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Ricky’s Tennis • full tournament preview and picks for this week’s Madrid Masters 1000

Barcelona champion Carlos Alcaraz owns an 11-1 clay-court record in 2022. EPA-EFE/JuanJo Martin

By Ricky Dimon

With the French Open less than a month away, we have already reached the halfway point of the clay-court swing. But there are still two more Masters 1000 events to be played before the season’s second Grand Slam takes center stage. One is underway in Madrid, where Rafael Nadal returns to action in search of a sixth title in front of the home crowd. Nadal is the No. 3 seed behind Novak Djokovic–who is also trying to pick up some momentum prior to Roland Garros–and behind defending champion Alexander Zverev. Stefanos Tsitsipas, Casper Ruud, Andrey Rublev, Carlos Alcaraz, and Felix Auger-Aliassime round out the top eight seeds in what is another strong Masters 1000 draw.

Mutua Madrid Open

Where: Madrid, Spain
Prize money: 2,614,465 Euros
Top seed: Novak Djokovic
Defending champion: Alexander Zverev

If Djokovic, Nadal, and Alcaraz play well in Madrid and Rome and then all find themselves in the top half of the French Open draw, tennis fans may explode. That’s exactly where they are in Madrid, and while that’s extremely rough on paper it’s too early to say how things will play out. So don’t freak out just yet. There is no guarantee that it will end up being Nadal vs. Alcaraz in the quarterfinals with the winner facing Djokovic in the semis. After all, Nadal has not played since Indian Wells due to a rib injury and his first match is likely to come against a red-hot Miomir Kecmanovic. Djokovic has played in only three tournaments this season and has not won a title—not even at home in Belgrade. The top-ranked Serb at least managed to reach the final there, but for the most his form at all three events (also Dubai and Monte-Carlo) was discouraging.

Djokovic could run into either Ruud, Hubert Hurkacz, or Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the Madrid quarters. Davidovich Fokina took him down in Monte-Carlo on the Spaniard’s way to a runner-up performance.

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic returns to action in Madrid. EPA-EFE/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON

Zverev has an easier path in a much weaker bottom half of the draw. The third-ranked German is a two-time champion in Madrid, which is not too surprising because conditions suit him extremely well. Still, it’s not like a return trip to the final will be easy. Zverev could run into some big hitters early and often in the Spanish capital—Marin Cilic in round two, Sebastian Korda in the last 16, and Jannik Sinner in the quarterfinals. Tsitsipas vs. Rublev is the other projected quarterfinal clash in the bottom half.

First-round matches to watch are Korda vs. Reilly Opelka, Sinner vs. Tommy Paul, Andy Murray vs. Dominic Thiem, Roberto Bautista Agut vs. Jenson Brooksby, and Pablo Carreno Busta vs. Botic van de Zandschulp.

Quarterfinal picks: Casper Ruud over Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz over Miomir Kecmanovic, Stefanos Tsitsipas over Andrey Rublev, and Jannik Sinner over Sebastian Korda

Semifinals: Alcaraz over Ruud and Sinner over Tsitsipas

Final: Alcaraz over Sinner

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.