The Madrid Open is one of the most anticipated tournaments on the tennis calendar every year. The 2022 edition is already underway, with men's main draw-action set to begin on Sunday.
Rafael Nadal, a five-time champion at Caja Magica, returns to action after being sidelined due to an injury for over a month.
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic notched up his best result of the year so far by reaching the final of the Serbia Open last week. With some much-needed match play under his belt, he'll be a threat to go all the way in Madrid.
Carlos Alcaraz, who recently made his top-10 debut after winning the Barcelona Open, is another player to watch out for. The teenager has been playing some scintillating tennis this year and is a threat to take home yet another trophy. Andrey Rublev and Casper Ruud have also won titles on the red dirt this year and are contenders at the Madrid Open as well.
On that note, let's take a look at how the draw could unfold over the next few days.
First Quarter: Novak Djokovic on the hunt for a fourth title at the Madrid Open
Seeded players: (1) Novak Djokovic, (5) Casper Ruud, (12) Hubert Hurkacz and (14) Denis Shapovalov
Expected quarterfinal: Novak Djokovic vs Casper Ruud
Dark horse: Alejandro Davidovich Fokina
Analysis: Novak Djokovic started his clay season with a three-set loss at the Monte-Carlo Masters. The Serb made his comeback after a couple of months on the sidelines, but couldn't get past Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in his opener. He rebounded by reaching the final of the Serbia Open the following week.
While Djokovic did reach the title round, he needed three sets to get past all his opponents. He staged a comeback from a set down in each of his matches. A similar script played out in the final, but this time he couldn't get the job done and lost to Andrey Rublev.
Still, Djokovic will be pleased with his improving form ahead of Madrid. He'll kick off his Madrid Open campaign against either Gael Monfils or Carlos Gimeno Valero. He's 17-0 against the Frenchman, and the young Spaniard shouldn't pose a threat either.
Djokovic's third-round opponent could be Denis Shapovalov. The Canadian starts against a qualifier and could face either Dominic Thiem or Andy Murray in the second round. Thiem hasn't won a match since his comeback in March.
Murray's recent results have been disappointing. He hasn't been past the second round of a tournament since reaching the final in Sydney in early January. Neither player should pose muchof a threat to Djokovic.
Fifth seed Casper Ruud also has a seemingly straightforward path to the quarterfinals. He reached the last eight in Barcelona and Munich back-to-back and will be hoping for an improved showing in Madrid.
Roberto Bautista Agut is his likely second-round opponent. Either Alejandro Davidovich Fokina or Hubert Hurkacz could await Ruud in the third round.
Quarterfinal prediction: Novak Djokovic def. Casper Ruud
Second Quarter: Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz on collision course
Seeded players: (3) Rafael Nadal, (7) Carlos Alcaraz, (9) Cameron Norrie and (16) Pablo Carreno Busta
Expected quarterfinal: Rafael Nadal vs Carlos Alcaraz
Dark horse: Miomir Kecmanovic
Analysis: Rafael Nadal is all set to commence his clay season at the Madrid Open. He usually arrives in the Spanish capital having already won a title on clay, but things are different this time around. He also has a tough draw ahead of him as he mounts his comeback.
Nadal is likely to take on Miomir Kecmanovic in the second round. The Serb has reached at least the quarterfinals of his last six tournaments. He's currently in the semifinals of the BMW Open in Munich and could go further.
The Spaniard could face compatriot Pablo Carreno Busta, who reached the final in Barcelona, or Botic van de Zandschulp in the third round. A win would ensure he progresses to the quarterfinals.
Seventh seed Carlos Alcaraz has been in fine form over the last two months. Aside from an early exit in Monte-Carlo, the teenager has been on a roll. He's projected to take on Fabio Fognini and Cameron Norrie in the second and third rounds respectively before a quarter-final meeting with Rafael Nadal.
Nadal defeated Alcaraz in the second round of the Madrid Open last year, but the teenager has improved significantly since then, even giving the 21-time Slam winner a run for his money in Indian Wells. The former World No. 1 is returning from an injury and this could be the perfect opportunity for the teenager to score his first win over his idol.
Quarterfinal prediction: Carlos Alcaraz def. Rafael Nadal
Third Quarter: Stefanos Tsitsipas looks to win a second title on clay this year
Seeded players: (4) Stefanos Tsitsipas, (6) Andrey Rublev, (13) Diego Schwartzman and (17) Roberto Bautista Agut
Expected quarterfinal: Stefanos Tsitsipas vs Andrey Rublev
Dark horse: Jenson Brooksby
Analysis: A former finalist at the Madrid Open, Stefanos Tsitsipas will look to continue his great form in the clay season. He successfully defended his title at the Monte-Carlo Masters and reached the quarterfinals in Barcelona.
He will open his campaign in Madrid against either Karen Khachanov or Lucas Pouille.
Tsitsipas will likely take on Diego Schwartzman in the third round.
Andrey Rublev won the Serbia Open and would be keen to keep the momentum going in Madrid. He will start against either Lorenzo Sonego or Jack Draper.
Quarterfinal prediction: Stefanos Tsitsipas def. Andrey Rublev
Fourth Quarter: Alexander Zverev's form a concern ahead of Madrid Open title defense
Seeded players: (2) Alexander Zverev, (8) Felix Auger-Aliassime, (10) Jannik Sinner and (15) Reilly Opelka
Expected quarterfinal: Alexander Zverev vs Felix Auger-Aliassime
Dark horse: Sebastian Korda
Analysis: Alexander Zverev started his clay season on a strong note by reaching the semifinals of the Monte-Carlo Masters. However, he was stunned in the second round by Holger Rune at the BMW Open earlier this week.
He'll commence his title defense in Madrid against either 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic or Albert Ramos-Vinolas. Should he make it past the second round, he could meet either Reilly Opelka or Sebastian Korda in the third.
Opelka won his first title on clay at the Houston Open, while Korda upset Alcaraz in Monte-Carlo. Zverev will need to put his best foot forward to defeat either of them and reach the quarterfinals.
Felix Auger-Aliassime is also in this section. After a great start to the year, he went through a rough patch, but seems to be improving once again. The Canadian heads to the Madrid Open on the heels of back-to-back quarterfinals in Barcelona and Estoril.
Auger-Aliassime could meet Frances Tiafoe in the second round, followed by a potential third-round clash with Jannik Sinner. The Italian will have to go through Tommy Paul and Alex de Minaur to reach the third round, but given his form, he should make it through.
While Auger-Aliassime has stepped up his game, Sinner will likely defeat him to set up a potential quarterfinal with Zverev.
Quarterfinal prediction: Jannik Sinner def. Alexander Zverev
Prediction for semifinals
Carlos Alcaraz def. Novak Djokovic
Stefanos Tsitsipas def. Jannik Sinner
Prediction for the final: Carlos Alcaraz def. Stefanos Tsitsipas