All 16 of the remaining men in the Mutua Madrid Open singles draw will compete on a full-tilt Thursday at the Caja Magica, led by the marquee matchup between top seed Novak Djokovic and wild card Andy Murray, which will open play in Manolo Santana Stadium.
Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz — who’ll be playing on his 19th birthday — will represent the Spanish interest on centre court, while Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas lead the bill in Arantxa Sanchez Stadium.
The top three doubles seeds will also bid for quarter-final places at the ATP Masters 1000 event.
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 Novak Djokovic (SER) vs. [WC] Andy Murray (GBR)
Djokovic and Murray opened their ATP Head2Head account 16 years ago in Madrid, with the Serbian taking a three-set win when the event was played on indoor hard courts. On Thursday, they will again meet in the Spanish capital in their first matchup since the 2017 Doha final, also a three-set win for Djokovic.
Each of their past seven meetings have come in finals, including at the 2016 ATP Finals, where Murray won his 24th straight match in a winner-take-all meeting for year-end World No. 1. They’ve also met in the final of all four Grand Slams and have faced off at all nine ATP Masters 1000 events in their 36-match history.
Both men have shown form worthy of a final run to reach the last 16 in Madrid. Murray dismissed Dominic Thiem and 14th seed Denis Shapovalov, while Djokovic produced what he called his “best performance of the year” to defeat Gael Monfils.
Murray, the World No. 78, holds an 8-1 record in first-round matches this season and has notched consecutive wins for the first time since he reached the Sydney title match in January. He’s now earned the opportunity to test his game against the World No. 1.
“In theory I should have no chance in the match. He’s obviously No. 1 in the world [and] I’m playing with a metal hip, so I shouldn’t have a chance in the match,” Murray said after reaching the third round. “It’s a great opportunity for me to see where my game’s at and to play against him again.
“We’ve had so many great battles over the years in some of the biggest tournaments in the world. We played in the final I think of all four Grand Slams, we played here in the final, and I haven’t had that opportunity to play against him for a long time. Didn’t know if I ever would get that chance, so I’ll enjoy it, I’ll have a fantastic attitude in the match, give it my best and see where I’m at.”
Djokovic, who owns a 25-11 edge in his rivalry with the Briton, was full of praise for his fellow 34-year-old ahead of their meeting.
“He’s moving well, playing better and better. It’s really fantastic to see, because he’s an important player for our game. He’s made his mark in the history of our sport by winning multiple Slams and gold medals and [reaching] No. 1 of the world. He’s one of the most important names that we have,” the Serbian said said.
“To have him still compete is great, and to have him even play at [a] high level as the time goes by is impressive, considering the surgery and what he has been through in the past few years. His resilience and fighting spirit is really inspiring.”
 Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs. [Q] David Goffin (BEL)
Nadal looked like he never left in his return from a six-week injury layoff on Wednesday as he battled past the in-form Miomir Kecmanovic in straight sets. But the Spaniard, who’s seeking a sixth Madrid title, is not getting ahead of himself as he works his way back from a fractured rib.
“I leave the match very, very happy,” Nadal said in his post-match press conference. “You have to be sincere with yourself whenever you can. You have to be truthful to yourself. My preparation has not existed. You cannot expect great things at the beginning, because before coming here, first day training was last Thursday. I have trained very, very little.
“Today I was able to play one hour [and] 55 minutes against an opponent that was playing really well in these past months, so [it is] a really good victory,” he added. “A lot of value to it. One hour [and] 55 minutes on court helps me a lot to reach my final goal, which is to recover my previous health and previous fitness. I’m very excited about it.”
Goffin has enjoyed a strong clay season to date, reaching the Marrakech final and the last 16 Monte Carlo. He has now carried that form into Madrid, where he’s notched four straight-sets wins, including two in qualifying. The Belgian got past Aslan Karatsev and Botic van de Zandschulp in the main draw to book a seventh ATP Head2Head matchup against Nadal.
Nadal leads the series 4-2, winning all four matches on clay but losing both hard-court contests, including their most recent meeting in the 2020 ATP Cup quarter-finals.
 Carlos Alcaraz (ESP) vs.  Cameron Norrie (GBR)
Playing on his 19th birthday, home favourite Alcaraz will look to make it 3-0 in his ATP Head2Head against Norrie in this evening matchup, following straight-sets wins at the 2021 US Open and 2022 Indian Wells. He is seeking his fourth ATP Tour title of the season and, on the heels of his Barcelona title run, can complete a Spanish double with four more wins in Madrid.
Alcaraz eased into the tournament with a victory against Nikoloz Basilashvili in which he stormed back from behind in both sets of a 6-3, 7-5 victory. One year after losing to Nadal in the second round of his Madrid debut, the Murcia native has returned as an ATP Masters 1000 champion thanks to his stellar performance earlier this season in Miami.
“I think I’m more mature now,” he said, looking back to his last appearance in the Spanish capital. “One year is not too much time to get mature but I think I’m a different player, different person now. I manage the nerves better than before and I think now I’m ready to play these kinds of matches in these kind of stadiums in front of a lot of people. I’m feeling comfortable in these types [of matches].”
Norrie was a quarter-finalist in Barcelona has grinded his way into the Madrid third round with hard-fought wins over Soonwoo Kwon and John Isner. The ninth seed is seeking his sixth quarter-final in his last eight events, highlighted by his Delray Beach title.
Best Of The Rest
Four ATP Tour matches feature on Court Arantxa Sanchez on Thursday. Sixth seed Andrey Rublev opens against Daniel Evans, followed by 12th seed Hubert Hurkacz taking on qualifier Dusan Lajovic. Another qualifier, #NextGenATP Italian Lorenzo Musetti, will attempt to upset second seed Alexander Zverev before fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas battles the surging Grigor Dimitrov.
A meeting of Top 10 seeds headlines the action on Court 3, with Felix Auger-Aliassime and Jannik Sinner set to square off for the first time. The top-seeded doubles duo of Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury will open their Madrid campaign following that match, coming up against Germany’s Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies.
Doubles second seeds Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos will open play on Court 3 against Spanish wild cards Pablo Carreno Busta and Pedro Martinez, followed by third-seeded Croatians Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic taking on Simone Bolelli and Ivan Dodig.