Rafael Nadal Looks to Stay Unbeaten On Clay At ATP Madrid 2018 Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The Madrid Masters 1000 is the second of three ATP Masters on clay, and another chance for Spaniard Rafael Nadal to show off his legendary talents on clay, and for now, extend his unbeaten streak on the surface. Here is your full preview with predictions.
Nadal hasn’t lost on clay this year and will open against Gael Monfils or a qualifier, I have him facing countryman Pablo Andujar in round 3. Andujar opens with fellow Spaniard Feliciano Lopez, presuming he wins that it will be a struggling Diego Schwartzman or Adrian Mannarino in round 2. Nadal over Andujar is the pick for round 3.
Dominic Thiem will begin against a qualifier or Mischa Zverev, I’ll back Thiem to win that and defeat Pablo Carreno Busta or Borna Coric in round 3 to reach the quarters. The winner of PCB/Coric takes on J.L. Struff or a qualifier in round 2.
Juan Martin Del Potro should open his clay court season with a win over Damir Dzumhur or Julien Benneteau, I’ll back Richard Gasquet to edge Tomas Berdych and Karen Khachanov/qualifier before falling to Del Potro in the third round.
Kevin Anderson faces Roberto Carballes Baena or a qualifier, while Roberto Bautista Agut drew Jared Donaldson followed by Yuichi Sugita or Philipp Kohlschreiber. Kohli, a current finalist in Munich, is likely going to face fatigue, and I’ll back Bautista Agut over Anderson in round 3.
Grigor Dimitrov will get a big matchup with Milos Raonic or a qualifier, his third round tilt should be a bit easier with Benoit Paire/Lucas Pouiille or Denis Shapovalov/Tennys Sandgren featuring. No one in this section is in great form besides Dimitrov, I have Paire winning a pair of matches before falling to the Bulgarian.
Kei Nishikori vs. Novak Djokovic is the match of the first round, both players are formerly elite and hoping to return to form with Madrid presenting a great opportunity. I’m more confident in Nishikori right now, and I have him beating Djokovic and Kyle Edmund/Daniil Medvedev to reach round 3. David Goffin has a great shot at making a run if he can get past Hyeon Chung (or Robin Haase) in round 2. I’ll go with Nishikori over Goffin in a challenging section of the draw.
Both Alexander Zverev and his potential 2nd round opponent Stefanos Tsitipas are currently in ATP finals (Munich and Estoril). I’ll go with Zverev to defeat Tsitipas/qualifier and Fabio Fognini to reach the quarters. Fognini opens with Leonardo Mayer, Paolo Lorenzi or Fernando Verdasco will follow.
America’s #1 and #2 John Isner and Jack Sock are in the same section. I have Sock being upset by Pablo Cuevas, with Cuevas going on to defeat Albert Ramos/Peter Gojowczyk in round 2. Isner should defeat Guillermo Garcia-Lopez or Ryan Harrison to reach the third round, and I’ll go with Isner over Cuevas at that stage.
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.
Quarters 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.
Semis 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.
2016 ATP Madrid Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby and Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
It’s time for the second clay court masters tournament of the season, as most of the world’s top players will descend on the capital of Spain to duel in the magic box. Tennis Atlantic is excited to once again have credentialed coverage from the Mutua Madrid Open, as Niall Clarke will be providing you with reports on the day’s matchplay. Here is a preview and prediction for the ATP side of the tournament.
Mutua Madrid Open
ATP World Tour Masters 1000*
May 1-8, 2016
Prize Money: €4,771,360
*denotes joint ATP/WTA event
Top 8 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Novak Djokovic (1)
2: Andy Murray (2)
3: Roger Federer (3)
4: Stan Wawrinka (4)
5: Rafael Nadal (5)
6: Kei Nishikori (6)
7: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (7)
8: Tomas Berdych (8)
Marin Cilic, John Isner, young gun Alexander Zverev, and Martin Klizan are the only notable players missing from the tournament. Jiri Vesely, who recently stunned Novak Djokovic on clay in Monte Carlo, is also absent.
Madrid features some great first round matchups, and this is certainly one of them. The veteran Spaniard Almagro just won the title in Estoril, and is clearly comfortable both on clay, and in Madrid. He’s experiencing a bit of a career resurgence right now, and would like to keep the momentum going. Borna Coric was a quarterfinalist in Estoril, and also a finalist in Casablanca, as the Croatian young gun continues to steadily improve his standing on the ATP tour.
Given the fatigue factor, I favor Coric to win this, as Almagro is coming off of a three set final.
Leonardo Mayer vs. Feliciano Lopez
Mayer beat Lopez in Madrid last year, and he comes off the quarters in Estoril. Lopez has a semifinal in Houston, and won a round in Barcelona, so while he’s no clay court specialist, he is playing at a home tournament, and has a bit of momentum working in his favor. This should be a close match, as the baseliner Mayer will play a more traditional clay court game, while Lopez will look to be aggressive. This one could go either way, but I narrowly favor Lopez.
