Day 3 action at the ATP Madrid Open sees the start of the second round take place, with top seeds taking center stage. Munich champion Nikoloz Basilashvili will be looking to continue his fine clay court form and has an unpredictable opponent in Benoit Paire. Another match to keep an eye on is arguably one of the most anticipated matches of the day, with Felix Auger-Aliassime taking on the always formidable Casper Ruud.
We also predict the rest of the day’s matches, in three other articles. On features Alex De Minaur vs Lloyd Harris, the second highlights Alexander Bublik vs Denis Shapovalov, and the third features Karen Khachanov vs Kei Nishikori.
ATP Madrid Open Day 3 Predictions
Alexei Popyrin vs Jan-Lennard Struff
Head to Head: First Meeting
Jan-Lennard Struff comes into Madrid brimming with confidence, having reached his first ATP singles final in Munich last week. The German’s game has risen the past few seasons, and he is now an established member of the Top 50. Struff possesses plenty of firepower, especially in his lethal serve and forehand combination, which can punch holes and hit through any opponent. The German is peaking at the right time as we head deeper into the clay season.
Alexei Popyrin has already had a breakthrough 2021 season on the ATP Tour, winning his first ATP Tour title earlier this season in Singapore. The Australian was also particularly impressive in Miami, where he recorded straight-sets wins over Feliciano Lopez and Reilly Opelka before losing in a three-set epic to Danill Medvedev. Popyrin is currently ranked at #76. If he continues his impressive form, then I see no reason why he cannot reach the Top 50 by the end of the season.
This match should be a close one. However, I think Struff’s firepower will prove to be too much for the Australian. I think it will go to a third set, though.
Prediction: Struff in 3
Nikoloz Basilashvili vs Benoit Paire
Head to Head: 3-1 Paire
This is a match between two players that are both incredibly talented, but also very inconsistent. As he proved last week by winning the title in Munich, when Basilashvili plays well, he can be unstoppable. The Georgian did not drop a set en route to the title. This was his second ATP Title of the season, having also won the Qatar Open, where he saved match points to defeat Roger Federer in the third round. Basilashvili’s specialty is dictating points from the baseline, and he possesses incredible power off both the forehand and backhand sides.
Benoit Paire’s dissatisfaction with playing tennis under COVID restrictions is well documented. The Frenchman’s attitude has left a lot to be desired this season, and the French Tennis Federation has banned Paire from representing France at the Olympics in Tokyo. Paire is one of the most frustrating players to watch. He possesses one of the most natural backhands in the game and has a powerful serve. If he can get in the right frame of mind, there is no doubt that he has the potential to have more success on the tour.
However, given the Georgian’s form and the Frenchman’s current predicament, I think the Georgian will win in straight sets.
Prediction: Basilashvili in 2
Alex De Minaur vs Lloyd Harris
Head to Head: 1-0 Harris
Alex De Minaur recorded an impressive comeback victory over Jaume Munar in the opening round, defeating the Spaniard from a set and a break down. After an impressive start to the season, which saw the Australian win his fourth ATP title in Antalya and reach the third round of the Australian Open, De Minaur has struggled to consistently produce his highest level of tennis. Despite not having a major weapon in his game, the Australian is an exceptional mover and is very tough to break down from the back of the court. He spends a lot of time training on clay in Spain, so his game is tailored to the surface.
Lloyd Harris has had a breakthrough season on the ATP Tour. The South African reached the final at the ATP 500 event in Dubai. Also, at the start of the season, he reached the third round of the Australian Open. In Doha, he recorded an impressive three-set win over Stan Wawrinka. One of the unique attributes of Harris’s game is that he hits his serve whilst the ball is still rising. Harris possesses an aggressive game style and he has the potential to flatten the ball and hit through the court.
I think this will be a close three set match. Their only previous meeting went to a deciding set tiebreak, and I think this could be another three-set epic. I think the Australian’s stamina and consistency from the back of the court will earn him the win.
Prediction: De Minaur in 3
Felix Auger-Aliassime vs Casper Ruud
Head to Head: 1-0 Auger Aliassime
Felix Auger-Aliassime is a player to watch this clay court season, having teamed up with Toni Nadal as his coach. Their partnership began in Monte Carlo, where the Canadian suffered a disappointing defeat to Cristian Garin in a rain-delayed match played over two days. However, Auger-Aliassime bounced back well in Barcelona, recording wins over Lorenzo Musetti and fellow Canadian Denis Shapovalov en route to the quarterfinals where he was defeated by eventual champion Stefanos Tsitsipas. Auger-Aliassime is yet to win an ATP title, but it is surely only a matter of time before he enters the winner’s circle. The Canadian has impressive ground strokes. However, he has had issues on his serve and his ball toss, particularly in the big pressure moments.
Casper Ruud has already shown some impressive form this clay court season, reaching his first Masters 1000 semifinal in Monte Carlo. He also reached the semifinals of Munich last week, where he was defeated by the eventual champion Nikoloz Basilashvili. The Norwegian deserves more credit for the consistency he has shown this season. After a run to the fourth round of the Australian Open, Ruud has reached at least the quarterfinals of every ATP event he has played since then. I think Ruud has the potential to achieve his best grand-slam result at Roland Garros this year.
I think this will go to three sets. However, I think the Norwegian is better in the big pressure moments, and he will have more confidence due to his success this season. I think Ruud gets the win.
Prediction: Ruud in 3
Main Photo from Getty.