Madrid Preview: Nadal Leads Favorites In Wide Open Field, Will The Chaos Continue?
by Sean Randall | May 2nd, 2014, 2:43 pm

You have to go way, way, way back to find the last time a clay Tennis Masters event with Rafael Nadal was considered “wide open.” But that’s the label I put on the upcoming Madrid Masters which begins next week.

Nadal is the King of Clay, there’s no debate. There’s also no debate something’s wrong with him of late. Since injuring his back during that Australian Open final loss, Nadal hasn’t beaten a Top 10 player and more alarmingly lost in the quarterfinal round in his first two European clay events. That’s QUARTERFINALS with a “Q”!

I think it’s confidence and a maybe some post-back hangover. Whatever the case, Nadal, once a clear, easy favorite on this surface is no more. But the contenders also have question marks.

Novak Djokovic is arguably the number two man for the Madrid throne. In addition to seeking a second title there he could also come away with the No. 1 ranking should Rafa fail to make the last eight. But Djokovic is recovering from a right wrist injury he sustained last month and it remains to be seen how well it’s improved after just two weeks treatment.

Roger Federer is having a rebirth of sorts this year, but at age 32 and playing on his least favorite surface, can he win a fourth title in Madrid? He made the Monte Carlo final though looked bad at times in a loss to Stan Wawrinka and during that win over JW Tsonga.

Andy Murray took a month off to rest after a busy start to the season. Even with the back injury now in the past (hopefully), it’s hard to put him among the players who could win the title. And the Scot has yet to beat a Top 10er or reach a final on the season.

So with the “Big 4″ on some shaky ground, Stan has been the man. Wawrinka won the Australian Open then on his best surface grabbed the first big clay prize last month in Monte Carlo. And he’s the defending finalist in Madrid and I absolutely love his draw.

Speaking of the draw, I’ll start with Nadal’s. He’s on top in a tough quadrant that includes Tomas Berdych and Grigor Dimitrov who should battle in the third for the right to play Rafa in the quarters. Rafa will open with friend Juan Monaco or Jurgen Melzer, then maybe Tommy Haas or, not to be confused, Robin Haase. So it should be a nice starter early for the Spaniard, the question is can former finalist Berdych get hot and beat Nadal? Doubtful. Can Dimitrov rekindle the magic that took him past Djokovic in Madrid last year and do it now to Nadal? Doubtful. So it’s hard to bet against Rafa, especially when he so wants to make up for a poor April.

In the Federer second quarter – yes, we could get Federer-Nadal in the semifinals – Roger is paired with Murray in a very loaded section. Before then, Federer will have to get through a tricky opener against either Gilles Simon or Benoit Paire. Then it’s a US Open rematch with Tommy Robredo or perhaps Fernando Verdasco, a blue clay winner in Madrid over Nadal a few years ago. For Murray, he might get Nicolas Almagro in his opener and should he survive, which I don’t think he will, then it’s JW Tsonga. In the high altitude I think Federer should do well and I like him to meet Almagro in the quarters. And honestly, I could see Almagro and his big serve winning that. But…

Of the top players the guy with the best draw is Wawrinka. The 2013 Madrid finalist has Dimitry Tursunov, Mikhail Youzhny (or Delbonis) in his first two rounds. Then a likely, very winnable date with Milos Raonic. The Canadian who should benefit from the quicker conditions and altitude has a decent draw with Kei Nishikori the main obstacle. Still, I like Wawrinka over Milos.

In the last quarter, because of his wrist Djokovic really is the big unknown here. If he’s healthy I don’t see anyone stopping him out to the semis, but it’s a tough road. He’s got Marin Cilic to start, then Fabio Fognini before David Ferrer, no slouch on any surface. So if that wrist isn’t right there’s little margin for error. But the lighter air (as opposed to the heavy, wet conditions from Monte Carlo) should help and I think he gets through. That said, we are just weeks away from the French and if the wrist flares up I doubt Novak would want to risk damaging it further.