Philipp Kohlschreiber vs. Pablo Cuevas
Kohlschreiber is 32, and 7-1 in his last two tournaments, thus his clay court form is great, but he should be on upset alert given the fatigue factor, against an accomplished clay courter in Cuevas. This is a tough first round match for the Munich champion, as Cuevas keeps the ball in play, and is 2-2 in his last four clay court matches, after a strong Golden Swing earlier this season. Cuevas should grind Kohlschreiber down, and pull an upset.
David Goffin drew the toughest qualifier, as Lucas Pouille is nearly into the top 50 at 22, and beat him in Brisbane this year in a huge upset. Pouille is 8-2 in his last 10 matches, and reached a clay court final in Bucharest recently. He’s rapidly improving his game that has plenty of weapons, while Goffin has limped to a disappointing 3-2 record on clay this Spring, and does not appear to be dialed in thus far on the surface.
Goffin was once in great form, and he could still win this match, but a Pouille win wouldn’t surprise me, and this match should feature incredible ball striking.
(14)Dominic Thiem vs. Juan Martin Del Potro
The Munich finalist Thiem is 5-2 on spring clay thus far, and looks to be playing well. I have him making a deep run here, and this match against Del Potro could turn into a mere formality. However, he could be suffering from fatigue after playing the Munich final, and the big hitting Del Potro is slowly finding form. Del Potro won a pair of matches in Munich, and is at least a credible ATP level player right now. The style contrast will be interesting.
Houston finalist Jack Sock is making his debut this season on European clay. Unlike many of the American players, he can play well on the surface, and certainly has a chance to win this match against Paire. The Frenchman has made consecutive semifinals in Barcelona, and Estoril, he’s inconsistent usually, but he’s found form as of late.
Sock will contest this match hard, but I have Paire better on clay, and advancing.
(WC)Pablo Carreno Busta vs. Grigor Dimitrov
A hobbled Grigor Dimitrov suffered defeat in the ATP Istanbul final, and appeared to be extremely upset and frustrated with himself. The Bulgarian #1 is 3-0 against PCB though, and the Spaniard is coming off of his own ATP final in Estoril. PCB played well in Estoril, scoring four wins, three of which came over solid ATP players, and he also has a clay quarterfinal in Casablanca this year.
Dimitrov is 4-2 on spring clay, and should be the favorite, but I’m not sure where his head will be for this match.
Novak Djokovic hasn’t won the Madrid Masters since 2011, and he suffered his first clay loss of the season to Jiri Vesely in Monte Carlo. That was a stunning defeat, but you have to assume the world #1 will recover, and go relatively far in Madrid, if not win the tournament. Djokovic will open with the Almagro/Coric winner, Coric could give him a good test, but he should win that match and then defeat Roberto Bautista Agut to reach the quarters. The Spaniard opens with qualifier Santiago Giraldo with either Mayer or Lopez to follow. RBA is normally solid on clay though he lost in Barcelona, thus he’s the favorite for a third round spot.
Milos Raonic hasn’t lost before the quarterfinals in a tournament this season, he should be able to continue that streak with wins over Thomaz Bellucci, Alexandr Dolgopolov, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, though Tsonga is by far the toughest opponent of that group. Bellucci has been struggling mightily, Dolgopolov just beat Steve Johnson in a round 1 three setter and is unpredictable, coming off a quarterfinal in Barcelona. Tsonga was a semifinalist in Monte Carlo, where he beat Roger Federer, and he should be able to get past Istanbul quarterfinalist Albert Ramos (or Jeremy Chardy), in round 2.
Raonic beat Tsonga in 2014 on clay, and his strong and consistent play is why I have him reaching the quarters.
Stan Wawrinka has been in poor form in recent months, most recently dropping a quarterfinal match in Monte Carlo. However, he’s a solid clay court player and a former Madrid finalist. One of the most anticipated matches of round 2 should be Wawrinka against Nick Kyrgios. Kyrgios has reached consecutive semifinals, including on clay in Estoril. He’ll need to defeat Bucharest quarterfinalist Guido Pella first. Wawrinka and Kyrgios have a heated rivalry, though they have only met three times, given this is clay, I give Wawrinka a slight edge to advance, but wouldn’t be surprised if Kyrgios won.
Pablo Cuevas is my dark horse pick to reach the third round, after Kohlschreiber, he’s likely to face Gael Monfils. Monfils has been in great form and reached the final in Monte Carlo, but he has was injured and had to withdrawal from Munich. His opening round opponent Kevin Anderson has been injured himself, and thus he should win that match, but I don’t trust Monfils to consistently be able to post solid performances yet, and Cuevas excels at keeping the ball in play and grinding through matches. Wawrinka or Kyrgios should defeat Cuevas in round three though, Monfils is a bit of a wild card in this section too, full of talented, but wildly varying performers.
