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Three Takeaways from the ATP Madrid Open

Alexander Zverev, the champion at the ATP Madrid Open.

There was plenty of entertaining tennis at the ATP Madrid Open, which concluded on Sunday with Alexander Zverev lifting his second title in the Spanish capital. Here’s a lookback at three of the key takeaways from the second clay-court Masters tournament of the season:

  1. Alexander Zverev wins his fourth Masters 1000 title

Zverev defeated Matteo Berrettini in the final, 6-7 6-4 6-3  to win the title in Madrid this year. It was a very impressive showing for Zverev who beat Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals and Dominic Thiem in the last four, as well as recent Monte Carlo semifinalist Dan Evans and former-Madrid finalist Kei Nishikori earlier in the tournament. There are not many tougher routes to win a clay-court Masters title than that and the German could be one to watch out for at the fast-approaching French Open, where he has twice reached the quarterfinals.

One frustrating part of the coverage of his run to the title, however, was Amazon Prime pundits Greg Rusedski and Daniela Hantuchova’s claim that Zverev held championship point against Thiem in last year’s US Open final. That was simply not the case.

  1. The ATP is becoming more open, at least outside the Grand Slams

Following the eliminations of both Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas in the third round at the ATP Madrid Open, a first-time Masters 1000 finalist from the bottom half of the draw was guaranteed, which ended up being Italy’s Matteo Berrettini. First-time finalists at this level have been the norm so far in 2021, with Andrey Rublev in Monte Carlo and both Jannik Sinner and Hubert Hurkacz in Miami.

Clearly, reaching finals at this level is not the challenge it was when the Big Four were in their pomp and it will be interesting to see who takes advantage of the opportunities presented by a more competitive tour. Perhaps the most important question will be whether or not they are able to translate Masters 1000 success into victories at the Majors.

  1. Is Novak Djokovic heading to Paris undercooked?

Novak Djokovic was the defending champion, having won the tournament when it was last held in 2019, but announced his withdrawal before the event. It appears that he will need a deep run at the Rome Masters to regain his confidence on the clay after going 4-2 on the surface so far this year. Concerningly none of his victories have against top 20 players and both defeats to players outside the top 25 in Evans and Aslan Karatsev. That said, Rome has been a happy hunting ground for the Serb.

Still, one suspects that Djokovic’s humbling straight-set loss to Nadal in the final at the French Open last season may still be playing on the Serbian’s mind. Some believed that he had a chance of beating Nadal prior to the match, but the world #1 only ended up winning seven games. Djokovic did make a winning – if not entirely convincing – start to his campaign in Rome, beating Taylor Fritz 6-3 7-6. But if he is to mount a challenge for the title at Roland Garros, he will surely have to raise his game.

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