MADRID, May 1, 2016
The fourth ATP Masters 1000 tournament of the season, the Mutua Madrid Open, features every member of the top 10 in the ATP Rankings for the first time since 2011 and 18 of the top 20 overall.
World number one and 2011 champion Novak Djokovic returns to the Spanish capital for the first time since 2013 when he lost in his opening match to Grigor Dimitrov. The 29-year-old from Serbia will start his title bid after a first round bye, awaiting the winner of the encounter between Nicolas Almagro and Borna Coric.
“I feel excited to be back. Last time I was in Madrid was three years ago. I missed being in the city. I missed being a part of this tournament,” Djokovic told on Sunday.
“Unfortunately in 2014 I was prevented to come here to this tournament because of an injury; last year the decision of the team was to make that kind of scheduling. Madrid unfortunately didn’t fit in last year. That’s why I skipped the last two years. But I’m glad that I’m back, because this is definitely one of the biggest tournaments we have in the world, and especially on this particular surface. I’m excited obviously to get back on the clay courts. I didn’t do that well in Monte-Carlo, so I hope I can have a bit more matches during this week.”
Djokovic is one of four former winners in the field along with reigning champion Andy Murray (also 2008), four-time winner Rafael Nadal (2005, ’10, ’13-14) and three-time titleholder Roger Federer (2006, ’09, ’12).
Second seed Andy Murray will take on Vasek Pospisil or a qualifier in his opening match.
“I think expectations for me have changed obviously because of last year. Obviously winning is important. I obviously won on the clay last year which was good, but it was more the way I played. I played very well,” the 2015 champion told.
“Even in Monte-Carlo the match against Raonic and also for large parts the match against Rafa in MonteCarlo was very good. That gives me belief, but also I then expect to play better than I maybe did in the past. I don’t see any reason why I can’t maintain that level and give myself a chance in the next few events, obviously with the French being the big one at the end of this stretch. Yeah, I feel good about that,” Murray added.
Fifth favourite Rafael Nadal, who enters Madrid on a 10-match winning streak after capturing back-to back titles at ATP Masters 1000 Monte-Carlo and Barcelona will start his home campaign against either Viktor Troicki or Andrey Kuznetsov.
“It’s always a good feeling,” Nadal said about coming back to Madrid. “Of course it’s clear that in this city, in this event, I think it is the place where I get most of the support. So it’s also very great and I like to feel that. As I said, I’m really happy to be here one more year”
Since lifting two trophies on clay in the last two weeks, expectations on the Spanish number one have increased again.
“I just do my best to do well every single day. If it works out like this, maybe afterwards I will be able to be in the last round. If it’s not that way, I won’t be. The player who plays better this week is the one who has the options.”
About the case with French politician Roselyne Bachelot, Nadal said:
“I have full confidence in the French justice. I talked enough about that in Indian Wells, what happened.” He sued the ex-minister over doping claims and added that it is not about money.
“I feel happy that I don’t need money. So it’s something that is about image, is something about the people is not free to say any stupid thing any time, what they think in any moment without no knowledge about the things. If at the end of the day, as I said in my communication, I take some money from a that, going to be to one French foundation. That’s it. It’s not about this kind of stuff.”
World number three Roger Federer is two match wins away from tying Ivan Lendl on the Open Era career match wins list and will play the winner of the encounter between Joao Sousa and Nicolas Mahut. The Big Four have accounted for 10 of the past 11 titles since 2005 with the only exception in 2007 when David Nalbandian was the champion.
Two first round encounters might be of special interest with Munich runner-up Dominic Thiem facing Juan Martin Del Potro. Both players appeared in the Bavarian capital the week before and will meet for the first time on court.
Estoril runner-up Pablo Carreno-Busta, who was awarded a wild card, will take on Grigor Dimitrov for the fourth time. The Bulgarian leads in 3-0 in head to head records.
Local hero Fernando Verdasco and Juan Mónaco opened first round action in the Caja Mágica on Sunday. In the battle of two wild cards, the 32-year-old Spaniard emerged victorious, winning 7-5, 7-6. Verdasco sent down seven aces and converted two of his seven break points to advance after one hour and 52 minutes.
“I expected to play a little bit later, Monday or Tuesday, but the tournament wanted me to play today. In the end the feelings were the ones that we had, and I had to try to do my best and get better feelings during the match,” Verdasco told afterwards. The world number 51 claimed the title in Bucharest last week.
“This is different than when you come from a bad streak. As I was saying, the motivation for me is always highest here in Madrid because I’m trying to give my best because I’m playing in my hometown. You play differently. Some years they work out and others they don’t. This year I’ll try to give my best and find my best tennis, to adapt myself day after day, and I’ll be able to play at my highest level and achieve a good result.”