The Mutua Madrid Open draw is intriguing to say the least, full of many interesting first-round clashes, with the fifth meeting between Andy Murray and Dominic Thiem leading the way. There are also plenty of potentially gripping second-round showdowns, including the possibility of an 18th ATP Head2Head clash between Novak Djokovic and Gael Monfils.
ATPTour.com looks at five matches to watch at the Caja Magica.
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Andy Murray vs. Dominic Thiem
It is not often two ATP Masters 1000 titlists meet in the first round at this level, but that is what the fans will get when Murray and Thiem clash for the fifth time.
The stars have split their previous four meetings, with their most recent match coming in Beijing in 2017. Their only clay-court battle came in a three-setter won by Thiem in Barcelona in 2017. Both men are comfortable in Madrid, with Murray a two-time champion and Thiem having advanced to at least the semi-finals in his past four appearances.
But both players are also on the comeback trail. Murray is still working his way back to his best form following 2019 hip surgery, while Thiem returned one month ago from a wrist injury that forced him to miss eight months. This tantalising encounter provides an opportunity for one of them to earn a confidence-boosting win.
(11) Taylor Fritz vs. Jenson Brooksby
Jenson Brooksby is one of the fastest-rising prospects on the ATP Tour, but no American is in better form than Taylor Fritz. The 24-year-old claimed his first Masters 1000 title a month ago in Indian Wells at the BNP Paribas Open and is making a push to crack the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings.
Fritz is far from a hard-court specialist, though. The big-serving, forehand-crunching right-hander from California has made back-to-back quarter-finals on clay in Houston and Monte Carlo. In Monaco, only eventual finalist Alejandro Davidovich Fokina was able to stop him in three sets.
Brooksby won the pair’s only previous ATP Head2Head clash at last year’s US Open. That encounter was a gruelling four-setter that lasted four hours and six minutes. Will the 21-year-old be able to use his defensive baseline skills to neutralize the ever-improving Fritz’s offense?
(10) Jannik Sinner vs. Tommy Paul
The first battle between 10th seed Jannik Sinner and American Tommy Paul could turn into an interesting tactical match.
Sinner has been playing well, advancing to consecutive Masters 1000 quarter-finals in Miami and Monte Carlo, while Paul is a former Roland Garros boys’ singles champion.
The American, currently one spot off his career-high at World No. 34, is one of the quickest players on Tour. Last year, he pushed Rublev in a tight three-setter at the Caja Magica. If he is able to use his speed, withstand Sinner’s aggression and run around to hit powerful forehands of his own, he could turn into a thriller.
Potential Second-Round Matches
(1) Novak Djokovic vs. Gael Monfils
While nobody beats Vitas Gerulaitis 17 times in a row, Djokovic has claimed all 17 of his matches against Monfils. If the Frenchman eliminates Spanish wild card Carlos Gimeno Valero, he will get an 18th chance at defeating Djokovic. This might be his best opportunity yet.
Djokovic has not had an easy start to his clay-court season. The Serbian lost his opener in Monte Carlo against Davidovich Fokina and then needed three sets in every match he played on home soil in Belgrade to make the final, in which he lost to Rublev. Monfils will certainly make him work hard in Madrid.
Although Djokovic has won all 17 of their meetings, only one of them came on clay, and that was 16 years ago at Roland Garros. That could add an interesting wrinkle to their potential match.
(3) Rafael Nadal vs. Miomir Kecmanovic
Nadal suffered a stress fracture in one of his ribs at Indian Wells, so his opening match in Madrid will be his first action of the clay-court season. If Miomir Kecmanovic advances past Kazakhstani Alexander Bublik, he could present a tough challenge for the Spaniard.
Kecmanovic has enjoyed the best season of his career, entering the week at 19th in the ATP Race To Turin. The Serbian, who is into the semi-finals in Munich, has shown great consistency this year to tally a 22-8 record. A quarter-finalist in Indian Wells and Miami, he will be confident if he steps on court against Nadal, who won their only previous match 6-2, 7-5 in Acapulco two years ago.
But even if this is the third seed’s first clay-court match of the year, he has plenty of experience on which to rely. The five-time Madrid titlist has earned 54 wins at the event and will chase his 37th Masters 1000 crown.