Tennis Preview: Madrid Open

Rafa Nadal is looking untouchable on clay again as he goes in search of his third consecutive title in Madrid, having claimed the Monte Carlo and Barcelona Opens in recent weeks.

Even with world number one Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic – both previous winners in Madrid – in the very strong field which contains 19 of the top 20 players in the world, nobody is thinking about anyone other than Nadal for the title.

And in Madrid Nadal knows he will face the pressure of public expectation from a home crowd backing him all the way.

“Of course playing at home is always very special and Madrid is one of those cities where I get more support than most, and it helps me to overcome difficult matches,” he admitted.

“This tournament will be difficult, the draw is not easy but the expectations are high.”

Whilst the expectations on Nadal are high the same cannot be said for either Murray or Djokovic, who are still looking for real form in 2017 ahead of the French Open which starts at the end of this month.

“These last few days in practice have been very positive in comparison to pre-Monte Carlo [last month] where I was struggling in practice,” he said.

“I was getting killed by everyone before there; that hasn’t been the case here and I do feel like I’m in a good place.

“Maybe it doesn’t happen this week but I’m pretty sure that in the next six to eight weeks I’ll play some good tennis.

“I do think clay is a good surface for me now. I just need to make sure I approach it the right way, have the right mind set and just because the last couple of years went well, not to take anything for granted and just expect to play well.

“If I do all the right things in the build-up: if I practice properly, train hard and I respect all of my opponents, then I think good things can happen. I can never say for sure but we’ll find out soon enough.”

Djokovic comes into the tournament after confirming the departure of his backroom staff.

Boris Becker split with the Serb in November and now coach Marian Vajda, fitness coach Gebhard Phil Gritsch and physiotherapist Miljan Amanovic had “mutually agreed” to part ways.

Djokovic though, is seeing everything as a positive as he looks to move back to world number one, having lost that to Murray late last year.

“Life always throws new challenges at you. Instead of avoiding them and ducking them, I’m trying to confront them and trying to embrace them. In the process, I’m trying to get better as a person and as a tennis player,” Djokovic said.

“How long this process is going to last before I get to the winning terms again, I don’t know. I’m just hoping I will get there again. That’s all I can say.”

With everything going on around Murray and Djokovic, it is hardly a surprise to see the bookmakers heavily backing Nadal to win in Madrid.

The Spaniard is 5/4 to win with WilliamHill with Djokovic 9/2 and Murray 11/2 and it is 11/1 bar them for the rest of the field.

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