Dominic Thiem will be desperate to win his first Madrid Open title this year, but Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer lead a stacked field standing in his way.
Preparations for the French Open continue this week with last year’s victor Alexander Zverev also returning to the event, as well as Kei Nishikori, who has been to the final before.
Federer is a man to watch here as he is making his first appearance in a clay-court event since 2016. In each of the past two seasons, the veteran has opted to rest in this part of the season.
Nadal, of course, is the indisputable King of Clay but a couple of unexpected results recently have threatened to see the crown finally slip from his head. Nadal is a five-time champion at the Madrid Open, one of his home events, and he will be keen to make it six as well.
Complicating matters for the tournament is the fact that Djokovic, Federer, Thiem have all been placed in the same half of the draw, so there should be some massive clashes coming up.
Just like for every clay-court event he chooses to enter, Nadal is the favourite in the betting odds for the Madrid Open title. But can better value be found elsewhere? Let’s take a look to see!
Federer and Thiem on last-eight collision course
Such a congested field means titanic tussles at a relatively early stage of the tournament are inevitable, with Federer and Thiem on track to meet at the quarter-final stage.
With Federer playing at the Madrid Open for the first time since 2015 there is a lot of intrigue to see how he will perform, while Thiem’s win at the recent Barcelona Open proved he is a force to be reckoned with on this surface.
Thiem has previously been something of a nearly man on the tour but he finally seems to be finding the extra gear that means he is a genuine challenge for a title such as this one.
Beaten in the final of the Madrid Open two years in a row, Thiem has a real chance of getting through to that stage once more with a clash against Federer offering him nothing to fear.
Thiem can be backed at a tempting price of 6/1, while Federer’s lack of recent experience on clay courts is reflected in his odds of 17/1 – it is some time since he has been so large to triumph at any tournament.
As if this mini-section was not competitive enough thanks to the presence of Federer and Thiem, there is also Gael Monfils and Monte-Carlo Masters winner Fabio Fognini to look out for. Thiem could face Fognini (a juicy 50/1) in the third round, a match he ought to win.
Nadal seeking to bounce back
At this time of the year Nadal usually has a couple of clay-court titles under his belt already as he warms up for Roland Garros, but that has not been the case in 2019 so far.
The Spaniard’s loss to Thiem in the Barcelona final hinting at a passing of the torch, while his Monte-Carlo defeat at the hands of Fognini – with respect, a far inferior player – is more worrying.
Either Felix Auger-Aliassime or Denis Shapovalov will be up first for Nadal and either player, both of them exciting young Canadians, could give him a tough test before a likely clash with either Nikoloz Basilashvili or Philipp Kohlschreiber in the third round.
On paper there should be nothing stopping Nadal from getting to at least the quarter-finals, where he could be set to face off against the sixth seed Nishikori. The Japanese was beaten by Nadal in the 2014 Madrid Open final and his form in the last few months has been inconsistent.
It is easy to see Nadal finding his form again but at a price of just 13/8 to claim the title yet again he feels too short to back at most tennis betting sites, especially given his recent vulnerabilities on his favourite surface.
Stan Wawrinka (40/1), Guido Pella (100/1) and Daniil Medvedev (50/1) are the other names of interest in Nadal’s section of the draw, particularly the latter as the Russian beat Djokovic in a very impressive run at the Monte-Carlo Masters.
Clear route for Djokovic
Djokovic is always a name in the frame and at odds of 3/1 he will have a lot of fans this week, especially as he is the top seed and has therefore been placed in the opposite half to Nadal.
A two-time winner of the Madrid Open, Djokovic has had an uneven year to date but will be looking to get back to his best ahead of the French Open and Wimbledon.
He does not seem to have any major obstacles in his way thanks to an easy draw, with potential quarter-final opponent Juan Martin del Potro coming back after a serious knee injury.
Del Potro is certainly vulnerable to an early exit at this tournament and Rio champion Laslo Djere is his likely opponent first up. Ninth seed Marin Cilic also has fitness issues and is unlikely to be posing too much of a threat this week.
Marco Cecchinato, who stunned Djokovic on his run to the semi-finals at Roland Garros last year, is one of the only players in this section of the draw who is likely to trouble the Serbian star.
Madrid Open best bets
Nadal’s status as the favourite should not be in question but his price does look too short to back considering the strength in depth the Madrid Open has assembled for this week’s event.
Djokovic has a rare chance to fly under the radar and at 3/1 he could represent a bit of a bargain, but Thiem’s 6/1 is instead preferred.
The Austrian looks to be making big gains this year and ahead of a possible run deep into the French Open, which is just around the corner, he has a great chance to make up for his defeats in each of the past two Madrid finals.
Federer’s return to clay-court action will be well worth watching but it is hard to see him having a major impact, but 25/1 on defending champion Alexander Zverev to retain his title could be tempting too, although he continues to show little form in an increasingly difficult 2019.
Those happy to take on much bigger odds could find Monte-Carlo champion Fognini an option worth taking on at 50/1, albeit only at small stakes and on an each-way basis.
Similarly, Pella is one of the most in-form players on the tour right now and 100/1 is a massive price for the undoubtedly talented Argentine. The left-hander is up to a career-high of 26 in the world rankings and he reached the quarter-finals in both Barcelona and Monte-Carlo recently.