So making a pick here is perilous. Nadal is the favorite. He’s hungry, he needs the win the most, but he’s been reeling and Madrid just hasn’t been a sanctuary for him like Paris, Barcelona or Monte Carlo have been. And Federer, who I think will be his semifinal opponent, plays well there (Roger has a better record at the event that Rafa), but I have to go with Nadal if they do meet.

In the second semi, I think Stan is on such a roll right now that it’s going to take a big effort to knock him down. For his sake, I hope Novak’s wrist is back to 100% though even if it is I’m still going to lean to the new bully on the block, Stan, to win it and stun Djokovic.

In the final, I’ll take Nadal to get revenge on Stan for Australia and finally get in the win column this year on European clay. In front of his home fans he has to win.

Order restored.

Also Check Out:
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ATP Clay Swing Preview: Who Will Beat Nadal?

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47 Comments for Madrid Preview: Nadal Leads Favorites In Wide Open Field, Will The Chaos Continue? Says:

Novak and Andy’s draws are very tough from the get go, especially Novak. Fed and Rafa should be able to get a couple easy matches under their belt before they get challenged.
I don’t see Andy making it past Tsonga, even if he survives Almagro.

Rafa will definitely be challenged by Berdych or Dmitrov in the quarters, who have each had breakthroughs at Madrid.

Another thread of great interest: young guns Kei vs Raonic, for the right to take on Stan, all for the position of Outside Challenger to Novak.

I think Fed has the easiest draw up until the semis. But I wouldn’t Rafa in as his opponent there yet.

Polo Says:

I always dread these Nadal-Federer matches…well it’s still a long way to that.

Steve 27 Says:

Rafa Wawrinka is my pick in the final, a rematch of last year.
Can Andy be a threat on this surface like in 2011 or fade as has been customary except that year?.

Michael Says:

The draw seems to be kind to Rafa with many of the bunnies in his section of the draw. While Novak too should make to the semis without difficulty if he is fit. Roger has a very tricky draw with players who have troubled him in the past and so it is not going to be easy ride for him. Lastly, Andy has the toughest draw and he will be put to stern test. But, one cannot expect much from him on clay courts where he has not been comfortable.

madmax Says:,-Djokovic-had-horrible-draw.-Nadal-lucky

Interesting draw in Madrid where the clear winners were Nadal and Wawrinka.

The defending champion Rafael Nadal had a very smooth draw till the quarters where he should clash against either Berdych or Dimitrov.

Stanislas Wawrinka had a really good one. The Swiss will have his first real test in the quarters against Raonic (that is really struggling on the dirt) to then play either a “not-in-form” Ferrer or a struggling Djokovic in the semifinal.

Roger Federer had a very tough one. The Maestro should not be bothered till the quarters, but then if he wants to win this tournament he will probably need to beat back to back Murray (quarters), Nadal (semis) and Djokovic (final)!

Novak Djokovic had a horrible draw to possibly play an in-form Cilic and Fognini in the first 2 matches before clashing against Ferrer and Wawrinka in the quarters and the semifinals. Not a good draw for a guy that is trying to recover from a wrist injury.

The most interesting matches in the first round are definitely a tasty Gulbis-Janowicz and Fognini-Dolgopolov

madmax Says:

Glad for the write up now Sean, but I think that Grigor, for some reason, will cause an upset here – this is just a feeling. I have no idea how Kei would fare on a clay court, but again, he can’t be counted out to go deep into this tournament. May be Ferrer will have a revival too? He has been brought up on clay courts, and remember, so has Andy. In fact clay courts are probably Andy’s bonus tournament, having trained and played in Barcelona for many of his younger years. No one knows how well his practice is going, but I still regard him as a contender.

Of course Rafa is going to get back on track, but whether he will win is another thing. Only thing is, I remember the Madrid final against Federer and Federer came away the winner – glory days indeed – Madrid, with its altitude seems to cause Rafa some problems.

Hope Fed can repeat the time he wo Madrid against Rafa. Sneakily, I think this is wawa’s year.

