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Djokovic Calls Madrid Opener 'Best Performance Of The Year'

  • Posted: May 03, 2022

Djokovic Calls Madrid Opener ‘Best Performance Of The Year’

World No. 1 reflects on victory against Monfils

Novak Djokovic is moving in the right direction.

The World No. 1 admitted he was pleased with his performance Tuesday against Gael Monfils at the Mutua Madrid Open. It was just a second-round win for the Serbian, but it could prove an important one.

“I would probably rate it as the best performance of the year,” Djokovic said.

The three-time Madrid champion is now 18-0 against Monfils, the former World No. 6. Not only did Djokovic defeat the Frenchman in straight sets, but he was undeterred by a slight rain interruption in the first set.

“I felt very good on the court. [The] interruption probably helped me a bit more than him,” Djokovic said. “Conditions of the training days in the past three days were different than what we experienced tonight. It was slower, and obviously because of the rain it was heavier court and [there was] more clay.”

Djokovic added of his effort: “[It was] just generally [a] very, very good performance. I’m very pleased, considering that up to today I was not playing my best tennis in the few tournaments that I played this year and still kind of finding my rhythm, finding my groove.”

It was not long ago that there was concern for Djokovic fans when the 34-year-old made a slow start to his clay-court season. The World No. 1 lost his opening match in Monte Carlo and nearly was upset in his opening match in Belgrade.

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But Djokovic advanced to the final at his home event, winning three matches in a deciding set. And now he carries momentum into his third-round match at the Caja Magica.

“It’s hard to compare the matches obviously. Here is altitude, different conditions. In Belgrade, I played [the] final coming off from three matches where I played long three sets, and physically [I was] a little bit exhausted and drained,” Djokovic said. “Unfortunately in the third set that was deciding factor, to lose the match.

“But here, first match of the tournament, I had a week, 10 days to get ready for this match, and for this tournament I have done everything I possibly can to build my fitness and also improve on all aspects of the game, on the court. I’m really glad that it paid off, because I felt good on the court. It’s the right process, and it’s the right direction.”

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Day 4 Preview: Nadal, Zverev, Tsitsipas In Madrid Openers

  • Posted: May 03, 2022

Day 4 Preview: Nadal, Zverev, Tsitsipas In Madrid Openers

Nadal making first appearance since the Indian Wells final

The Mutua Madrid Open second round will conclude on Wednesday, with Rafael Nadal, defending champion Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas all set to open their campaigns on Manolo Santana Stadium. Three men’s singles matches also feature on Court Arantxa Sanchez, with seeded players Jannik Sinner, Diego Schwartzman and Roberto Bautista Agut in action.

Four doubles quarter-final places will also be booked on Tuesday at the ATP Masters 1000 event.

View Singles Draw | View Doubles Draw | View Schedule

[3] Rafael Nadal [ESP] vs. Miomir Kecmanovic (SER)

While Nadal recovered from a rib injury he sustained in Indian Wells, the consistent Kecmanovic carried on with his stellar season. The Serbian entered Madrid on the heels of six straight ATP Tour quarter-final runs, and went one step further last week to reach the Munich semi-finals. He booked his second ATP Head2Head meeting against Nadal with a 6-4, 7-5 win over Alexander Bublik.

Nadal, a five-time champion in Madrid, is seeking a record-tying 37th ATP Masters 1000 title. But after a six-week layoff, he is keeping his expectations in check.

“I have improved compared to when I arrived here [in Madrid], but I still have ups and downs, because it’s been a long time. It’s going to be a difficult week,” Nadal said ahead of the tournament. “That’s the reality. We have to be calm, we have to accept that things are going to be far away from perfection, but then onwards we just have to fight. I’m recovered. I feel good.”

Nadal will put his 20-1 season record on the line against Kecmanovic, who is a very strong 22-9 on the year himself. Nadal won the pair’s only previous meeting in Acapulco in 2020.

The Spaniard is currently in his 867th consecutive week inside the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings, spending more than half of that time at No. 1 (209 weeks) or No. 2 (370 weeks).

