Madrid Open 2019 Review: Djokovic triumphs, Nadal slips further, Federer makes comeback
In the Spanish capital at the just concluded Madrid Open, we witnessed a plethora of intriguing stories unfold all week. The biggest headline surrounding the tournament even before it began was the comeback of Roger Federer on clay, as the Madrid Open marked the return of the Swiss maestro to the red dirt after three long years.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion didn’t disappoint as he looked serene in his comeback match on clay with a straight sets win over Richard Gasquet. With nerves of steel, he recorded a resilient win over another Frenchman Gael Monfills before finally succumbing in a roller-coaster, blockbuster battle against the rampant Austrian Dominic Thiem in three grueling sets.
But the most remarkable story of the Madrid Open has to be that of Novak Djokovic’s incredible triumph to win his 3rd Madrid Open title. He defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 6-4 in the final to claim his first title on clay since his moment of glory at Roland Garros way back in 2016.
With his victory in Madrid, the Serb and the World No. 1 brought home a record-equaling 33rd Masters 1000 title. He now has same number of Masters 1000 titles as his rival Rafael Nadal.
Djokovic's timely resurgence in the Spanish capital following his slump since his triumph at Melbourne earlier this year augurs well for him. He appears to have got his mojo back just in time as he chases the second ‘Nole Slam’ of his illustrious career at the French Open.
Anyone who has followed the Serb throughout his career would know that the most essential ingredient for his success is the momentum that he carries, not only from one match to another but also from one tournament to another. Once he builds up a head of steam he becomes pretty unstoppable, no matter who is on the other side of the net.
Meanwhile, a third tournament on clay and a third straight semi-final loss mean there are plenty of problems for the ‘King of Clay’ Rafael Nadal. Following his triplet of losses on clay so far this year, the Spaniard will is desperate for some kind of relief as we approach the back-end of the clay-court swing.
At the La Caja Magica, in his home country, Nadal was stunned by Greek sensation Stefanos Tsitsipas 4-6, 6-2, 3-6 in their semi-final clash. Each defeat that Nadal suffers on clay, coupled with his injury and health concerns, will put serious question marks over his form and tactics heading into Roland Garros.
The Spaniard is yet to win a title this year, making this the first instance since 2004 where he has entered May without having lifted a trophy.
Tsitsipas on the other hand continued his rich vein of form. He showed great skills, courage, resilience and a massive sense of self-belief all week at Madrid en route the final. He ended up losing to Djokovic 3-6, 4-6, his second loss in as many appearances in the finals of Masters 1000 events.
World No. 3 Alexander Zverev, who started the tournament as the defending champion, can draw some inspiration from his performance in Madrid in spite of falling to Tsitsipas in the quarter-finals. His improved performance at Madrid can be a morale booster for the young German, especially following his lacklusture display so far this year.
The retiring David Ferrer, who displayed some vintage tennis in his memorable victory over compatriot Roberto Bautista Agut, bowed out to Zverev in their Round of 32 clash. Ferrer walked into the sunset after making a lasting impression not only on fellow tennis players but also on all tennis fans from around the globe.
On the women’s side of the draw, Kiki Bertens overcame the other top seeds Petra Kvitova, Sloane Stephens and Simona Halep to emerge victorious at the La Caja Magica. Her victory in the Spanish capital makes her one of the strong contenders for the French Open alongside defending champion Halep and two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova.
With Djokovic back to winning ways at Madrid and with momentum on his side now, will he run away with thumping victories at Rome and Roland Garros? Or will Nadal bounce back from his misery to finally make an impression on this clay season?
And yes, to make things even more interesting, we have Federer in the mix too. He confirmed his availability for the upcoming Masters 1000 event at Rome this week, thus adding another unexpected event to his claycourt schedule.
It will be intriguing to follow the rest of the clay season, to say the least.