"Approach Shots" is Ricky's weekly look at what's ahead on the ATP Tour.
Unless you’re a fan of Roger Federer, Tomas Berdych, or Fernando Verdasco, last year’s installment of the Mutua Madrid Open was an unmitigated disaster. If blue clay wasn’t the worst idea in the history of tennis, I’m not sure what was. Case in point: we’re back to the red stuff this time around.
We’re also graced with an outstanding field that features the top six players in the world. In fact, of the Top 20 only seventh-ranked Juan Martin Del Potro is missing. Federer is back to defend his title, Djokovic is looking for his second winner’s trophy from the Caja Magica, and Rafael Nadal is bidding to win for just the third time in his 11th appearance at what is by far his worst of the clay-court Masters events.
Mutua Madrid Open
Where: Madrid, Spain
Prize money: 3,368,265 Euros
Top seed: Novak Djokovic
Defending champion: Roger Federer
Draw analysis: Not unlike the situation that could soon be on our hands at Roland Garros, Nadal is the No. 5 seed this week and was at the mercy of the draw. This time, at least, it ended up having no effect because the Spaniard landed in the same quarter as countryman and No. 4 seed David Ferrer. It’s a friendly path for Nadal simply because he could have found himself in the same quarter as Djokovic. Still, it may not be a cakewalk. The former world No. 1 should not have any trouble in his opener against either Benoit Paire or a qualifier, but a possible third-round meeting with clay-court force Nicolas Almagro looms large. Ferrer, who won’t have much rest after the Oeiras final and cannot like his Madrid draw, could run into either Tommy Haas or Tommy Robredo in round three before the expected quarterfinal showdown against Nadal.
Another chapter of the Nadal-Federer history may be written in the semifinals. Federer is in a relatively weak quarter at the bottom of the bracket along with Richard Gasquet, Marin Cilic, and Kei Nishikori. Gasquet is a solid form but he cannot face Federer until the quarterfinals. The ninth-ranked Frenchman may have to beat either Cilic or John Isner to advance that far. While Federer’s half of the section is far from daunting, he has not played a single match since getting destroyed by Nadal in the Indian Wells semifinals. An opener against either Bernard Tomic or Radek Stepanek will provide a much-needed look into the second-ranked Swiss’ form.
Aside from Djokovic, the top half of the draw is wide open. Murray is obviously light years behind Nadal on clay and at this point he is a more desirable opponent than Ferrer. Assuming Djokovic makes his way to the semifinals, the top-ranked Serb will more likely to go up against someone like Tomas Berdych, Kevin Anderson, or Juan Monaco than Murray. On the bright side for the third-ranked Scot, he has an extremely favorable path at least until the quarters. A possible opener against clay-court specialist Thomaz Bellucci, however, cannot be overlooked. Djokovic can expect to begin his campaign against Grigor Dimitrov before possible encounters with Stanislas Wawrinka and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga—both familiar foes. Wawrinka will be coming off an Oeiras title match on Sunday against Ferrer.
First-round upset alert: Juan Monaco over (9) Janko Tipsarevic. This would not be a huge upset based on current form or ranking (Monaco, No. 20, just barely missed out on a seed). The Argentine is starting to play better tennis after a disastrous, injury-plagued beginning of the season. Tipsarevic, meanwhile, is going in the other direction. The 10th-ranked Serb won Chennai and reached the Australian Open fourth round, but he has won only three of his last 11 matches. Monaco, who is 2-3 lifetime against Tipsarevic and 2-1 on clay, also has a surface advantage in this one so a loss by the No. 9 seed would not come as surprise.
Also watch out for Milos Raonic vs. Nikolay Davydenko, Haas vs. Andreas Seppi, and Nishikori vs. Jurgen Melzer. Davydenko is still struggling for the most part but he will at least have a chance to put a dent in the big Canadian’s power on clay. Haas will have had a long week in Munich and Seppi’s consistency can be problematic for anyone—even Djokovic last year at the French Open—on the slow stuff. Nishikori is a stellar 15-6 for his 2013 campaign but a modest 1-1 on clay.
Hot: Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Richard Gasquet, Tommy Haas, Kevin Anderson, Fabio Fognini, Tommy Robredo
Cold: Roger Federer, Janko Tipsarevic, Gilles Simon, Martin Klizan, Nikolay Davydenko, Fernando Verdasco, David Goffin, Jeremy Chardy, Julien Benneteau, Marcos Baghdatis, Radek Stepanek
Quarterfinal predictions: Novak Djokovic over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Kevin Anderson over Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal over David Ferrer, and Roger Federer over John Isner
Semifinals: Djokovic over Anderson and Nadal over Federer
Final: Djokovic over Nadal
Comments and your own predictions are appreciated!
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|1. Djokovic||12 500 pts|
|2. Murray||8 750 pts|
|3. Federer||8 670 pts|
|4. Ferrer||6 970 pts|
|5. Nadal||6 385 pts|
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