Most Consecutive Weeks In Top 10

Player  Weeks Years
 Rafael Nadal 867*  2005-present
 Jimmy Connors  789  1973-88
 Roger Federer  734  2002-16
 Ivan Lendl  619 1980-92
 Pete Sampras  565  1990-2001

*Does not include 22 weeks during 2020 when ATP Rankings were frozen due to the pandemic.

[2] Alexander Zverev (GER) vs. Marin Cilic (CRO)

Two-time Madrid champion Zverev holds a 7-1 ATP Head2Head edge over Cilic and will look to extend a seven-match win streak after dropping their first meeting in 2015. Each of their past five matches have come at either an ATP Masters 1000 event or at the Nitto ATP Finals, with their most recent meeting coming at the 2018 year-end event.

A recent semi-finalist on the clay in Monte Carlo, Zverev is seeking a bounce-back performance after an early defeat to Holger Rune as the top seed last week in Munich. Cilic is also playing his third clay-court event of the season, and enters the second round behind a 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 win over Albert Ramos-Vinolas.

Prior to this year’s event, 2017 and 2021 Madrid champ Zverev reflected on his title run one year ago: “It was an incredible tournament,” he said. “For me, I enjoyed it so much because I had so many great matches in general.

“Obviously the final, lifting the trophy is the ultimate satisfaction. But the matches I had with Rafa, with Dominic, with Nishikori, with Berrettini in the final, those are just such enjoyable moments. I think the matches themselves were so much fun to play in.”

[4] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) vs. [WC] Lucas Pouille (FRA)

Tsitsipas followed his second straight Monte Carlo title with a run to the Barcelona quarter-finals, where he fell in three sets to Carlos Alcaraz. The Greek can complete a three-surface trifecta of wins against France’s Lucas Pouille on Tuesday. The pair have previously met on grass and hard courts, with Tsitsipas a straight-sets winner in Halle (2018) and Marseille (2021).

The 28-year-old Pouille, a former World No. 10, is competing in his fourth tour-level event of the year. After playing in the Australian Open, he made two home-nation appearances in Montpellier and Marseille, reaching the quarter-finals in the latter before bowing out to eventual champion Andrey Rublev in three sets. The wild card World No. 174 contested two ATP Challenger Tour events in April, reaching the quarter-finals at the Open Comunidad de Madrid.

Tsitsipas was a 2019 finalist in Madrid ATP Masters 1000, beating Nadal in the semis but losing to Novak Djokovic in the final. If recent form holds, he’ll have a good chance of repeating or bettering that result this week. 

“I’ve had some good results on clay. I want to keep rolling the way I’ve been rolling the last couple of weeks,” he said. “My ambitions are very high and I want to give it another go this week.”

With fond memories of the Madrid tournament and the city itself, the Greek said winning the title in the Spanish capital is high on his list of career goals.

“Generally I think the city of Madrid has something very special about it,” he added. “Every time I come to Spain I really like the ambiance and the way people think and behave.”

Best Of The Rest

A busy day in Madrid will see seeded players competing throughout the grounds. Spanish 17th seed Roberto Bautista Agut will open play on Arantxa Sanchez Stadium against Daniel Evans, with 13th seed Diego Schwartzman taking on Grigor Dimitrov later in the day. Jannik Sinner, the Italian 10th seed, will close play on the Madrid second stadium against Alex de Minaur.

On Stadium 3, fifth seed Casper Ruud starts the day against qualifier Dusan Lajovic before 12th seed Hubert Hurkacz meets Monte Carlo finalist and home favourite Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

In doubles action, fourth-seeded Frenchmen Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut will battle Tomislav Brkic and Nikola Cacic for a quarter-final spot, while Miami champions Hubert Hurkacz and John Isner take on Karen Khachanov and Andrey Rublev.

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Kecmanovic Thriving With Nalbandian In Support

  • Posted: May 03, 2022

Kecmanovic Thriving With Nalbandian In Support

Serbian will face Nadal in the second round in Madrid

When you think about the standout performers on the ATP Tour this season, Spaniards Carlos Alcaraz and Rafael Nadal quickly spring to mind.

