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Road to Roland Garros, presented by ZipRecruiter: Novak Djokovic to face top half tests from Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz
Three French Open favorites—Djokovic, Nadal, and Alcaraz—are in the same half in Madrid. Who will come out of that packed section, and who will take the biggest title of the clay season so far?
Published Apr 30, 2022
ZipRecruiter Player Resume: Grigor Dimitrov
After several weeks when younger players have flourished—in particular one very young player, Carlos Alcaraz—the Mutua Madrid Open has a bit of a throwback, Big 3 flavor to it. Top seed Novak Djokovic will play his third clay event, and look for his first title of 2022, after missing most of the season. No. 3 seed Rafael Nadal will return after cracking a rib in Indian Wells in March. Meanwhile, the leader of the younger pack, Daniil Medvedev, is absent while recovering from hernia surgery. Are Djokovic and Nadal still the players to beat going into the French Open? We’ll find out more at the Caja Magica.
With its high altitude and faster courts, Madrid isn’t typically thought of as a springboard to glory in Paris. But Djokovic has used it as a place to find his clay legs in the past, and the first time he won at Roland Garros, in 2016, he also won in Madrid. This year he’s going off two tournaments, in Monte Carlo and Belgrade, where he ran out of gas during three-set matches. He’ll probably want to put in the yards, and put those losses behind him, this week. If the seeds hold, Djokovic will face Gael Monfils, Denis Shapovalov, and Casper Ruud on his way to the semifinals.
First-round match between Grand Slam champs to watch: Andy Murray vs. Dominic Thiem
Also here: Monte Carlo finalist Alejandro Davidovich Fokina
The past, present, and future of Spanish men’s tennis will be represented in this quarter, in the form of Nadal and Alcaraz. They played in Madrid last year, and Nadal won easily, but it’s sure to be closer if they face off in the quarters this time. The two staged a wind-tossed classic in Indian Wells; Rafa won, but fractured a rib to do it. To get to a rematch, Nadal’s toughest competition might come from fast-rising Serb Miomir Kecmanovic in the second round. Alcaraz’s strongest foe might be Cameron Norrie in the third round. The fast clay and the home fans should bode well for Alcaraz against whoever he faces in Madrid.
Where do the top two seeds in this section, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev stand on the Roland Garros leaderboard right now? Tsitsipas won Monte Carlo, but lost to Alcaraz in Barcelona. Rublev lost in the Round of 16 in Monte Carlo, but beat Djokovic in the Belgrade Open final last weekend. A quarterfinal meeting between the Greek and Russian in Madrid could be sneak peek at a similar late-round showdown at the French. They’re 4-4 in their overall head-to-head; Tsitsipas leads on clay, 3-2.
First-round match to watch: Roberto Bautista Agut vs. Jenson Brooksby
Is Alexander Zverev losing upwards? He has had a disappointing year all around, and last week he crashed out in front of his home-country fans in Munich in a stunningly one-sided loss to 18-year-old Holger Rune. At the same time, Zverev is ranked No. 3; he was a win or two from becoming No. 1 last month; and he’s seeded ahead of Nadal at a clay-court tournament in Spain. On the plus side, Zverev has won Madrid twice, and is the defending champion. His draw also looks manageable, assuming he can recover some semblance of his normal form after Munich. The other three seeds here are Jannik Sinner, Reilly Opelka, and a slumping Félix Auger Aliassime.
First-round matches to watch:, Sinner vs. Tommy Paul, Opelka vs. Sebastian Korda, Estoril finalist Frances Tiafoe vs. Cristian Garin