Spain’s biggest tennis event kicks off this weekend in Madrid with loaded men’s and women’s tournaments. Novak Djokovic opted out of the extravaganza to rest – smart move, I think – leaving Rafael Nadal with the perfect opportunity to get his game and confidence back. And I think he should like the draw.
From the top, Roger Federer returns as a top seed at a big time tourney (sorry Istanbul) for the first time in a while (or so it seems). The draw, though, is full of problems. His path could begin with the streaky showman Nick Kyrgios, then John Isner before in-form Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals. The big Czech also has a tough road with an Ivo Karlovic/Richard Gasquet winner to start, then maybe JW Tsonga. Both Roger and Tomas have played well in Madrid – they met in the final a few years ago in 2012 – so I do expect them to get through. But based on form I like Berdych here. I mean, Federer did have to go three sets against Daniel Gimeno-Traver today, right? That’s not a good sign in my book.
The pick: Tomas Berdych
With Djokovic watching from home, no one needs this win more than Nadal. After a lopsided loss to Djokovic in Monte Carlo then another stunning defeat to Fabio Fognini in Barcelona, Rafa is flat-out desperate to prove not only to his fans but also to himself that’s he’s still the man on clay. So this is it. And I like his draw. He should coast out to the quarters where I think he’ll meet Stan Wawrinka, who’ll get through Grigor Dimitrov. Stan can be tough but he’s been struggling of late, so in front of his home fans I think Rafa won’t disappoint again.
The pick: Rafael Nadal
David Ferrer v Kei Nishikori? Take your pick because based on the draw I think they’ll meet in the quarters. Nishikori leads 7-4 but Ferrer won their most recent meeting in Acapulco. Though Kei had won five in a row including a semifinal win in Madrid a year ago. Given recent form, Kei just won Barcelona (again) so I’m taking the hotter man.
The pick: Kei Nishikori
What a wide open final quarter with a bunch of guys that are hard to trust on this surface. Andy Murray, Gael Monfils, Nicolas Almagro, Milos Raonic, Feliciano Lopez and Juan Monaco, all of whom can do well just as easily as get bounced. Murray’s the favorite but he’s never won a clay event. Almagro or Lopez, are the Spanish picks, but really, are they title threats? Monaco is steady. Raonic will be tough in the altitude but he’s coming off a foot injury, otherwise I might lean his way. And then there’s Monfils who’s been playing really well of late. This one really is too tough to pick! Anyone of these guys could get through. And anyone could lose early. But I’ll go…
The pick: Gael Monfils
So in my SFs I have:
SF: Nadal d Berdych; Nishikori d Monfils
The rematch is set. Nadal is too strong for Tomas and gets revenge for Australia, while Nishikori shows his maturity getting back to the final by beating Monfils.
F: Nishikori d Nadal
However, Rafa’s struggles continue as his poor court positioning and lack of depth get exposed again.
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