However, If you dig a little bit deeper, you’ll quickly come across Miomir Kecmanovic. The Serbian began the year as the World No. 69 but is competing at the Mutua Madrid Open at a career-high No. 32 following his best-ever start to a season.

The 22-year-old soared to the quarter-finals at ATP Masters 1000 events in Indian Wells and Miami in March and is currently 23-9 on the year following his opening-round win against Alexander Bublik in Madrid.

Having earned only 14 tour-level wins in 2021, Kecmanovic feels a large factor behind his remarkable improvement has been the role of coach and former World No. 3 David Nalbandian, with the pair now flourishing after teaming last February.

“He has helped me out a lot. He has changed a lot of things,” Kecmanovic told “We have worked on a lot of stuff that I didn’t notice before. The way I try to construct the points, the way I think during the points and also my shot-making. He has had a major impact in all areas really.

“Our relationship has been growing over time and we are really close now. We have an amazing time together and I am so happy he is able to be here. He is a good person to look up to. To have someone who was so successful in your corner is really cool. Especially in the tough moments that you see him cheering for you, he brings out the best in me.”

Nalbandian overcame Roger Federer to triumph in Madrid in 2007 when the Masters 1000 was played on hard. If his charge is to follow him in his footsteps this week at the clay-court event, he will have to defeat five-time champ Nadal in the second round.

Ahead of the clash, Kecamanovic revealed that he is feeling confident in his game and will look to take his recent big-match experience into his meeting against the World No. 4.

“You get a lot of confidence from those runs in America. I earned good wins against [Matteo] Berrettini, Felix [Auger-Aliassime] and [Taylor] Fritz,” Kecmanovic said. “They were all playing amazing and I also had an incredible match against Alcaraz in Miami. They give you a lot of confidence moving forward to matches such as Rafa tomorrow.

“The conditions here in Madrid are a lot faster than ‘normal’ clay, but I feel I should play better, looking at my previous results this season. I started pretty well today and hopefully I can keep it going.

Kecmanovic first rose into the spotlight in 2019, when he advanced to his first Masters 1000 quarter-final at the BNP Paribas Open before he reached the semi-finals at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan.

When discussing his previous success, though, the Serbian quickly stressed that he feels his game is in a much stronger position now.

“I made one quarters a few years ago but I didn’t think it was well-earned like those recent events because I got dropped in at the second-round stage as a lucky loser and had a better draw than you would maybe expect at a Masters,” Kecmanovic admitted. “Now I feel I can really play with these guys.

“I have been playing a lot better in general. Everything that I was struggling with before is all coming together and all paying off. I am playing with a lot more confidence because I am winning a lot more so that makes a huge difference.”

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First-Time Winner Spotlight: Miomir Kecmanovic

Competing alongside Kecmanovic in Madrid is World No. 1 and countryman Novak Djokovic. The 34-year-old, who has won 86 tour-level titles, including a record 37 Masters 1000 crowns, is someone Kecmanovic has looked up to over the past decade.

“He is a big inspiration to a lot of people back home,” Kecmanovic said. “He made tennis popular and a lot of kids started playing because of him. It is amazing to have one of the best ever be from your country.

“I have come to terms that it is going to be very difficult if not impossible to repeat what he has done, so when you let that go, you start to focus on yourself. You do the best you can and go the furthest you can go.”

With Kecmanovic’s attention firmly on his own game, he will now aim to push on from his strong opening to the season and break new ground in the rest of 2022.

“The way things are going I would love to finish the year Top 20,” he revealed. “I don’t really defend many points because last year I didn’t win anything! I am in a great position and I am playing well, so why not?”

