Madrid Open 2019: Rafael Nadal vs Felix Auger-Aliassime, match preview and prediction
The star players at the on-gong Madrid Masters are shining brightly, having won comfortably in their opening round matches. All the three veterans who played yesterday (Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and David Ferrer) showed the crowd what they were made of, and now it's time for another legend to prove his point in Madrid today.
Rafael Nadal has not had an ideal start to the claycourt season as he lost in the semi-finals of both Monte Carlo and Barcelona, to eventual champions Fabio Fognini and Dominic Thiem respectively. He will be eager to win his first trophy of the year at the Madrid Open, a place where he has triumphed five times in the past.
Nadal didn't look fully match-fit in either Monte Carlo or Barcelona, and even in the press conference at Madrid yesterday he informed the reporters that he was suffering from a stomach virus and might not be 100%. That is not good news as he heads into the second round match against the young Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime.
Auger-Aliassime on his part got a wildcard entry into the Madrid Open after his fantastic performances earlier this year. But he hasn't been able to replicate those performances on clay as he lost early in both Monte Carlo and Barcelona, to Alexander Zverev and Kei Nishikori respectively.
The Canadian has been going for a little too much on his shots, which is not ideal for clay. His impatience has led to errors from both wings, and that is suicide on the slow surface.
Even a 90% fit Nadal makes you pay for any lapse in concentration on clay, and it is important for Auger-Aliassime to try and stay in longer rallies without losing his cool.
It will be interesting to see how Auger-Aliassime reacts to the challenges posed by Nadal. This is their first ever meeting, and if the teenager can push Nadal to his limits and steal a set from the King of Clay, the crowd will remember him for a very long time.
Auger-Aliassime has got the all-round game to give a slightly sub-par Nadal a run for his money. The Canadian has to play his natural game and wait for the Spaniard to lose his touch and make some errors, which could give him some breathing space.
If Auger-Aliassime takes the match point by point and game by game, he might just understand how to play the big guys in the future. And Nadal on his part will be aware of the threat that the Canadian poses, so we can expect him to remain focused throughout.
Match prediction: Rafael Nadal to win in three sets.