Shapovalov-Felix Leads Slate Of First-Round Madrid Blockbusters
Get your popcorn ready for the Mutua Madrid Open; you'll need it early and often. ATPTour.com takes a look at the five matches to watch in the first round of the clay-court ATP Masters 1000 tournament held at the Caja Magica in Spain.
In the pair’s only previous FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting, the Canadians were locked in a battle in the first round of last year’s US Open, at one-set apiece, when Auger-Aliassime was forced to retire due to a reoccurring heart condition.
Shapovalov reached his second Masters 1000 semi-final in Madrid last year, beating former World No. 3 Milos Raonic and British No. 1 Kyle Edmund en route to the last four. On the other hand, Auger-Aliassime has broken out in 2019, reaching his first ATP Tour final in Rio de Janeiro and advancing to the Miami semi-finals, just like Shapovalov.
Daniil Medvedev vs. Guido Pella
Perhaps no two first-round opponents in Madrid are in better combined form on clay than Medvedev and Pella. Medvedev began the year with just two clay-court wins, but the Russian, who’s at a career-best No. 14 in the ATP Rankings, advanced to the semi-finals in Monte-Carlo and the championship match in Barcelona.
Pella leads the ATP Tour with 19 clay-court wins in 2019, making the quarter-finals or better in five of his six tournaments on the surface this year. The Brasil Open champion, ranked a career-high 26th, beat Medvedev in their only previous FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting three years ago in Nice in a final-set tie-break, but Medvedev was only 20 at the time.
This should present an interesting stylistic clash between Medvedev, who serves well and excels at neutralising opponent’s aggression — especially off the backhand wing — and Pella, who not only could track down many balls, but likes to dictate play with his heavy lefty forehand. Both players are inside the Top 10 on the ATP Tour this year in return games won.
David Ferrer vs. Roberto Bautista Agut
This could be the final match of Ferrer’s illustrious career. The former World No. 3 would likely want it no other way than competing against another tough player in Bautista Agut.
Ferrer, who owns a 2-1 FedEx ATP Head2Head series lead against his countryman (all four-setters at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open), has shown signs of his vintage form in recent months despite slipping from the Top 100, eliminating reigning Nitto ATP Finals titlist Alexander Zverev in Miami. Ferrer also cruised past Frenchman Lucas Pouille in Barcelona.
But Bautista Agut has shown a good level in 2019, winning in Doha to start the year and advancing to three more quarter-finals. The winner of this match will face defending champion and third-seeded Zverev in the second round.
Fabio Fognini vs. Kyle Edmund
Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters champion Fognini makes his return for the first time since his breakthrough victory in Monaco. The Italian showed his best tennis in the Principality, playing attacking tennis to stun 11-time champion Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals before defeating Dusan Lajovic for his biggest trophy yet.
But the 10th seed will not have it easy against Edmund, who made the semi-finals on clay in Marrakech last year. The Brit won two matches apiece in Indian Wells and Miami this year, and also won the ATP Challenger Tour event at Indian Wells.
Fognini beat Edmund in their only previous FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting last year at Roland Garros, coming from behind for a 6-3, 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory. Both players like to step into the court to control play, so the battle will likely be determined by which competitor could more consistently attack first in the rally and dictate from there.
Coric has won two of the pair’s three FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings, with Pouille earning his lone victory earlier this year in the fourth round of the Australian Open. The eventual Melbourne semi-finalist needed three hours and 15 minutes to win in four sets.
Coric has reached the quarter-finals at two of this year’s three Masters 1000 tournaments (Miami and Monte-Carlo), while Pouille will be keen to overcome a six-match losing streak with a confidence-boosting win.