Aside from Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer couldn’t have asked for a more challenging return to clay courts than the one he faces in Madrid. He is in the tops half of the draw along with Djokovic, Thiem, Fognini and Monfils. On a hard court in Dubai, I would rate his chances much higher but here on the clay courts of Madrid, I have my doubts he can make the final.
Djokovic, who has had his own problems this year, does not have it easy either. Given that the Serbian is not at peak performance or peak confidence, potential opponents like Dimitrov, Ceccinato, Del Potro and Cilic will all look to pressure and attack Djokovic from the start. Given Djoko’s history, he will begin as 2nd favourite, currently 4.6 on the Betfair Exchange. But his current status does not reflect this and better value might be to lay him on the Exchange where he is currently priced at 4.8.
The top players have never had it this tough, and this is reflected in Nadal’s draw. Where before, we see Nadal as unbeatable on clay, we now see possibility and chances for his opponents, even if those chances are still small. As Thiem has shown a couple of times over the past 12 months, Nadal is not invincible. Shapovalov, Medvedev, Wawrinka and Nishikori will play against Nadal with more hope than before. Nadal admitted his serve was down on power due to injury in his last tournament. If he has not fully recovered, expect some of these big hitters to take advantage. Nadal is favourite here in Madrid of course. He is currently priced at 2.86 on the exchange. Can anyone challenge him this year? The bookies expect Thiem and Djokovic to be his main challengers. Thiem is 3rd favourite on the exchange at odds of 6.8. For me, Thiem, at these odds, is the player to back.