Klaas Says:

Why does everybody take it for granted Wawrinka will meet Raonic in the quarters? Kei is the second best returner this year, see . Kei in 2 against Raonic, Kei-Wawrinka is anybodys guess, but the winner will be the strong favorite for the tournament.

Nirmal Kumar Says:

The guys who beat Rafa in his previous tournaments were his bunnies earlier. So it would be wrong to underestimate any player.

But I think Rafa has a very good chance atleast to reach the finals. I would be keenly watching Kei in this tournament. I wont be too surprised if he ends up in the finals against Nadal.

One player I wish to do well would be Murray. Tennis is exciting when the Top guys all have good health and play good tennis. Murray has been missing in action for quite sometime. I wish he could make some decent run and reach semis here.

Michael Says:


When was the last time Berdych beat Rafa ?

Giles Says:

Vamos Rafa!
Good luck Champ!

Frankie Says:

Could it just be that we are seeing the natural decline of Nadal ? No player lasts forever and he is almost 28. I’m not saying he won’t win here but we could be seeing more upsets in the coming year against lesser ranked players.

van orten Says:

and since when murray is a threat on clay.. no way he wins vs fed on clay. only chance : complete off day by fed.

Nirmal Kumar Says:


When was the last time Almagro beat Nadal? How about Ferrer on clay?

The question would have been same against both these guys at the start of the clay season.

Infact I have seen Berdych play Nadal much closer than Almagro ever played him before his win in Barcelona.

Nothing is certain in tennis, that too with the kind of form Rafa is in.

Colin Says:

Tennis Vagabond, I don’t follow your logic. If Andy gets past Almagro (quite a big if), it will show he’s in good clay-court form. That being the case, he should beat Tsonga, as he’s pretty well owned the Frenchman for several years.

Pitchaboy Says:

Certain: Nadal wont make it to SF.

jamie Says:

Another wrong prediction by Sean… ZZZZZZZZ.

He predicted Nadal to win the final of AO. To win IW. To win Monte Carlo. To win Barcelona. All wrong. Madrid prediction? Wrong again.

jamie Says:

Berdych or Dimitrov to beat Nadal. He is done as a top player.

skeezer Says:

Rafa needs good luck @ Madrid with this draw? LMAO.

Fed is the one who needs it. Back to back to back, ugh :(

A Tango Lad Says:

Stop worrying a out Nadal Roger fans!

Roger for the win!

Hopp Roger!!!

Steve27 Says:

He is done as a top player?
What are you smoking, jamie? Perhaps cristal meth, the one you have to be worried about is your beloved Djokovic whose last major was more than a year ago. Is your prediction that sucks big time. Is enough of your “clairvoyance”.

Okiegal Says:

Hi, Tango, where have you been?


Are you gonna be watching Golden State? My Thunder just knocked out the Grizzlies…..and the Thunder rolls! What did you think about the controversy surrounding the Clippers owner? Crazy……

skeezer Says:

“A Tango Lad Says:
Stop worrying a out Nadal Roger fans!”
Lol. When you represent in front who your fav is there is usually not a problem. You?

Steve27 Says:

okiegal, 3 peat for Miami, Lebon, Wade and Bosh.

Steve27 Says:


Okiegal Says:


Yeah, I agree. They’re definitely the team to beat!
All I can say about LeBron is WOW! Such an amazing player. Love to watch him play!

metan Says:

Vamos, Rafa, show that you can make it.

Hippy Chic Says:

Another wrong prediction by Jamie,didnt you predict that your favorite would win the AO ,where were you when he was beaten by Wawarinka and now doesnt hold a GS?,as i notice that you dissapeared for months afterwards,Rafa might be done as a top player time will tell?but Sean predicts better and knows a hell of alot more about tennis than you clearly do?still you only turn up to trash Fedal and fawn over Novak nothing new there?

jamie Says:


Just because he’s done as the main man(alpha male) current #1 doesn’t mean he might not get lucky and he flukes one more slam. Like Federer at Wimbledon 2012… I say he wins one more RG(I’m talking about Nadal) by getting lucky like Federer at Wimbledon 2012.