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Murray/Venus Edge Tsitsipas Brothers In Madrid Doubles Opener

  • Posted: May 03, 2022

Murray/Venus Edge Tsitsipas Brothers In Madrid Doubles Opener

Norrie/Paul, Auger-Aliassime/Dimitrov also through

Jamie Murray and Michael Venus, teaming for the second straight ATP Tour event, won a Match Tie-break to move past brothers Stefanos Tsitsipas and Petros Tsitsipas on Tuesday at the Mutua Madrid Open. 

In a 6-2, 3-6, 10-7 victory, the eighth seeds cruised through the opening set but could not create a break chance in the second. Murray and Venus twice trailed by a mini-break in the Match Tie-break, including at 3/5, but finished well to book their place in the last 16 at the ATP Masters 1000 event.

The Briton and New Zealander also won a Match Tie-break to open their Estoril campaign last week, ultimately advancing to the semi-finals. They will next face Cameron Norrie and Tommy Paul for a Madrid quarter-final place.


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Norrie and Paul also advanced in an extra frame on Tuesday, coming from behind to defeat Marcelo Melo and Alexander Zverev, 3-6, 6-3, 10-7.

Felix Auger-Aliassime and Grigor Dimitrov managed to seal their victory in straight sets, handling Argentines Maximo Gonzalez and Diego Schwartzman, 6-3, 7-6(8). After leading by a set and a double break at 4-1 in the second, the Canadian-Bulgarian duo was pushed to a tie-break and ultimately clinched the win on its sixth match point.

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Monfils: 'Different Is Not Forbidden'

  • Posted: May 03, 2022

Monfils: ‘Different Is Not Forbidden’

Learn more about the Frenchman’s journey and mindset

During Roland Garros in 1998, a nearly five-minute-long profile aired on French television featuring a boy with glasses, braces and big dreams. In the intro to the piece, the host referred to the boy as a “future Yannick Noah”.

That boy was Gael Monfils.

“C’est un rêve d’être dans les dix premiers mondiaux,” Monfils said, flashing the big smile that millions have come to know over the years.

“It’s a dream to be in the Top 10 of the world.”

The Frenchman has done that and plenty more. Having reached a career-high No. 6 in the ATP Rankings, won more than 500 tour-level matches and earned more than $20 million in prize money, it is safe to say Monfils has accomplished his dreams. Twenty-four years later, he still points to that interview.

“It was a big dream,” Monfils told “I still live my dreams 100 per cent. I’m living in my dream. I am blessed, I am lucky. People don’t see how much work I put into this, how many sacrifices I’ve made and how many sacrifices my parents made for me.”

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Since he was a junior, Monfils has been considered one of the most gifted players in tennis. He is as athletic as anyone on Tour and when at his best, the Frenchman’s ball-striking is jaw-dropping. Richard Warmoes, the former Monfils coach who was featured in the 1998 profile, saw plenty in his player’s physical and mental potential as well as his ability to defend and accelerate through the ball.

“I felt he was capable of achieving great things and one day winning a Grand Slam such as Roland Garros,” Warmoes said.

But Monfils has faced stiff competition in the nearly two decades he has spent on Tour. The Paris native owns an 8-45 record against the ‘Big Four’ of Novak Djokovic (0-17), Roger Federer (4-10), Rafael Nadal (2-14) and Andy Murray (2-4).

The Frenchman has understood what he was up against since he was a boy. Warmoes, who worked with Monfils from age six to 13, vividly recalls travelling with his charge to Les Petits As, an international junior tournament that has seen some of the world’s best players make their mark.

“Gael said to me when he saw a young player come out of the [court] — it was Rafael Nadal — ‘You see Richard, everyone only talks about Richard Gasquet, but Rafael will be much stronger than Richard and he scares me because I don’t see how to beat him,’” Warmoes recalled. “The next day we trained on half the [court] next to Jamie and Andy Murray. Gael then said to me, ‘You see Richard, everyone is talking about Jamie, but his little brother Andy will be much stronger and will become a very great player’.

“Everything was said. In two days Gael had just told me about two players who for him were going to be very very strong, and who wrote the history of tennis by being part of the famous ‘Big Four’.”

