2019 Mutua Madrid Open
We head to the Spanish capital for Madrid Open, in what is one of the highest tournaments, in terms of altitude, on the tour at 667m above sea level. The thinner air effects the ball trajectory, meaning a good week on serve can take a player relatively far, while it can also benefit more aggressive players.
One of the top-five seeds has won this tournament in each of the 10 renewals since it switched to a clay court competition, with the first such winner in 2009 being Roger Federer.
The Swiss veteran marks his return to the red surface this week following his two-year sabbatical, in what looks a very strong field with Juan Martin Del Potro also returning from injury.
The only seeds that won’t be making an appearance are Kevin Anderson, John Isner and Milos Raonic and with all three players being big servers and having made at least the quarters here before, it looks a missed opportunity.
Finally, it won’t affect the outcome, but it’s worth highlighting that David Ferrer receives a wild card as he bids farewell to the tour after a stellar career.
THE BIG FIVE
Following a run of 47 victories from 53 Masters and Slam matches since the start of Wimbledon last year, Novak Djokovic comes in as world no.1 and the top seed. The Serb is a two-time champion at Caja Magica, having won in 2011 (I. Rafa Nadal) and 2016 (I. Andy Murray) as he has only been beaten here on five occasions from his 23 total matches since it became a clay court tournament.
However, since claiming the first Slam of the year, he’s not been his usual machine-like best, chucking in poor performances at each of his three tournaments since. He lost to Philipp Kohlschreiber in the third-round at Indian Wells, Roberto Bautista Agut in the fourth-round at Miami, while he was knocked out at the quarter-final stage by Daniil Medvedev in his only event on clay in Monte Carlo.
In fact, he fortuitus to even make it to the quarters in the South of France as he played poorly in the previous rounds. Djokovic doesn’t seem to be fully focused at the moment, so we’d avoid him this week.
Since the tournament began back in 2002, no player has won more Madrid titles than Rafa Nadal (5), with four of those on clay. In fact, the Spaniard has reached the final here on seven occasions since 2009, as he’s won 35 of his 41 matches over this period.
Only Dominic Thiem, Andy Murray (twice), Fernando Verdasco, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer have been able to get the better of him as he has produced consistently impressive performances year in, year out.
However, the ‘King of Clay’ has shown some vulnerability this clay court season already, as having lost just twice over the previous two seasons (W50-L2), he’s already gone down to both Fabio Fognini and Thiem in 2019. He’ll have the support of the crowd, but he’s seen to greater effect at the slower conditions of Monte-Carlo and Roland Garros, so can just be watched in Madrid.
Alexander Zverev is the reigning champion, but he looks to have his work cut out defending given the performances he’s put on so far this season. From his maiden Masters title at Rome in 2017, the German went W23-L5 on this surface until the end of the 2018 clay season, but he’s been a shadow of the player in 2019.
He lost in the third round at Monte-Carlo, while he’s lost three of his five matches in all tournaments during this clay court swing not including last week’s BMW Open in Munich), as Jaume Antoni Munar Clar, Fabio Fognini and Nicolas Jarry have all got the better of him.
The last time Roger Federer was seen on the clay came 36 months ago in Rome. Indeed, the 37-year-old has an accomplished record in Madrid, winning 35 of his 43 matches since the tournament began, including 18 of 22 since the switch to clay.
That run saw him lift the title in 2009 (I. Rafa Nadal) and 2012 (I. Tomas Berdych), though he lost to Nick Kyrgios in the opening round in 2015, in what was his last appearance here. He may have won 16 of his 17 matches since the Australian Open, but it looks a massive ask to succeed here after such a long lay-off.
Dominic Thiem added his ninth main tour title on the clay surface last week in Barcelona. He didn’t drop a single set in that title lifting run, as he dispatched Medvedev 6-4 6-0 in the final, whilst rather more impressively, Nadal couldn’t lay a glove on him in the semis.
It is somewhat a surprise therefore, that he is yet to win a Masters event on his favoured surface, but having won at Indian Wells earlier this year, it only looks like a matter of time. He has come agonizingly close in the last two years here, losing in the final twice, and we feel it could be third time lucky for the Austrian. He’s probably the only player on the tour that Nadal will fear on this court and at a bigger price than both the top two seeds, he gets our backing.
No qualifier has ever advanced past the semis in the 10 years it has been played on clay and so we’re happy to stick to those in the main part of the draw. Indeed, a player that should be respected this week is Kei Nishikori.
The Japanese superstar has won 16 of his 20 completed matches since 2013 in the Spanish capital, as the only players to beat him in that time are; Pablo Andujar (2013 QF), Andy Murray (2015 SF) and Novak Djokovic (2016 SF & 2018 1stRound). He only narrowly lost to Medvedev in the semis at Barcelona last week, and can go well again.
His victor Daniil Medvedev is another to keep onside. The Russian has turned a few head this clay court swing, winning eight of his 10 matches, a massive improvement on 2018 where he only triumphe in one of six. He reached the semis in Monte-Carlo and the final in Barcelona last week and it would be no surprise if he went deep here.
Mentions must also go to other top performers on the clay surface so far this year to; Felix Auger-Aliassime, Laslo Dere, Cristian Garin, Benoit Paire and Guido Pella. Our pick of that bunch is the Argentinian, Pella. He won in Sao Paulo, another high-altitude tournament at 760m, was runner-up in Cordoba, made the semis in Buenos Aires and the quarters in Barcelona and looks a serious threat to the rest of the draw in his second visit here.
*all odds are subject to. chang