Defending champion Andy Murray headlines an incredible field of players at the 2016 Mutua Madrid Open this week. This Masters 1000 Series event is the second Masters 1000 event of the European clay court swing, falling between the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters and the Internazionali BNL d'Italia, which begins next week. All three events lead up to the 2016 French Open. The entire top ten of the ATP World Tour will compete this week at the Manzanares Park Tennis Center.
1. Novak Djokovic
As expected, world number one Novak Djokovic leads the field as the top seed. This tournament could be crucial for the 11-time Grand Slam champion as he still hunts for the first Roland Garros crown.
Unexpectedly, the Serbian lost in his opening round match at the 2016 Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters to world number 63 Jiri Vesely earlier this month. The 2011 champion in Madrid needs more match wins on clay as he hopes to finally claim that French Open title and complete his career Grand Slam. Djokovic will face the winner of Nicolás Almagro and Borna Coric in the second round.
2. Andy Murray
Murray returns to Madrid this year as the defending champion. Last year, the world number two took down the king-of-clay, Rafael Nadal, in the final to claim his second Madrid Open crown. Murray claimed his first title in Madrid in 2008. He too is looking for more consistency here in Madrid. The world number two did play very well in Monte Carlo, reaching the semifinals before falling the eventual champion Rafael Nadal. Murray will face the winner of a qualifier and Vasek Pospisil in round two.
3. Roger Federer
World number three Roger Federer made the decision to play in Madrid only a few days ago. The 17-time Grand Slam champion hopes for a strong tournament as he continues his recovery from his torn meniscus in late January.
Luckily for him, Federer was drawn on the opposite side of the draw than Djokovic, meaning that the two could not play until the finals. Federer competed in Monte Carlo at the beginning of April, which was his first tournament back, before falling to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarterfinals. The three-time champion in Madrid will look to have another productive tournament as he continues to get to his top-form. The Swiss Maestro faces a very tricky draw, as he is slated to possibly face Nadal in the quarterfinals. Federer will face the winner of João Sousa and Nicolas Mahut in the second round.
4. Stan Wawrinka
Swiss number two Stan Wawrinka enters the tournament as the fourth seed. Unlike Federer, who was lucky enough to stay away from Djokovic, Wawrinka is drawn on the same side as top-seeded Djokovic. A meeting between the two would be a great spectacle, as the two have put on some memorable matches in the past, including in the 2015 French Open finals.
Wawrinka shocked the tennis world last year by defeating Djokovic in the final, proving that he too can be a threat on clay. The two-time Grand Slam champion faces the winner of Nick Kyrgios and Guido Pella in his opening match.
5. Rafael Nadal
Four-time Madrid champion Rafael Nadal enters the tournament perhaps as the favorite for the title. After many shaky months, the king of clay has played up to his title recently, taking home the titles in Monte Carlo and Barcelona. The Spanish number one will look to continue his success on clay before the French open. After his recent titles, consider him a top contender for this crown. Rafa will face either Viktor Troicki or Andrey Kuznetsov in his opening match.
6. Kei Nishikori
World number six Kei Nishikori enters the tournament as a finalist in Barcelona, falling to Nadal in the finals. The Japanese number one has always played relatively well on clay. He played very well in Barcelona before running into Nadal. He will face the winner of Fabio Fognini and Bernard Tomic in the second round. Fognini could present a challenge for the world number six.
7. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga enters Madrid coming off of a run to the semifinals in Monte Carlo, where he lost to Gael Monfils. He did, however, claim a victory over Federer in the quarters in three sets. Tsonga will face the winner of Jeremy Chardy and Albert Ramos-Viñolas in round two.
8. Tomas Berdych
Tomas Berdych enters the star-studded tournament as a possible second-tier threat. He did reach the finals in 2012, but fell to Federer in three sets. The Czech can be dangerous on clay, but has a tough road. He faces the winner of a qualifier and Teymuraz Gabashvili to open his tournament.
First Quarter: Novak Djokovic (1)
Djokovic has a bye in the first round. He will face the winner of Nicolás Almagro and Borna Coric in the second round. Coric could present an early test for the world number one. Should he advance, the Serbian number one could face 15th seed, Roberto Bautista Agut in the third round.
Bautista Agut reached the third round in Monte Carlo before falling to Federer. Djokovic could face the winner of Tsonga and 11th-seeded Milos Raonic in the quarterfinals. Both could present a large hurdle for Djokovic. The last time that Djokovic and Tsonga competed on clay was at the 2014 French Open, where Djokovic won.
Projected quarterfinal: Novak Djokovic (1) vs Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (7)
Semifinalist: Novak Djokovic (1)
Second Quarter: Stan Wawrinka (4)
The Swiss number two headlines the second quarter in Madrid. He could be challenged by sixth seed and recent Barcelona finalist Kei Nishikori. Wawrinka will face the winner of Nick Kyrgios and Guido Pella to open the tournament. Kyrgios could be trouble for Wawrinka, but he should be able to advance; however, don’t be shocked if Stan lost that matchup.
In the third round, the two-time Grand Slam champion could face a very tough opponent, the possibilities ranging from recent Monte Carlo finalist Gael Monfils, to Philipp Kohlschreiber, to Pablo Cuevas or former top ten player Kevin Anderson. Nishikori could run into Fernando Verdasco, Juan Monaco and Richard Gasquet before a quarterfinal matchup with Wawrinka.
Projected quarterfinal: Stan Wawrinka (4) vs Kei Nishikori (6)
Semifinalist: Kei Nishikori (6)
Third Quarter: Roger Federer (3)
Three-time Madrid champion Roger Federer faces a very tricky draw this year. He should be able to advance past Sousa or Mahut, however, the third round is where his draw gets tricky. He could face Juan Martín del Potro, Benoit Paire, Jack Sock, or 12th-seeded Dominic Thiem. Each player presents his own challenges for the Swiss Maestro.
The other top player in this quarter is Rafael Nadal. The Spaniard will face the winner of Viktor Troicki and Andrey Kuznetsov in his opening match. The Spaniard could then face David Goffin or Sam Querrey. Neither should give the King of Clay much trouble. This quarter screams a Federer-Nadal clash.
Projected quarterfinal: Roger Federer (3) vs Rafael Nadal (5)
Semifinalist: Rafael Nadal (5)
Fourth Quarter: Andy Murray (2)
Despite coming into the tournament as the defending champion, Murray is not considered to be the favorite, thanks to Nadal’s recent resurgence on clay. Murray will face the winner of a qualifier and Vasek Pospisil in round two.
The Czech will face the winner of Teymuraz Gabashvili or a qualifier in the second round, with David Ferrer a likely opponent in the third round.
Projected quarterfinal: Andy Murray (2) vs David Ferrer (9)
Semifinalist: Andy Murray (2)
Semifinals: Djokovic (1) def. Nishikori (6)
Nadal (5) def. Murray (2)
Final: Rafael Nadal (5) def. Novak Djokovic (1)