Unfortunately for Monfils, he has often experienced that firsthand. On Tuesday at the Mutua Madrid Open, he will get an 18th crack at earning his first win against Djokovic. But like he was as a young boy, Monfils remains self-aware.

“The guy is better than me, that is it,” Monfils said of Djokovic on Monday. “Every match is an opportunity to win, I try to take some lessons. He can beat me tomorrow and maybe at Rome and then Roland Garros and then, maybe, I can beat him once.”

Monfils will try his best and accept the result. The 35-year-old works hard, competes and enjoys the process.

“For me, having fun and enjoying what I’m doing is key. I’m very blessed to do a sport as my job. I maybe get my pleasure in a different way than others and most people. [But] I always say, different is not forbidden,” Monfils said. “I have my fun, I like it. For me, it’s a lucky time. It’s quite unbelievable what we’re doing. I try just to enjoy as much as I can. I know this is not forever.

“Honestly I just be me and compete. At the same time if I can have my fun, why not?”


When you watch a match featuring Monfils, you will probably see something that you will not in almost any other match. That could be a leaping overhead smash, a tweener or some sort of mid-air acrobatics that nobody else on Tour is capable.

“Why I’m doing some different shots, it’s because I feel like I can do it. Actually at the beginning it was for my own satisfaction,” Monfils said. “When [NBA star] LeBron [James] gets an open layup, would you do a layup or would you dunk it? Most people, they sometimes acknowledge my athleticism and when I do something they’re like, ‘Oh, it’s a show.’ For me, I can do it and I want to do it. It’s the same.

“When [basketball players] do an alley-oop, it’s because they can do it. If I can jump, if I can do some stuff, I will do it.”

To Monfils, that is not messing around. In fact, he says it takes far more concentration to hit a trickshot. He only goes for them because he knows he can make them and by doing so, win the point. Is there more risk? Of course. But the Frenchman loves making one of those shots and seeing the raw emotion on faces in the crowd. He feels a great connection with fans.

“The public feels his sensitivity,” Warmoes said. “And Gaël likes to share his emotions.”

<a href=''>Gael Monfils</a> celebrates his upset win over <a href=''>Daniil Medvedev</a>.

It is important to remember that Monfils is not just a showman, but one of the best players of his generation. Only one other Frenchman, Richard Gasquet, has earned more tour-level wins since records have been kept. Monfils has spent less than four months outside the world’s Top 100 since first breaking into the elite group 17 years ago as an 18-year-old.

“They see you and think that, ‘You’re not doing this, you’re not doing that.’ But actually, you’re doing much better than those people say,” Monfils said. “The best of our sport, when we’re Top 100, to be ranked No. 100… there are only 99 people in front of you in the world. People sometimes forget how many people play tennis. We are blessed to have a big sport. Everybody is playing tennis, everybody is wishing to be there.

“When you see No. 99 in the world, pay big respect to this guy. Even Top 20 [players], sometimes they’re talking [about them]. We’re doing what we do and [it is] always [about] the ‘If’… I always say, if I could win 20 Slams, no worries, I would have won 20 Slams.”

None of this means that Monfils is not trying his best every day in pursuit of tennis’ pinnacle. “I’m working quite hard. I never hide. It’s [happened] less and less, but people used to say [what] I could have done. I’d say, ‘Please, come with me on the court.’ I’m quite open,” Monfils said.

What the 11-time ATP Tour titlist feels people miss is that no matter how hard he works, it does not guarantee he will win every match. But whether it is Tuesday against Djokovic in Madrid or any opponent in the coming weeks and months, that does not mean he will not try. What is certain, though, is that the Frenchman will not take any of this experience for granted. This is his dream turned reality.

“I’m blessed and I’m happy. My dream was always to be on the top of my game. I made it. I think I’m still making it and if with my new dreams, maybe before the end of my career, why not put my name on the top of the top, to have a Slam?” Monfils said. “I’m going to play for that and that’s it.

“But the big picture is that my dream was to be here today.”

