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 2021 Mutua Madrid Open.
Welcome to Madrid for the 2021 Mutua Madrid Open, where…
Wait, this can’t be right? We’re being told that this year’s edition is already underway? We’re being told that this joint event, this Masters 1000 and Premiere tournament, is this year starting on April 29 for the WTA and on May 2 for the ATP World Tour? We’re being told that this event that starts three days later on the men’s side finishes on the same day for both tours?
What a weird event. Even by the historical standards that this tournament has accustomed us to, this might be the weirdest quirk of all. Weirder than when it switched from hard courts to clay courts. Weirder than the blue clay of 2012. Weirder than when the event organizers picked female models to act as ball boys and girls in 2004.
Just, like, really weird. If anyone understands the logic, by all means please let us know below.
That said, let’s do what we always do for these huge events and give our draw preview, predictions and analyses. As always, please don’t wager on these; most of the times, we’re way wrong.
Look, we can pretend like there might be some mystery here, but it’s silly and dumb. Rafael Nadal is the No. 1 seed and it should be Alexander Zverev who’s thrown to the wolves in the quarterfinals. Sure, there’s potential for a surprise, just like there is when Nadal likely faces Jannik Sinner in the third round, but let’s not overthink this. Facing the Spaniard in the semifinal should be Russian Andrey Rublev, who continues his ascent atop the leaderboard and probably deserves better than having to face Nadal on clay once more.
Looking at the lower half of the men’s draw, you could get an impression of déjà vu and you wouldn’t be wrong: if our predictions hold true, Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas will get the opportunity to avenge his loss in the Barcelona Open final a few days ago against Nadal. If it’s anything close to that match, which stands as probably the best match of this young season on the men’s side, then we’ll be happy.
Quarterfinals: Rafael Nadal over Alexander Zverev; Andrey Rublev over Grigor Dimitrov; Stefanos Tsitsipas over Aslan Karatsev; Pablo Carreno Busta over Daniil Medvedev
Semifinals: Rafael Nadal over Andrey Rublev; Stefanos Tsitsipas over Pablo Carreno Busta
Final: Rafael Nadal over Stefanos Tsitsipas
Oh look, how lucky of us to get to jump in almost midway through the event on the women’s side.
Up top, everything revolves around Ashleigh Barty, who’s somehow still ranked No. 1 and who’s left little doubt as to who is the current best player in women’s tennis. (Well, it’s between her and another certain someone, but just that it’s a debate is a testament to the Australian’s abilities and results.)
Meanwhile, could this Mutua Madrid Open be the return in force of Sloane Stephens? It’s maybe unlikely, but that just means the taste of victory will be that much sweeter if it does happen.
The third section of the draw will be Simona Halep’s to lose, but it’s one that she’ll still need to work for if she wants to emerge unscathed. A potential quarterfinal against Aryna Sabalenka likely looms and that has us just beaming with anticipation. As for the final section of the draw, there’s Naomi Osaka and then there’s everyone else.
Quarterfinals: Ashleigh Barty over Petra Kvitova; Sloane Stephens over Johanna Konta; Simona Halep over Aryna Sabalenka; Naomi Osaka over Karolina Pliskova
Semifinals: Ashleigh Barty over Sloane Stephens; Naomi Osaka over Simona Halep
Final: Naomi Osaka over Ashleigh Barty
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG