Forget Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal, the new rivalry we want to see is Novak Djokovic against Nadal, especially on clay.
Djokovic roughed up Rafa twice this year at Indian Wells and Miami, but Nadal could get the Serb in a rematch on his favorite clay surface and in Spain.
And based on the draw I do think we’ll get that showdown a week from tomorrow next Sunday at the Magic Box in Madrid.
Nadal’s draw is pretty good (can Rafa really have a “tough” clay draw?). Rafa could open with Marcos Baghdatis then face Juan Martin Del Potro. Delpo, who seems to be close to form on the clay, begins with Mikhail Youhzny and then possibly Marin Cilic. It’s a tough haul but I think Delpo, despite maybe having some fatigue from Estoril gets through. Still, I like Nadal to beat Jurgen Melzer in the quarterfinals and reach the last four. Andy Roddick is also in the section and the American has a great draw with a qualifier and then either fast-court players Sam Querrey or Michael Llodra. But I think Melzer gets him.
In the second quarter is where we find Mr. Federer, and that means if the Swiss can get through he’ll meet Rafa in the semifinals. Federer, though, could be tested very early by Milos Raonic in the second round, assuming the Canadian’s back is that okay. Federer then could run into Fernando Verdasco followed by the Robin Soderling-Nicolas Almagro winner. I like Almagro but the Spaniard plays JW Tsonga in his opener. Overall, it’s a deep section with Almagro and Verdasco who should both feed off the Spanish energy (or gag). Right now, I think Almagro comes out over the two-time winner Federer.
Andy Murray and his bad elbow are in the third quarter. But I think Tomas Berdych is the class of the section. Berdych will have to deal with Nikolay Davydenko in the second round then Gael Monfils before Murray. If Murray’s healthy he should get through Gilles Simon and then Viktor Troicki, but for some reason I’m going to go with Berdych.
In the Djokovic section, the Serb should ease through to a quarterfinal date with David Ferrer. Djokovic has Ernests Gulbis, then maybe Stan Wawrinka before the Ferrer clash. It’s too bad Ferrer landed in that section as opposed to Murray’s because the Spaniard has been the second best clay player this season. That said, Djokovic has too much firepower and should get to the semifinals.
So in the semifinals, I have Nadal v. Almagro, Berdych v. Djokovic. And the winner, I’ll pick Nadal over Djokovic in the final though that match at altitude could very, very easily go Novak’s way.
Among the many good first round matches include that Almagro v. Tsonga, John Isner v. Mardy Fish, Querrey v. Lopez, Ljubicic v. Simon, Delpo v. Llodra and Monfils v. Karlovic.
Overall, it’s too bad Delpo landed with Nadal and as I said Ferrer with Djokovic as either guy I think would be favorites in other quarters. I’d also like to see a healthy Raonic play Federer is a very wide open section.
Roddick, who makes his 2011 clay debut, also has a really nice draw and with his defensive “clay” game I wouldn’t be surprised to see him reach the fourth round and play Nadal.
Matches begin tomorrow with Tsonga v. Almagro the highlight. The women’s draw, which began today, is also loaded with Caroline Wozniacki, Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka, Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic.
The women’s QF by seeding are Wozniacki v. Stosur, Azarenka v. Jankovic, Li v. Schiavone and Sharapova v. Zvonareva.
Tennis Channel will start there coverage (I hope) on Monday.
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