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First-Time Winner Spotlight: Sebastian Baez

  • Posted: May 03, 2022

First-Time Winner Spotlight: Sebastian Baez

Argentine breaks into top 40 in ATP Rankings for the first time

Sebastian Baez has been steadily rising up the ATP Rankings over the past year, and on Sunday he reached a new career milestone by winning his first ATP Tour title at the Millennium Estoril Open.

The 21-year-old Argentine first broke into the Top 100 last November, when he also competed in the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals, and he is now a member of the top 40 following his victory over Frances Tiafoe in the Estoril final. A six-time champion on the ATP Challenger Tour in 2021, Baez made his tour-level breakthrough in his second final. He also reached the title match in Santiago in February. sat down with the Buenos Aires native after his run in Estoril to find out more about his life on Tour, on and off the court.

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Baez Wins First ATP Tour Title In Estoril

What does it mean to win your first ATP Tour title? It’s been an amazing year. After all the success on the ATP Challenger Tour last year, you reached your first ATP Tour final this year, and gradually progressed to your first trophy.
It’s been a good year. The last year was so nice, too, for the Challengers, for the finals, for the Next Gen [Finals]. A lot of things… the main draw this year in Australia. Every time I try to be better, to go step by step. I hope this is the start of something nice.

At this time last year, you were outside the top 200. Now you are closing in on the top 40 as an ATP Tour titlist. How happy are you with your progress over the past 12 months to reach this point?
I’m so happy, so proud of myself. I’m also proud of my team and my coach because we worked a lot last year and since we met for the very first time. We had a different connection, the most special I’ve ever had. It means a lot to me. This trophy is a nice compensation for all the job and a great motivation to go for more.

You have had a good start to the season after competing at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals in November. How important was that event for your development?
That tournament was very important to me because I began to play at a high level with players like Alcaraz and the best teenage tennis players in the world. That meant another compensation after a tough year. I worked a lot to be there. I played Challengers, the matches were very difficult. The rankings were frozen and breaking into the Top 100 was very hard. So Milan was a good start and something different for me.

You have a strong relationship with your coach Sebastian Gutierrez. Can you talk a little bit about your journey and development with him, having joined forces at the Argentine Tennis Association’s Department of Development?
We started working in 2015 in an ITF Futures in Brazil. It was the first time we met, and from then until now, it’s been a great relationship, a great connection, something different on Tour. I think in tennis it’s difficult to find a good person and a great professional as a coach. So I am very proud to have hired him and to have him in my life. I hope to have more time with him and, why not, finish my career with him.

Could you take a moment to acknowledge some of the key figures in your life and career who have helped you to reach this milestone?
My family, my team, my friends, many people… it’s for all of them. It is impossible to be a great player without every person who has helped you along the way. You have to be supported by your family, your team, your people. I am proud to have the best people by my side.

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How would you describe yourself off the court? Does your on-court ‘calm’ extend off the tennis court as well? 
It’s impossible to be a good player if you are not a good person. I understand it that way because my coach believes it, and I have learned it from him. That is the path I decided to take.

What do you consider to be your biggest passion outside of tennis? Can you tell us a little bit about that interest?
It’s hard to say because I like music, watching movies, playing video games… but I love playing tennis, travelling the world, and spending time with my people. It’s hard to decide just one thing. But the best thing for me is to try to enjoy the small details.

This is a milestone moment in your career. How will you celebrate this victory?
We are thinking. I must think about it with my team, but I hope we celebrate tonight. This is the plan.

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Day 3 Preview: Djokovic, Alcaraz Open Madrid Campaigns

  • Posted: May 03, 2022

Day 3 Preview: Djokovic, Alcaraz Open Madrid Campaigns

14th seed Shapovalov faces wild card Murray

Tuesday’s play at the Mutua Madrid Open includes the conclusion of the opening round and the start of the second round in the men’s singles draw. Top seed Novak Djokovic faces Gael Monfils in one of the highlights on Manolo Santana Stadium, with Carlos Alcaraz closing play on centre court against Nikoloz Basilashvili.

