The fourth Masters 1000 event of the season is now over, and the result is the same as two of the previous three. Novak Djokovic is walking away the champion once again while the rest of the tour is left wondering what are they going to have to do to stop the world number one. As the tour moves on to Rome this week, let’s take a look back at the winner’s and losers from the Mutua Madrid Open.
Novak Djokovic: As if winning the title was not enough, he reclaimed the title he won in 2011 after having missed the tournament the last two years. In fact, Madrid has been an event where Djokovic has generally struggled, having been upset in his last two appearances. And even though he was not at his best in this year’s event, he battled out of tough situations and found a way to win.
He started out the tournament with a strong win over young gun Borna Coric and followed it up with an impressive win over the dangerous Roberto Bautista Agut. He faced his first major challenge in the quarterfinals against Milos Raonic, but the world number one did well to hold off the Canadian’s onslaught and advanced to the semifinals in straight sets. It was a similar story in the semifinals, with Djokovic doing just enough to battle past Kei Nishikori.
Defending champion Andy Murray finally put a dent in the world number one’s armour by taking the second set of the final, but he could not take advantage of his chances in the deciding set and Djokovic held on for his record-breaking 29th Masters 1000 title.
Joao Sousa: The Portuguese was the surprise of the tournament, taking advantage of some holes in the draw and pulling an upset to reach his first career Masters 1000 quarterfinal. And just when he was expected to get blown out, he put up a massive fight as the underdog against the hottest player on the tour and very nearly pulled an upset. At the very least, he made sure that opponents will keep an eye out for him in the draw in upcoming tournaments.
After opening up his tournament with a straight sets win over Nicolas Mahut, Sousa took advantage of Roger Federer’s withdrawal, beating his replacement Marcel Granollers in straight sets to reach the third round. He was the underdog against American Jack Sock, but he massively outplayed the American, dominating the first and third sets to reach his first Masters 1000 quarterfinal.
He was expected to be crushed in the quarterfinals against Rafael Nadal, who had won 17 sets in a row entering the match, and the match started as expected with the Spaniard winning the opening set 6-0. But Sousa upped his level in the second set, winning it, and then outplayed Nadal for the better part of the third set, although he would eventually fall. Still, Sousa was the feel-good story in Madrid and made a name for himself in his performance against Nadal.
Kei Nishikori: While the Japanese has perhaps not had the consistent results he might desire outside of the Spanish capital, the former runner-up showed once again that this is his magic city. For the third year in a row, Nishikori reached at least the semifinals and scored some impressive wins along the way. Another point or two his way, and he could have possibly found himself in the final.
Nishikori had an incredibly hard draw from start to finish. First off, he had to battle past clay court specialist Fabio Fognini in the opening round, before finally getting his first win in seven matches against Richard Gasquet in round three. In the quarterfinals, he trailed by a set against the red-hot Nick Kyrgios before battling back for the impressive win. His run finally came to an end in the semifinals in a hard-fought battle with eventual champion Novak Djokovic. Even though he came up short, it was after three impressive wins.
Rafael Nadal: All in all, the semifinals is not a bad result for Rafael Nadal. However, after the spring he had, winning 13 matches in a row and two titles, a slow start against Sam Querrey followed by a struggle with Joao Sousa, ending with a straight-sets defeat against Andy Murray, this result can only be a disappointment.
Expectations were high for the seemingly back-on-his-game King of Clay, but his level consistently dropped throughout the tournament, and finally went away fairly quietly in the semifinals, failing to capitalise in comebacks in both sets. Prior to Madrid, the Spaniard was the favourite for both that title and the French Open. But with his brutal draw this week in Rome, he will be hard-pressed to rebuild that momentum and confidence before Paris.
Roger Federer: 2016 has not been kind to Roger Federer. First, it was the knee injury that required surgery. Next, it was illness that delayed his planned comeback in Miami. After making his return in Monte Carlo, the Swiss took a wild card into Madrid, only to withdraw before playing his first round match due to a back injury. This injury is particularly troubling considering that a back injury derailed Federer’s 2013 season, with some believing that injury would be career ending.
While he is planning to return in Rome, the fact that the injury is returning is worrying sign. Ironically, thanks to Andy Murray’s failure to defend his title, Federer still managed to climb back to number two in the world.
Bernard Tomic: A first round loss for a top 30 player is always disappointing. It’s especially disappointing if you’re a young player who much has been expected of and you’ve always disappointed, but have finally been showing signs of improvement. As if it could get worse, closing out the match by tanking is just embarrassing. To rub salt in the wound, the result is a warning from your national Olympic committee due to your behaviour and this situation definitely classifies as a nightmare.
This was Bernard Tomic’s experience in Madrid. The world number 22 crashed out in the first round to Fognini, tanking at the end by swinging at the final point holding his racquet upside down. Tomic then made a comment about the fact that he is 23 and is worth 10 million dollars as justification for his bad attitude. Finally, the Australian Olympic committee issued a warning to Tomic, saying if his attitude does not improve, he will not be nominated for the Olympic team this summer. The young Aussie may have lost more than a tennis match when he changed his racquet grip.
The ATP World Tour moves on this week to the Italian Open in Rome.