Nadal wins RG this year after a bunch of lucky breaks. But the years of dominating the clay season are over. As you are seeing this year.

My predictions

Federer 17 slams
Nadal 14 slams
Djokovic 8 slams
Murray 4 slams
Del Potro 1 slam
Wawrinka 2 slams
Dimitrov 2 slams
Janowicz 1 slam

Steve 27 Says:

if you guess the next 3 grand slam champions of the year, I will give you credit, but is enough of your clairvoyance.

Okiegal Says:

I read an interview that Rafa gave on another website…..He stated that he’d made some changes in his game……Well, we will soon see how these changes will impact his game. Hopefully he has come up with something spectacular!!

VAMOS RAFA……lift the trophy in Madrid!!

skeezer Says:

The big recent changes in Rafa’s game?;
The big change is Nole is out(you can breathe now Rafa fans, hehe).
Now I can win …..finally a match on Clay. Need to stay away from Stan the Man, Almagro and Ferrer of course. No excuses again, no?

Okiegal Says:


FYI I read this before Novak withdrew. Stop being so stinking hateful…..especially to me, of all people! Pick on hateful fans, leave me alone…..I’m one of the good guys…..white hat and all!

Giles Says:

skeezer. Just to say I love the Swiss #2 as much as you love the World #1.
Vamos Rafa!

metan Says:

LOL, what to do Novak”s withdrawal with Rafa”s winning the title, eh.

Jono Says:


My predictions

Federer 17 slams
Nadal 14 slams
Djokovic 8 slams
Murray 4 slams
Del Potro 1 slam
Wawrinka 2 slams
Dimitrov 2 slams
Janowicz 1 slam

Where on this green earth do you see Janowicz winning a slam? Certainly not Wimbledon. And unless every top 15 player gets gastro at the AO or USO then no. And never on clay.

Also, call it bias, but I reckon Dimitrov will win 4 or more slams at least in his career. His style of play is too similar to Federer to not reap the rewards. His issues are longevity in a 5 setter and consistency in his level of play. Iron out those issues and he is right set for a few slams.

Also, Federer has at least one (Wimbledon) and possibly two (US Open) slam titles left in him. Nadal should make it to 15 slams. Djokovic no more than 10. I couldnt care less about Murray.

Hippy Chic Says:

Personally i think Nishikori could win a GS or two,he has a versatile game,is a great mover around the court,can hit the ball long and deep,and from good angels too….

Okiegal Says:


Exactly! What does it have to do with who will win Madrid? Rafa has not been playing good enough to win any tournament…..he will say the same thing……..but he is trying to fix his problems. It remains to be seen how it will all play out. Que sera sera!

skeezer Says:

Now I’m hateful? What’s that? LOL.
Ok let me change my post.

“I Love Rafael Nadal.
May Rafa cruise through another Madrid title and bite once again in the Trophy where he will be further placed in the anals of Tennis history.”

skeezer Says:

whoopsey……annals. Darn useless spell checker.

Okiegal Says:


“May Rafa cruise through another Madrid title and bite once again in the Trophy where he will be further placed in the annals of Tennis history”……now, that’s more like it…however the “I love Rafael Nadal” was a bit much. lol
Do you really think because Novak is out that Rafa will win? Hope you are right, but I’m not counting my chickens. He is gonna have to play a lot better than he has been.

Who is your pick?

skeezer Says:

I am picking a Spaniard, but hoping for a Swiss.

Okiegal Says:

Which Spaniard?

Okiegal Says:

^^^ That was a waste of time…….wrong Spaniard…….and I hate beer!! Lol

jamie Says:

Next three slam winners. nadal wins rg. murray wins wimbledon and djokovic wins the uso.

Steve 27 Says:

jamie, if you win this, you get the jackpot.

Hippy Chic Says:

TBH I would love to see Nadal winning a GS on another surface other than clay,Murray winning Wimbledon again would be amazing especially been a Brit ….

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