Into their mid 30s, it’s rare when Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are in the same event. But for the first time since the fall French Open during 2020, that’s what’s happening in Madrid this week for the second clay Masters of 2022.
Murray just changed course and decided to play on the clay perhaps wanting to get an early test-run with Ivan Lendl, and maybe feeling the need to scratch an itch. He won’t be among the favorites to win the title and he opens tomorrow against Dominic Thiem.
Thiem’s return has been sub-par so far with two losses around a bout with COVID. But hopefully the former French Open finalist can get back on track with three weeks until Paris.
For the first time in a while, Nadal might not be the focus among the Spanish faithful in Madrid. That’s because of the rocket arrival of Carlos Alcaraz who has been the story of the season.
The kid is projected to win at least 421 Slams if you read all the headlines. We shall see, but there is a lot to like about him. And we could find out a lot more on Friday when the 19-year-old could collide with Nadal in the quarterfinals! Get ready. And remember, the kid might not know how to deal with the altitude.
For Rafa, this marks his return after a 6-week rehab of a rib injury. He doesn’t do great in Madrid compared to the other clay stops, and with some rust, I don’t know if he’s the true favorite here.
Neither is Djokovic who has revealed some weird medical issue causing him to tire late in matches. Whatever it is, that’s not a good sign with best-of-5 coming in less than a month. Again, based on his recent form it’s hard to peg him as a favorite and his draw — with Gael Monfils, maybe Thiem, maybe Ruud did him no favors (though he does own Monfils at 17-0).
Alexander Zverev is clearly going through some stuff. Too nervous to win in Munich, he’ll now try to defend his 2021 title. He is a 2-time champion so he likes the Spanish capital, and if there’s a place he might snap out of this season-long funk, maybe Madrid is the answer. He could see Marin Cilic and Sebastian Korda en route to the last four, so it’s workable path.
Stefanos Tsitsipas might be the favorite. The Greek won Monte Carlo again and has a good draw with Andrey Rublev in the quarters. He lost to Djokovic in the 2019 Madrid final beating Nadal in the semifinals.
So with all that’s gone on this year, it’s hard to pin down an outright favorite.
Nadal is the guy on clay by default, but he’s a question mark. As is Djokovic, Zverev and even Ruud who was so good on this surface the last 18 months.
Maybe Tsitsipas or Alcaraz or Rublev fall in that next tier. Maybe one of them make a run.
But if Rafa rolls to another Madrid title then the Roland Garros is a foregone conclusion. Remember, if not for the rib, he’s probably undefeated on the year, and that’s on hard courts!
MONDAY MADRID SCHEDULE
MANOLO SANTANA STADIUM Starts At 12:00 Noon
Tommy Paul v 10 Jannik Sinner
(WC) Carlos Gimeno Valero v Gael Monfils
Not Before 4:00 PM
14 Coco Gauff v Simona Halep
Not Before 8:00 Pm
(WC) Andy Murray v Dominic Thiem
Not Before 9:00 PM
15 Victoria Azarenka v Amanda Anisimova
ARANTXA SANCHEZ STADIUM Starts At 12:00 Noon
Lloyd Harrisv Alejandro Davidovich Fokina
Not Before 1:30 PM
8 Ons Jabeur v 11 Belinda Bencic
13 Diego Schwartzman v (Q) Benoit Paire
Grigor Dimitrov v (Q) Maxime Cressy
(LL) Ugo Humbert v 14 Denis Shapovalov
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Nice post! Agree no clear winner on the men’s side. I’ll probably take Carlos though.
May 2nd, 2022 at 7:58 am