Mutua Madrid Open ATP Preview Four Stories to Follow

Mutua Madrid

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This season’s 2nd Clay ATP 1000 event gets underway this week, the Mutua Madrid Open, and there are plenty of story-lines to follow as tennis’ top players try to get their games in the best possible shape in the lead in to Roland Garros. The Tennis Review previews four of those stories starring Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Rafa Nadal and Dominic Thiem.

Journey to the Island Djokovic 

Defending champion Djokovic added another twist to his post Djoko Slam career when he announced prior to Madrid he had let his coaching team go.

Going from having one of the most stable and experienced coaching teams around featuring the likes of Boris Becker and Marian Vajda to going it alone is a transition Djokovic hopes will shock him back into title winning action.

The Serb certainly needs a change- he has not won a title since Doha or even been to another final, and since winning Roland Garros last year, he has won just two titles (Toronto, Doha).

A change is as good a holiday, they say, and after winning four slam titles in a row even tennis Gods need a break, so just how will the climate be on Island Djokovic?

Djokovic will be looking to escape the stormy unpredictability of recent times for sunny, calm conditions, and he will need to be at his serene, positive best if he is going to defeat Tommy Robredo or Nicolas Amalgro in his opener, Gael Monfils or Gilles Simon in the round of 32, Kei Nishikori in the quarters, Rafa Nadal in their projected semi-final and then potentially Andy Murray. Dominic Thiem or Stan Wawrinka in the final.

Murray and his first ATP 1000 title of the season

Murray is still world No.1 by 3,785 points so he can afford an early exit in Madrid, which is a likely possibility with the draw putting the 2015 champion and last year’s runner-up up against the in-form Dominic Thiem, who beat him in three sets in Barcelona, in the last eight.

Murray will have a better chance this time around, though. Madrid’s relatively fast clay conditions suit Murray’s counter-punching skills which  means he will be able to make things more awkward for the powerful Austrian this time around.

A win versus Thiem could be the one which gets Murray’s stop and start 2017 going again, and spur him onto the a first ATP 1000 title for the season, the kind of titles he will need to start collecting if he wants to sit at the top all the way to another season ending No.1 finish.

Nadal the heavy favorite in the event he is least likely to win

Madrid, and its previous incarnation Hamburg has been the clay event Nadal has, during his reign as tennis’ dominant clay courter, been least likely to win, due to the faster conditions. Those conditions have, however, only hindered the Spaniard a little with Nadal still taking the trophy three times in Madrid and twice in Hamburg.

This year, the Spaniard has an awkward draw with Fabio Fognini potentially in round two, Nick Kyrgios in round three, a possible Monte Carlo rematch with David Goffin in the last eight, Djokovic in the semis, and Murray, who beat him in Madrid the last two years, in the final.

Tough as it may look on paper, Nadal is in better form than all of those players, and is the favorite to take the title, but if he is going to be stopped this clay court season, then Madrid is the place most likely, and the draw has placed some of the players most likely to in his way.

Thiem Time

Nadal’s tough draw, Murray’s rustiness, Djokovic in new territory, no Federer- this really is the time for Dominic Thiem to make a statement that he and his generation are ready to take on the tennis establishment at the very top of the game, and he has a great draw to do so at an event which, as a qualifier, he scored his first big win versus Stan Wawrinka in the 2014 round of 32.

Three years on, and seeded eighth, Thiem has come a long way since ’14, and this could be the event at which he takes another step further in his career, an ATP 1000 semi or better, with a potential third round with out of sorts Grigor Dimitrov, the vulnerable Murray in the last eight, one of the unpredictable duo of Wawrinka or Cilic in the semis, and a struggling Djokovic or Nadal, at the clay court tournament he is most likely to lose at, in the final.

Timing is everything in tennis, and with Thiem’s timing on his strokes as good as they have ever been, this is the time for Thiem to slide across the clay into his first ATP 1000 final and  compete for his biggest title yet.

The Tennis Review

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Christian Deverille

Christian Deverille is a tennis writer with a diploma in Freelance Sports Writing from the London School of Journalism. He loves all things tennis, most of all the Federer and del Potro forehands.

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