This past week, before Serena Williams pulled out of Madrid, I wondered whether it was time to start worrying about her form as the French Open approaches. Now I'll ask the same question of the world’s other No. 1: Does Novak Djokovic, after being so dominant for so long, suddenly have reason for concern? Not only did he lose the only match he’s played so far during this clay season, in Monte Carlo, but since that defeat to Jiri Vesely, Djokovic has had to sit idly by and watch his old rival, Rafael Nadal, do nothing but win.
Will Rafa’s return shake Djokovic’s seemingly unshakable confidence? Or is this challenge just what he needs to focus his efforts as he enters the four most nerve-wracking weeks of his season? Sometimes, as Djokovic found out in Paris last year, it’s better not to go into a tournament as the overwhelming favorite. One thing is for certain: Djokovic once entertained the idea of repeating his schedule from the last two years and skipping this week’s Masters event in Madrid. Not anymore; he could use a win or two.
Here’s a look ahead at how Djokovic, Nadal and the rest of the field may fare at the clay swing’s first mandatory event.