Kei Nishikori, a finalist in Barcelona, and a former finalist in Madrid, should be the favorite to win this quarter. Nishikori does not have an easy draw, but he’s reached consecutive ATP finals, demonstrating the tremendous form he’s riding right now. Barcelona quarterfinalist and Munich semifinalist Fabio Fognini is also playing well, and he should dispatch a struggling Bernard Tomic in round 1. Tomic has lost three straight.
Richard Gasquet is set to face Nishikori in round 3, Gasquet opens with qualifier Roberto Carballes Baena, with Fernando Verdasco to follow. Verdasco just beat Juan Monaco in round 1 and took the title in Bucharest. The veteran Spaniard is playing at home, and is in form, while Gasquet isn’t in great form, but his superior talent should get him through the first two rounds, before falling to Nishikori. Gasquet is 6-0 against Nishikori but has never faced him on clay.
Roger Federer is a three time champion in Madrid, and came off the Monte Carlo quarterfinals after returning from injury. Federer is perhaps the highest seed most likely to exit before the quarterfinals as I have him losing to the talented, and in-form Dominic Thiem. Federer will open with either Joao Sousa or Nicolas Mahut, both players are struggling, and that means Federer should win with ease. Thiem will face the Sock/Paire winner after Del Potro, he could lose that match if he’s fatigued, but his great form has me picking him to go as far as the quarterfinals.
Rafael Nadal has four career titles in Madrid, and is defending finals points here as well. He should easily defeat either Andrey Kuznetsov or Viktor Troicki, most likely Kuznetsov as he comes off a quarterfinal in Barcelona. Nadal against Goffin is my pick for the third round. After Pouille, Goffin will face Pierre-Hugues Herbert, or Sam Querrey in round 2. The qualifier Herbert has been in great form (qualified for all Masters singles draws this season), particularly in doubles, and he could spring a surprise. Querrey reached the quarterfinals in Houston, but is usually poor on clay. Nadal should demolish Goffin or Pouille to reach the quarters.
Andy Murray is the defending champion, and he has a rather easy draw to get back to the quarterfinals at least. The weakest section of the draw features Vasek Pospisil or qualifier Radek Stepanek as Murray’s first opponent, with most likely Gilles Simon to feature in round 3, though Simon has to defeat veteran Marcos Baghdatis and PCB/Dimitrov first. Simon has never played Baghdatis on clay, and he’s 3-2 in his last five matches on the surface. Baghdatis is normally poor on clay. PCB is an interesting dark horse here, but I presume fatigue will end his march. Dimitrov’s lack of focus should help Simon advance, before falling to Murray, who reached the semis in Monte Carlo, his only stint on clay this season.
Tomas Berdych and David Ferrer are the top seeds in the competitive section above Murray. Berdych is a former Madrid finalist, while Ferrer was twice a semifinalist at home in Spain. It’ll be Berdych against either qualifier Denis Istomin, or a struggling Teymuraz Gabashvili in round 2, while Ferrer opens with countryman Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. Ferrer won both meetings against GGL last year in dominating fashion, GGL has a quarterfinal and a semifinal in recent weeks on clay, and Ferrer has been struggling, but the talent gap is still there. Ferrer against qualifier Denis Kudla is my pick for round 2, Kudla has a recent challenger semi on clay, while Ivo Karlovic snapped a long losing streak to reach the semis in Istanbul in improbable fashion. The veteran likely loses in the opening round this time.
Ferrer and Berdych have a competitive h2h, Berdych did lose in the opening round of Monte Carlo, but I have a feeling he’ll rebound and do well in Madrid with his power game.
Dark Horse: Pablo Cuevas and Lucas Pouille
If you’re looking for unseeded players in the top and bottom half who might make a splash, look no farther than Cuevas, who should face opponents at less than 100% until he faces Wawrinka/Kyrgios round 3, and Pouille, who has to defeat Goffin, and Herbert/Querrey to setup an interesting third round match with Nadal. Nadal and Wawrinka/Kyrgios should both prevail, stopping either player from reaching the second week, but they are both clay court threats.
Quarters Djokovic d. Raonic
Nishikori d. Wawrinka
Nadal d. Thiem
Murray d. Berdych
On clay, Djokovic, and Nadal are both clear favorites, though Thiem has a win over Nadal this year, Rafa got him back in Monte Carlo. Nishikori is in better form than Wawrinka, and Murray should have the edge over Berdych given the surface and stage.
Semis Djokovic d. Nishikori
Nadal d. Murray
Nishikori seems to lack the staying power to compete with Djokovic from the baseline, while Nadal is a cut above Murray on clay right now, as he demonstrated in the Monte Carlo semi.
Final Djokovic d. Nadal
A possible preview to the French Open “final” before the final, Djokovic has won six straight against Rafa, including two matches this year, and most of their contests haven’t even been close. Nadal has won two straight tournaments on clay (Monte Carlo and Barcelona), but he did so without facing Djokovic, and until he proves to me that the current Rafa can defeat the current Novak, I have to pick Djokovic to win this title.