Day 4 at the Mutua Madrid Open features the return of Juan Martin del Potro, the first ATP World Tour meeting between Rafael Nadal and NextGen star Felix Auger-Aliassime, and the thrilling prospect of Fernando Verdasco and Karen Khachanov competing to see who can more effectively obliterate a tennis ball. Who will win on Wednesday? Here are our thoughts.
ATP Mutua Madrid Open Day 4 Predictions
Juan Martin del Potro vs Laslo Djere
Djere reached his highest career ranking earlier this year. He also won a maiden title in Rio on clay taking out Dominic Thiem and Felix Auger-Aliassime along the way. Del Potro is untested after a shock knee injury forced him to end his 2018 season early. The prognosis from del Potro’s doctors is good but his level upon immediate return remains unknown.
When he was struggling to return to competitive tennis in 2016 and early 2017, del Potro eked out victories while still barely able to hit over his backhand. Expect him to do something similar here if he is struggling with his movement. The power he generates from his serve and specially his rocket-launcher forehand will be more than enough to take out even many top players. There is also the outside chance that del Potro picks up where he left off and blasts his way through the draw.
Prediction: Del Potro in 3
Fernando Verdasco vs Karen Khachanov
Verdasco and Khachanov hit the ball hard. Khachanov produces incredible pace off of both his forehand and backhand wings. He will have to contend with Verdasco’s experience as a player and his predilection for clay court play, the surface on which the Spaniard has won five of his seven ATP World Tour titles. Verdasco, who was born in Madrid also has the advantage of being left-handed. He naturally creates tricky patterns of play.
Khachanov has also struggled in 2019. His decision to switch racquets at the beginning of the year proved disastrous as he crashed out of the Australian Open in straight sets against Roberto Bautista Agut. Aside from a run to the quarter finals of Indian Wells where he came up just short against a hurting Rafael Nadal, he has gone on separate three and four match losing streaks. The clay, which suits his big-swinging game, should be the place for him to regain his form from the latter half of 2018.
Prediction: Khachanov in 3
Stefanos Tsitsipas vs Adrian Mannarino
Tsitsipas is still relentlessly climbing the ATP rankings. Mannarino’s solid baseline play will be a stern test for Tsitsipas. The Greek’s greater power and variety will be his best assets, the key will be to find an equal amount of consistency. Tsitsipas sometimes finds patches of play where the errors flow as freely from his racquet as winners. The primary examples of this have been in high pressure semifinals and finals against top players. At this stage, it is unlikely that he will beat himself unless he is depleted from his run to the title at the Millennium Estoril Open which concluded on Sunday.
Prediction: Tsitsipas in 2
Rafael Nadal vs Felix Auger-Aliassime
Rafael Nadal, according to reports, is suffering from a stomach bug. He has still turned up to his practice sessions and in public statements, other than acknowledging the illness, has not indicated it will impede his ability to play. Nadal and Auger-Aliassime have never played before.
The young Canadian displayed fine clay court acumen in dispatching his countryman and friend Denis Shapovalov in two straightforward sets, but he has never faced a test like Nadal. Auger-Aliassime played brilliantly in Indian Wells and in both sets of his semifinal against John Isner he had winning chances, only for nerves to intervene. His match against Nadal will not have the tension of a semifinal, but there will be an unmistakable sense of occasion. If Auger-Aliassime can rise to it, he will push Nadal, if not, he will be steamrolled. Either way, Nadal will prevail.
Prediction: Nadal in 2