogna in Monte Carlo, and he’s simply better than Giraldo, that said, he lost in the semis of Istanbul in an upset, and was poor in that match, so his form is a question mark. That said, given the h2h, Dimitrov should be motivated at the Masters level to also beat Wawrinka and setup a quarterfinal against Nadal.
Andy Murray, in the hunt for his first ever clay court title in Munich still, where he is a finalist, could very well face his opponent in that Munich final, Philipp Kohlschreiber in a rematch, presuming Kohli stays in th draw coming off a busy week of long matches in Munich, and beats qualifier Alejandro Falla In that rematch, I have Murray winning, given fitness, and the fact I have him winning in Munich too. Murray could be posed with trouble in the third round as Gael Monfils lurks. Monfils pulled out of Munich, citing a knee injury, but he’s been playing well when healthy and will open with the struggling Viktor Troicki before facing Martin Klizan or Marcel Granollers. Klizan is also in good form, as the Slovak reached the semis in Barcelona, and won Casablanca (Monfils reached the semis in both Monte Carlo and Bucharest). With both players coming off a break, I’m favoring Klizan to advance, but that match could very well go either way with such unpredictable players, and I’d favor Klizan or Monfils over Murray in round 3. Murray is 2-1 on clay against Monfils but they have always battled on the surface, and Murray played a lot of tennis in Munich. Klizan and Murray have never played, but I favor the clay court form of the big hitter. Klizan is the quarterfinalist in my draw.
5 seed Milos Raonic will have a tough match right away and is in danger of exiting the tournament at the hands of the Almagro/Monaco winner. Monaco has beaten Raonic on clay (and is 2-0 in the overall h2h), while Raonic has beaten Almagro on clay, and is 2-0 against him. Raonic reached the quarterfinals in Monte Carlo before retiring in that match, and he’s deceptively a quality player on clay, that said, the retirement is a question mark, and I’m going with an upset with Monaco reaching the third round over Raonic. Raonic/Monaco/Almagro would all have the edge to reach the quarters, the seed Feliciano Lopez is struggling mightily on clay, as he’s suffered early exits as of late, though his first round opponent Benjamin Becker is not a clay courter either. Leo Mayer could be the round 2 opponent of Lopez/Becker, but he’s been pedestrian this season, and has lost two straight on clay after a great run on the surface last year. Gilles Muller reached the quarters of Estoril, winning two matches on clay for the time in multiple seasons, and Muller/Mayer is a harder match to pick than one would think. Still I have Mayer reaching the third round in a very weak section, and then falling to his countryman Monaco.
Defending finalist Kei Nishikori will face David Goffin or Ernests Gulbis in his opening match. Gulbis has lost four straight matches and has been in free fall this season, while Goffin reached the quarters in Munich but has been pedestrian as well as of late. Nishikori, the Barcelona champion, should frankly demolish either player (most likely Goffin), and he dismantled Goffin in Miami 6-1 6-2 not too long ago. Nishikori will also be a strong favorite over most likely Roberto Bautista Agut in round 3. RBA has a weak draw of Marius Copil, a wild card, and Sam Querrey/qualifier Thanasi Kokkinakis. Nishikori won a 3 setter against RBA in Barcelona and RBA comes off the semis in Munich. Nishikori, the more complete player, is likely to face David Ferrer in the quarters.
Ferrer, who has only reached the semis in Madrid (twice), opens with either qualifier Albert Ramos or current Istanbul finalist Pablo Cuevas, Cuevas is in great form but could be tired, while Ramos has been unpredictable. Ferrer is 2-0 against Cuevas and he was a semifinalist in Madrid, after previously reaching the quarters in Monte Carlo. Ferrer could have a tougher matchup against either Verdasco/Garcia-Lopez or Cilic/Vesely, in round 3. GGL, presuming he beat Verdasco, just beat Vesely in Bucharest, and he’s 1-1 against Cilic. Given current form, I’m going with Garcia-Lopez into the third round before falling to Ferrer, who has beaten him three times previously on clay.
Dark Horses: Nick Kyrgios, Fabio Fognini, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, Martin Klizan
Jack Sock should do well in the top half, but Kyrgios has the most upside potential, if he does play his best, he could shock Federer, and run all the way to at least the quarterfinals, on the heels of his run to the final (and perhaps a title) in Estoril. Clay is not his best surface, but the Aussie young gun is on the rise, and there is little doubt he has top 10 ability, and will eventually get there, perhaps sooner rather than later, the Madrid draw gives him a chance to notch another remarkable result for his age.
Fognini is incredibly unpredictable, and likely loses in round 1 to Giraldo, but he still has great upside potential. If he catches fire, he could beat Giraldo, upset Dimitrov and then defeat likely Wawrinka to setup another rematch with Nadal, who he has beaten twice this year (most recently in Barcelona). It’s not likely any of that happens, but he has the clay court ability if he can keep his head on straight and put in the effort to get it done.
Garcia-Lopez may be fatigued but he’s been in great form on clay as of late, and if he beats Verdasco and Cilic/Vesely, he could also upset Ferrer and reach the quarters, on home soil, anything is possible if he finds his inspiration and is fit enough to get it done.
Klizan will have tough tests in Monfils, and likely Murray in order, but if he gets past that murderers row, the draw opens up with a winnable quarterfinal against Monaco/Almagro/Raonic waiting in the wings, and a chance to reach his first ever Masters semifinal. He could even reach the final, though Nishikori/Ferrer/other would of course be the favorite.
Federer d. Berdych
Nadal d. Dimitrov
Klizan d. Monaco
Nishikori d. Ferrer
Federer has never lost to Berdych on clay, thus even though he’s playing so well this season, I don’t feel like he’ll get over the hump. Nadal is 5-0 against Dimitrov, so again I feel like he gets lucky and reaches the semis, Klizan just beat Monaco in sets in Barcelona, and Nishikori beat Ferrer in their only meeting on clay here in Madrid last year.
Federer d. Nadal
Nishikori d. Klizan
Nadal should have the edge, but I feel Federer is an actual superior player right now, and he’ll expose and take advantage of a weak Nadal, Nishikori should beat Klizan again or any other player to each the final.
Nishikori d. Federer
Nishikori won the only clay court h2h meeting against Federer, and I feel no matter who his opponent it is, be it Federer, Nadal, Berdych or another player, that he will win this title. He was solid in Barcelona, and he would have won last year if he hadn’t injured himself. Clearly it’s a venue he enjoys and he’s rising overall, so a maiden Masters 100 title would be well deserved.