2017 ATP Madrid Preview and Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
One of the biggest stops on the road to Roland Garros, Madrid is Spain’s marquee ATP tournament and a joint event with the WTA, here is a complete preview of the week to come at the magic box.
Mutua Madrid Open
ATP World Tour Masters 1000*
May 7-14, 2017
Prize Money: €5,439,350
*Joint ATP/WTA Tournament
Top 8 seeds (Who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Andy Murray (1)
2: Novak Djokovic (2)
3: Stan Wawrinka (3)
4: Rafael Nadal (5)
5: Milos Raonic (6)
6: Kei Nishikori (7)
7: Marin Cilic (8)
8: Dominic Thiem (9)
Roger Federer, Juan Martin Del Potro, and three of the top four American Men are the only major outs for Madrid this year, a top of the line Masters tournament.
First round matchups to watch:
(12)Grigor Dimitrov vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber
After starting the season hot Dimitrov is in the midst of a slump, having lost four straight. He would love to end it Madrid, and Kohlschreiber, who is similarly underperforming, may be the opponent he can finally get back on track against. Kohli is not an easy out on clay but Dimitrov is simply too talented to keep losing early in tournaments, he should manage to find a way to win this.
Alexander Zverev vs. Fernando Verdasco
Verdasco has a h2h win but Zverev will be coming off the Munich final, and possibly a title there. He’s having a great run on clay thus far this year, and continues to rise, while Verdasco is a shadow of the player he was. Verdasco should be motivated to play in Spain, but as long as Zverev is fresh he will have an advantage in this one.
Tommy Haas vs. Gilles Muller
These 30+ tour veterans have split h2h meetings 2-2, and Haas is probably better on clay. That said, Muller is currently in the Estoril final and has surpassed his win total on clay over the past few seasons, just this year. Haas is 3-3 since returning to tour after a very long layoff, presuming Muller stays in the Madrid draw I actually have him returning to earth and dropping this match.
(9)David Goffin vs. Karen Khachanov
Goffin will look for revenge as Khachanov just beat him in Barcelona. The young Russian has not exited early on clay recently, but Goffin is one of the sport’s top players and has played well in Masters tournaments recently. Goffin is the worthy favorite, but this matchup clearly has upset potential once again.
Albert Ramos-Vinolas vs. Diego Schwartzman
Both dirtballers are in good form and Schwartzman has the h2h edge. Ramos is playing at home in Spain though and as a finalist in Monte Carlo he’s been somewhat better against top level competition than the Argentine, who reached the semis in Istanbul as of late. This should be a close matchup, and will likely go three sets, but Ramos-Vinolas has the edge.
Tommy Robredo vs. Nicolas Almagro
A battle of veteran Spaniards, these dirtballers have plenty of wear on the tires but can still win matches on clay. Almagro, a new father, reached the semis in Estoril and has a big h2h edge while Robredo also has a clay quarterfinal this spring. Almagro should maintain his matchup advantage and win this one.
Andy Murray‘s first tough opponent should be Lucas Pouille, who has won nine of his last ten matches on clay, as neither Marius Copil nor Guillermo Garcia-Lopez are playing well, and one of those players will meet Murray in round 2. Pouille must defeat a qualifier and most likely his countryman Richard Gasquet, who hasn’t been healthy once again, and plays a struggling Mischa Zverev first up. Murray is just 15-5 this season and has struggled under the weight of expectations as world #1, Pouille will have more than a punchers chance in round 3, but Murray, a former Madrid champion, muddled through to the Barcelona semis and should survive a stern test.
Barcelona finalist Dominic Thiem looks set to continue to do damage in Spain, he should ease past Steve Darcis or a qualifier before facing home player Roberto Bautista Agut, who opens with big server Ivo Karlovic, with Dimitrov/Kohlschreiber to follow. This whole section is out of form except for Thiem, and thus Thiem should edge past RBA to reach round 4.
Stan Wawrinka looks set to face Pablo Cuevas, who knocked him out of Monte Carlo, in the third round. Wawrinka will get a difficult match with possible Estoril champion Carreno Busta in round 2 most likely (or a struggling Benoit Paire, his best friend), while Cuevas needs to defeat a qualifier and either Nicolas Mahut or Houston semifinalist Jack Sock, who is still at his weakest on clay, while Cuevas is at his best.
Presuming Zverev defeats Verdasco, we could see a matchup of tour champions of the previous week, that is if Marin Cilic wins Istanbul (he’s currently a finalist), and Zverev wins Munich. Tomas Berdych opens with a qualifier, neither Robin Haase nor Dan Evans are likely to compete well against Berdych, thus Zverev over Berdych is a sensible third round prediction.
Novak Djokovic, just 12-4 this season, fired his entire coaching team, dropping the hammer after struggling to regain the world #1 ranking this season. Djokovic, looking for a fresh start, will begin anew against either Robredo or Almagro, difficult but winnable matchups, with Gael Monfils perhaps most likely in round 3. Monfils is struggling as well, but Gilles Simon, Feliciano Lopez, or a qualifier are all somewhat poor as well, thus if Monfils finds some form he should get past Simon and Lopez before falling to Djokovic.
Kei Nishikori will make his European clay court debut this season against the Ramos-Vinolas/Schwartzman winner, while Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who lost his first match in Monte Carlo and hasn’t played since, opens with either a qualifier or Estoril semifinalist David Ferrer, who has had a miserable year. Nishikori over Tsonga seems like the sensible choice here, though form is in question for both.
Tournament favorite Rafael Nadal has four career Madrid titles (Djokovic and Murray both have a pair of titles in the Spanish capital), and should make at least the third round, as both Fabio Fognini and Joao Sousa are struggling. Nick Kyrgios would be up in round 3, as long as Kyrgios, who is recovering from the death of a family member, defeats Marcos Baghdatis, who struggles on clay, and either Ryan Harrison or countryman Bernard Tomic, who both made surprising quarterfinals on clay this past week. Nadal should buzz past Kyrgios given teh circumstances, Rafa has looked unstoppable on clay in Monte Carlo and Barcelona.
The winner of Goffin/Khachanov will face Marcel Granollers or Florian Mayer round 2, while current Istanbul finalist Milos Raonic will look to continue his positive momentum against the Muller/Haas winner. Goffin should edge Raonic on clay given the fatigue factor but that should be one of the matches of the tournament and could go either way.
Dark Horse: Lucas Pouille, Alexander Zverev, Karen Khachanov, and Nicolas Almagro
Pouille has to get past Murray, but he’s in the form to do it, Zverev is playing well beyond his ranking right now on clay, Khachanov has shown great promise and if he gets past Goffin he could also knock off Raonic. Almagro would have to do the unexpected against Djokovic, but perhaps Djokovic will remain in his funk and Almagro will find inspiration.
Thiem d. Murray
Wawrinka d. Zverev
Djokovic d. Nishikori
Nadal d. Goffin
Thiem should be favored over Murray on clay at this point, Wawrinka, Djokovic, and Nadal are the safe picks, not as reliable as they once were, but still favored all the same. Nadal in particular looks great right now.
Thiem d. Wawrinka
Nadal d. Djokovic
A rematch of the Barcelona final would be in order, Nadal is the best clay courter of all-time, and currently on tour in terms of form right now, he should win Madrid.
Nadal d. Thiem