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Scouting Report: Nadal Leads The Way In Madrid, Tsitsipas Chasing Glory

An executive summary of what every fan should know about the coming week on the ATP Tour

The world’s best players are set to compete this week at the Mutua Madrid Open. Leading the way is five-time champion Rafael Nadal, who brings confidence following his triumph in Barcelona.

Nadal will be joined by World No. 3 Daniil Medvedev, two-time Madrid finalist Dominic Thiem and Stefanos Tsitsipas among many tough challengers. 

If Madrid has a first-time ATP Masters 1000 champion, this will be just the second time that the first three tournaments of the season at this level were won by a first-time Masters 1000 titlist. Hubert Hurkacz was victorious in Miami and Tsitsipas lifted the trophy in Monte-Carlo. The other time this happened was 1990, the first year of the series. Before play begins, ATPTour.com looks at 10 things to watch in Madrid.

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1) Nadal At Home: The home favourite arrives at the Caja Magica as the favourite, and he will hope to triumph in Madrid for the sixth time. Nadal, who owns a 52-12 record at this event, has fallen short of the quarter-finals here just once since 2004 (in 2012).

The lefty, who has made the championship match in Madrid three times in addition to his five trophy runs, could play a fellow Spaniard in his opener if #NextGenATP star Carlos Alcaraz battles past French lefty Adrian Mannarino. Nadal has won his two previous ATP Head2Head meetings against Mannarino in straight sets.

2) Tsitsipas Surging: This is only Tsitsipas’ third appearance at this tournament, but he has already enjoyed success here. The Greek made the championship match in 2019 with wins against Alexander Zverev and Nadal along the way, and only Novak Djokovic was able to stop him.

Tsitsipas is as confident as ever, fresh off winning his first Masters 1000 title at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters. The Greek maintained his great form in Barcelona, where he held a championship point against Nadal before ultimately falling short. The fourth seed will begin his Madrid run against Munich finalist Nikoloz Basilashvili or Benoit Paire.

3) Can Medvedev Make Magic In Madrid? World No. 3 Medvedev will try to begin his clay-court season on a high at the Caja Magica, where he has lost his two previous matches. This is his third appearance at the tournament. The second seed, who most recently competed in the Miami Open presented by Itau — where he lost in the quarter-finals against Roberto Bautista Agut — will have to be locked in from the first match against Estoril semi-finalist Alejandro Davidovich Fokina or a qualifier.

4) Rublev Rolling: Andrey Rublev gets ready to make his Madrid debut with a train of momentum behind him. Few players have enjoyed as much success in 2021 as Rublev, who is tied with Tsitsipas for the most wins on the ATP Tour this season with 26. Rublev, who made his first Masters 1000 final in Monte-Carlo, will try to get off to a good start against Tommy Paul or wild card Pedro Martinez.

5) Thiem’s Return: Thiem is set to play for the first time since Dubai, where he lost his opener against Lloyd Harris. The Austrian star has long succeeded on clay, reaching two Roland Garros finals. Thiem, a two-time Madrid runner-up, has a 13-4 record here, where he has made at least the semi-finals in his past three appearances. The 27-year-old will begin his run against a qualifier and 13th seed Grigor Dimitrov is the first seeded opponent he could face. 

6) #NextGenATP In Action: Some of the biggest #NextGenATP stars will be in action in Madrid, and two of them are seeded. Miami finalist Jannik Sinner is the 14th seed and he will begin the event against Argentine lefty Guido Pella, with Nadal a potential third-round opponent. Also in their section is home favourite Alcaraz, who could face Nadal in the second round. Felix Auger-Aliassime is the 15th seed, and he will play Monte-Carlo and Munich semi-finalist Casper Ruud in the first round.

7) Spanish Contingent: Before qualifying finishes, there are already nine Spaniards in the main draw, with Nadal leading the way. Two other seeded players are competing at home at the Caja Magica: ninth seed Roberto Bautista Agut and 10th seed Pablo Carreno Busta. The tournament’s four wild cards went to Spaniards: Alcaraz, Martinez, Jaume Munar and Fernando Verdasco. Verdasco is making his 18th appearance in this event. When he debuted in Madrid, Alcaraz was five months old.

8) Zverev Going For Two: Alexander Zverev won his third Masters 1000 title at the 2018 Mutua Madrid Open, and he will try to lift his fourth trophy at this level this week. The German, who is 10-2 in Madrid, is making his fourth appearance at the Caja Magica. He most recently lost against Tsitsipas in the 2019 quarter-finals. Zverev, who opens against Karen Khachanov or Kei Nishikori, has never failed to make the last eight here.

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9) Will Mektic/Pavic Stay Hot? Croatians Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic have been on fire during their team debut season, winning five titles, including the first two Masters 1000 events of the year. Although they are the second seeds, they will be the team to beat in Madrid. Mektic triumphed here in 2018 alongside Alexander Peya. Colombians Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah are the top seeds, Marcelo Granollers and Horacio Zeballos are seeded third and Australian Open champions Ivan Dodig/Filip Polasek are seeded fourth. One first-round match to watch pits Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares against Marcelo Melo and Jean-Julien Rojer.

10) Medvedev, Tsitsipas & Zverev Playing Doubles: There will also be plenty of singles stars in action in the doubles draw, highlighted by Medvedev (w/Marcelo Demoliner), Tsitsipas (w/brother Petros Tsitsipas), Zverev (w/Tim Puetz) and Denis Shapovalov (w/Rohan Bopanna). Reigning Rolex Paris Masters champions Auger-Aliassime and Hurkacz will try for another Masters 1000 trophy and countrymen Khachanov and Rublev will try to wreak havoc in the draw.

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