The draws have been made for the 2015 Mutua Madrilena Open, and lopsided is the first word to come to mind when it comes to the men’s event. Who’s going in with the most pressure? Who’s go the least expectation on his shoulders?
That and more in the TTI preview for the men’s side of the event:
For the second year in a row, Novak Djokovic has abstained from playing in the Spanish capital and, as a result, the men’s tableaux looks somewhat imbalanced. In order to save energy for the upcoming month — one that features the Rome Masters, where he is defending Champion and, of course, Roland Garros, with which he aims to win and complete a career Grand Slam — the Serb has opted to withdraw from the second of three clay court Masters.
He has not played a match in Madrid since losing to Grigor Dimitrov in 2013 where he found himself decidedly at odds with the crowd.
The Fedal Conundrum
Heading into the clay season ranked No. 4 and struggling with confidence, Rafael Nadal had a small window of opportunity to create a buffer in Barcelona after underperforming in the Catalan capital last year. However things to a sour turn when the nine-time French Open Champion fell to Italian jamboree bag Fabio Fognini for a second time this year. The 28-year-old arrives to Madrid with plenty of pressure, being the defending champion and trying to maintain his Top 4 ranking in advance of the French Open.
Roger Federer returns to Madrid after skipping the event last year, and will be the top seed of a Masters Tournament for the first time since 2012 (Shanghai). After falling early in Monte Carlo at the hands of Gael Monfils, the 17-time major champion is currently playing the inaugural edition of the Istanbul Cup, where he has reached the semifinals after a surprisingly tough match against Daniel Gimeno-Traver. The Swiss has been handed an even rougher draw in Madrid, with the unenviable task of Nick Kyrgios as a potential opening round opponent.
Luck — or lack thereof — has it that Nadal and Federer are scheduled to meet in the semifinals, but have either looked like a lock to make it that far? Difficult to say.
Murray’s Tough Turnaround
The World No. 3 has opted for a softer start into the clay season — after last month’s wedding to Kim Sears — and didn’t return to action until two days ago in Munich. However, constant rains have wrecked havoc on the schedule of the ATP 250 event and Andy Murray may find himself playing up to five matches over the course of the next two days.
Munich is at roughly the same altitude as Madrid, but due to the damp and cold conditions, courts are playing rather slowly. He might not be a clay court expert by any means, yet the Brit is seeded No. 2 and might face Philipp Kohlschreiber in his Madrid opening match — another who remains “stuck” in Munich.
Kei Nishikori, by contrast, is already hitting in Madrid and, finding himself in a softer section of the draw, might be one of the safest bets to reach the later stages of the tournament. The Japanese No. 1 successfully defended his Barcelona title last weekend. and stands a solid chance of making a second consecutive final in the Spanish capital.
Swiss No. 2 Stan Wawrinka will be back for his first tournament since falling meekly to Grigor Dimitrov in Monte Carlo, and finding himself in the center of some unwanted attention off-court. Question is – how is he going to bounce back from it?
Both Ernests Gulbis and noted nemesis Roberto Bautista-Agut have got a chunk of points to defend this week – Gulbis in particular finds himself in a spot of bother, with over 1200 of his 1740 points coming off over the next few weeks.
The Race for the fourth seed in Paris is on: At the moment Nadal, Nishikori, Milos Raonic, Tomas Berdych and David Ferrer all have a very realistic chance of finding themselves in the Top 4 two weeks from now – and depending on who it is, it could turn the French Open draw well and truly on its head.
Not only did he push Federer to the brink of defeat, but Daniel Gimeno-Traver has been playing consistent tennis over the past month. He’s got to play qualies, and who knows how much it’ll take out of him but he’s not looking like the qualifier you want to draw.
After 7 straight losses, Jiri Vesely has started turning his season around, making the Casablanca semis (losing to the aforementioned Gimeno-Traver) and narrowly losing to Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in Bucharest. He might have lost early and easily to Kohlschreiber this week, but it might have been a blessing in disguise — getting out of dodge city in time. A rematch of the Bucharest finals looms in the second round, if Vesely can manage to overcome Marin Cilic.
Federer-Kyrgios (2R): Come on, this is a no-brainer. But how tired is the young Aussie going to be after heading straight from Estoril to the Magic Box?
Fognini-Nadal (QF): Will it happen? Probably not. Would it be fun? Oh you bet’cha.
Berdych-Rosol (3R): Cause you can never #DOYOU enough.
What are you looking forward to in Madrid? Any particular matches? Predictions? Sound off in the comments