After the Monte Carlo and a host of other smaller European clay court tournaments, it’s time for the Madrid Masters in Spain’s capital. The world’s top ten are playing in the tournament, but it should also feature some upsets, along with top favorites making deep runs. Here are a look at those players in and out of form.
5: Nick Kyrgios
Kyrgios is finally finding consistency and success on the ATP tour, he reached the semis in Miami, and also in Estoril, now he has a chance to upset Stan Wawrinka, and go as far as the quarterfinals in Madrid. NK isn’t quite as sharp on clay as he is on faster surfaces, but he continues to improve on the dirt, and is committed to ATP tennis. With his big serve, and gusty play, he’ll be fun to watch the rest of this season.
4: Lucas Pouille
Pouille has nearly made the top 50 at age 22, he’s 18-10 on the season and reached his first ATP final not that long ago in Bucharest. He played well in both Miami and Monte Carlo, compiling 5-2 record, and qualified in Madrid with a pair of tough wins. He has a great forehand, and a lot of weaponry that should allow him to challenge top 15 player David Goffin and potentially setup a third round clash with the in-form king of clay Rafael Nadal.
3: Dominic Thiem
Thiem is 13-3 on clay this season, as he’s compiled some great tournament runs and big wins, including a win over possible fourth round opponent Rafael Nadal. Fatigue could play a factor as Thiem made it to the final in Munich this past week, falling short in three sets, but he’s a young gun and should be able to quickly recover. The young Austrian has the intriguing chance to defeat both Federer, and Nadal, in a single tournament. It’ll be a tough task, but don’t count this dirtballer out.
2: Milos Raonic
Raonic’s consistency has been underappreciated this season. He’s 20-4 and hasn’t finished worst than a quarterfinal in any tournament he’s entered. His big serve has given him the ability to win tough matches, and he most recently made the quarters in Monte Carlo. Clay isn’t his best surface, but he’s been more than competitive on it, and although Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is a tough opponent, the Canadian #1 should be up to the task, and likely end up facing Novak Djokovic in the quarters.
1: Kei Nishikori
Nisihkori is 22-6 this season, and has reached consecutive finals in Miami and Barcelona. He’s a former finalist in Madrid and the Japanese #1 is the clear favorite to reach the quarterfinals from his section with wins over Fognini, Gasquet/Verdasco, and Wawrinka/Kyrgios/Cuevas/Monfils. Novak Djokovic is in his way, just as things are for Raonic, but Kei is one of the outsider threats at the French Open, and almost every other clay court tournament, given his consistent ball striking, and speedy play.
6: David Goffin
Goffin has suffered losses on clay at the hands of Marcel Granollers and Alexander Zverev, as he’s struggled to adjust on the surface, after tremendous success at the hard court Masters (two semifinals). The Belgian sits just outside the top 10, and would love to break into it with a big run in Madrid, but that appears to be unlikely, as Lucas Pouille or Rafael Nadal should oust him early.
5: Stan Wawrinka
The former Madrid finalist was dumped out of the Monte Carlo quarters by Rafael Nadal, and lost early in both Indian Wells and Miami. He’s going to have a fight on his hands to hold onto the #4 ranking, and he’s been out of sorts in recent months. Wawrinka is still a great talent on clay, but at 31, he may be experiencing a bit of a career setback. A round 2 match against Nick Kyrgios could result in an early exit for the Swiss #2.
4: Roger Federer
Federer was injured after the Australian Open, and lost his quarterfinal match in Monte Carlo. He’s won Madrid before, but he’s unlikely to recapture the form that got him there, and time will tell if he’s going to be fresh and fit for the French Open. Federer should still maintain his top ranking this year, but it’s going to take him some time to get back to playing like it, and look for Dominic Thiem or Benoit Paire/Jack Sock to knock him off in round 3.
3: David Ferrer
Ferrer is just 12-7 on the season, and he’s been absent from the tour since Miami (also skipped Indian Wells). The Spaniard is 34, and may finally be feeling the effects of age, as he’s in danger of dropping out of the top 10. He’s not in a tough section, but it will be tough for him to defeat Tomas Berdych in round 3.
2: Bernard Tomic
Tomic has entirely disappeared from playing top tennis since reaching the final in Acapulco, he lost early in Indian Wells, then suffered two bad losses on clay as a seeded player in 250 tournaments. The Australian has just three wins on clay over the past two seasons and has never been great on the surface. He should lose his first match to Italian Fabio Fognini, and it’s difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel for Bernie, given his current poor form. His counterpart Nick Kyrgios has simply outpaced him in development over recent months.
1: Richard Gasquet
Gasquet was relatively unimpressive in the Masters tournaments this season, he suffered losses in the third round twice, and the second round once, as he lost to Lucas Pouille in Monte Carlo, practically a home tournament for him. He’s another veteran who has been a top 10 stalwart for some time, but hasn’t played like it for most of this season. Gasquet still has plenty of talent, but it’s been a struggle for him to stay healthy and either Fernando Verdasco or Kei Nishikori should defeat him in round 2 or 3.