The 2019 Mutua Madrid Open, the 4th Masters 1000 of the ATP calendar, began this Sunday and there’s a lot of questions marks, both around the tournament itself and the clay season leading to Roland Garros.
Usually, favoring Nadal to win a clay tournament would be a no-brainer, but it might not be so this time around. The Spaniard has just lost in his holy grails of Monte Carlo and Barcelona in back to back weeks to the likes of Fabio Fognini and Dominic Thiem… without even winning a set. That doesn’t mean you can write out Nadal, especially given his unbelievable history on this surface. If anything, Nadal is the default favorite to win this and every other tournament on clay, but it doesn’t feel like as much of a lock as usual given the current circumstances.
Djokovic also comes into Madrid full of doubts. The world #1 has had disappointing results in every tournament after winning the Australian Open, includong a loss to Daniil Medvedev in Monte Carlo. He’ll open up the tournament after Taylor Fritz, who he beat in Monte Carlo before the upset loss to Medvedev.
Federer returns to Madrid
The big story of this tournament though is Federer’s return to clay after three years. This will be his first tournament on the red surface since Rome 2016 and there’s a lot of intrigue to see how he fares. At this point in his career, few expect Federer to win big on clay but you can never rule out such a champion, especially considering Madrid is his best clay tournament historically and his nemesis Nadal has been far from his best lately.
Last year’s finalists Thiem and Zverev have both had their struggles. Zverev is having a terrible season in general, struggling with results and confidence, which was capped off with a loss to Garin in his home tournament in Munich last week. Thiem had arguably the best moment of his career by winning Indian Wells, but followed it up with a loss to Lajovic in Monte Carlo, before beating Nadal en route to the Barcelona title. Having made the last two finals in Madrid, he has to like his chances of finally winning a Masters 1000 on his favorite surface.
Other players will also be fancying their chances, especially seeing so many guys recently winning their maiden Masters 1000 titles, including Fognini at Monte Carlo in improbable fashion. It should be a very open and interesting tournament, as well as incredibly hard to predict.