Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon previews the 2018 Mutua Madrid Open.

Welcome to Spain for this year’s edition of the Mutua Madrid Open, this pretty major event that every year seems to be a little forgotten for reasons unclear to us.

As a combined event for the ATP World Tour and WTA Tennis, this is indeed a really big deal. Sure, it might not have the picturesque decor of the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, nor is it in Rome like next week’s event, and neither does it have the #StampOfApproval of the USA like Indian Wells and Miami. But overlook the Mutua Madrid Open at your own peril because no one on either tours is looking past it—well Roger Federer is, but he’s different. Madrid remains the second-to-last tune-up of any importance before the French Open.

As always for these fairly important events, let’s see if we can’t predict how these main draws might unfold. It’s just important to remember not to bet the house money on these predictions: our track record is, erm, middling.


Women’s draw

The women’s draw has already seen a fair number of surprises, including Jelena Ostapenko’s loss in the first round. Here, we’ll remind everyone of our middling record at this exercise, as mentioned just above, and cop to having a first draft of these predictions with Ostapenko making her way fairly far. Oops.

Simona Halep deservedly stands as the presumptive favourite in the women’s draw, but her section is full of potential pitfalls and tricky matchups. In the second section, we have Garbine Muguruza winning more than her fair share of matches, as her well-rounded game remains best on this surface.

In our mind, the lower half of the draw might be a little less competitive than the top but of course, Maria Sharapova looms larger than just about anyone else. Though she is unseeded, we should definitely see her as a force to be reckoned with: don’t be surprised if she manages to spoil a few plans along the way.

Quarterfinals: Karolina Pliskova over Simona Halep; Garbine Muguruza over Petra Kvitova; Caroline Garcia over Elina Svitolina; Caroline Wozniacki over Maria Sharapova

Semifinals: Garbine Muguruza over Karolina Pliskova; Caroline Wozniacki over Caroline Garcia

Final: Garbine Muguruza over Caroline Wozniacki


Men’s draw

It seems silly and impossible to say of a man who’s 31 years old and who turned pro in 2001, but has Rafael Nadal ever been this overwhelming of a favourite on the clay court season as he is right now in 2018? If he’s to hoist this Madrid trophy once more, he’ll have to work a bit for it because… Who are we kidding? Nadal all the way.

Elsewhere, this draw is well balanced: just because Nadal is up there at the top and (very) likely to win doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the journey to get there, right? Just because Nadal is up there doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy seeing Juan Martin del Potro belting a few forehand missiles before bowing down before the King of Clay in the quarterfinals, right?

We see Alexander Zverev and Novak Djokovic emerging from their respective section in the bottom half, but they’ll both have to work for it. The Serb’s first round match against Kei Nishikori, notably, could end his run in Madrid before it ever gets a chance to start.

Quarterfinals: Rafael Nadal over Pablo Carreno Busta; Juan Martin Del Potro over Roberto Bautista Agut; Novak Djokovic over Milos Raonic; Alexander Zverev over Jack Sock

Semifinals: Rafael Nadal over Juan Martin Del Potro; Alexander Zverev over Novak Djokovic

Final: Rafael Nadal over Alexander Zverev

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG


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