Sixth seed Andrey Rublev takes on British wild card Jack Draper earlier in the day in the third men’s match on the show court, while Andy Murray and Denis Shapovalov headline the men’s action on Aranxta Sanchez Stadium.

View Singles Draw | View Doubles Draw | View Schedule

[1] Novak Djokovic (SER) vs. Gael Monfils (FRA)

Monfils has never beaten Djokovic in 17 previous ATP Head2Head meetings. But with Djokovic admittedly not at top form, this could be the Frenchman’s best chance to get his first victory against the Serb.

“I’m still finding the form. I’m not playing at the desired level,” Djokovic said ahead of the Madrid ATP Masters 1000 event. “But I am getting there. It’s a process and I have to be patient and believe that I am on the right track, which I feel I am.”

Monfils is also seeking a return to form. After reaching the Australian Open quarter-finals at the start of the season, he has played only three events since. He withdrew from Monte Carlo with a foot injury, and won his first clay match of the season on Monday against Spanish qualifier Carlos Gimeno Valero.

“I am getting my rhythm back as well and it is funny because he is too, but has more matches on clay than me,” Monfils said. “I will try and make good decisions on the court, to try and beat him.”

[7] Carlos Alcaraz (ESP) vs. Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO)

Barcelona champion Alcaraz begins his quest for a home-nation double as he returns to the Spanish clay for the second straight event. Now at a career-high of World No. 9, the 18-year-old will seek a repeat performance from his 2021 Roland Garros meeting with Nikoloz Basilashvili, when he advanced in straight sets.

Basilashvili, who entered Madrid at No. 27 in the ATP Rankings, reached the Doha final in February but has not been able to string together consecutive tour-level victories since. After a busy April in which he competed in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Munich, the Georgian is competing for the fourth straight week on the ATP Tour.

Alcaraz earned his first career ATP Masters 1000 win in Madrid last season and recalls coming to the event as a child before competing in an under-12 event at the tournament site.

“It would be a special trophy here. It’s a special tournament, home crowd,” said Alcaraz, a native of Murcia. “We travel around the world during the whole year and playing in Madrid, playing at home is really amazing. The fans here in Spain enjoying watching us play is really important for us.”

[14] Denis Shapovalov vs. [WC] Andy Murray

Shapovalov scored a gutsy win over Ugo Humbert in his first clay match of the 2022 season, saving nine break points in the second set to advance on Monday, including four as he served out the match. The 23-year-old won his only previous ATP Head2Head meeting against Murray in straight sets one year ago in the Wimbledon third round.

Murray was not planning to play on the clay this season, but accepted a Madrid wild card after the hard-court ATP Challenger Tour events on his calendar were cancelled. On Monday, he earned his first clay win since 2017 by beating Dominic Thiem, 6-3, 6-4.

“I enjoyed it. I prepared really hard before coming here,” said Murray. “My body felt really good in the last few weeks and tonight I felt like I moved well and I played a really good match.”

Murray, who is now 8-1 in opening-round matches on the season, will seek to get beyond the second round for the first time since his run to the Sydney final in January.

Best Of The Rest

Rublev and Draper will meet for the first time when they open play on Manolo Santana Stadium. Rublev enters fresh off beating hometown hero Djokovic for the Belgrade title, while Draper earned his way into the second round with an assured win over Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego in his first tour-level event since Miami.

The action on Arantxa Sanchez Stadium includes three Spaniards: Albert Ramos-Vinolas opens play against Marin Cilic before 17th seed Roberto Bautista Agut takes on Jenson Brooksby and 16th seed Pablo Carreno Busta faces Munich finalist Botic van de Zandschulp.

Three intriguing doubles matches are set for Court 5, starting with eighth seeds Jamie Murray and Michael Venus taking on brothers Stefanos Tsitsipas and Petros Tsitsipas. Cameron Norrie and Tommy Paul will face Marcelo Melo and Alexander Zverev before Miami champions Hubert Hurkacz and John Isner take on Karen Khachanov and Rublev for a quarter-final spot.

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