Novak Djokovic has stepped up his preparations for his title defense at Roland Garros. He returned to the tour at the Monte-Carlo Masters after a couple of months on the sidelines due to vaccine mandates. His comeback was rather shortlived as he lost his second-round match to Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in three sets.
Djokovic performed a bit better at the Serbia Open, where he managed to reach the final, losing to Andrey Rublev in three sets. All of his matches in the tournament went the distance. The World No. 1 is clearly far from his best and will hope to get some matches under his belt in Madrid and Rome to rediscover his form.
Djokovic is a three-time champion at the Madrid Open, winning his most recent title in the Spanish capital in 2019. Here's a look at the players the Serb will have to go through to triumph in Madrid for the fourth time.
Novak Djokovic's likely 2nd-round opponent - Gael Monfils
After a first-round bye, Djokovic will likely open his campaign against World No. 21 Gael Monfils.
Monfils will take on wildcard Carlos Gimeno Valero in the first round. The Spaniard is making his ATP main-draw debut and given his inexperience, isn't likely to put up much of a fight against a veteran like Monfils.
Djokovic owns a dominant 17-0 record against Monfils.
Novak Djokovic's likely 3rd-round opponent - Denis Shapovalov / Andy Murray
Djokovic is likely to face Denis Shapovalov or Andy Murray in the third round. The World No. 1 leads 7-0 in the head-to-head against the Canadian.
Murray and Djokovic have had close encounters in Madrid and Rome several years ago. However, given the Brit's recent form, he's unlikely to trouble his arch-rival too much.
Dominic Thiem is another candidate to reach the third round, but the Austrian hasn't won a match since returning from his injury layoff in March.
Novak Djokovic's likely quarter-final opponent - Casper Ruud
If the World No. 1 makes it to the last eight, he could face Casper Ruud. The Norwegian is one of the best claycourt players of his generation. He has already won six titles on the surface, including one this year. He also reached the semifinals in Madrid last year.
Ruud won the Argentina Open in February and arrived in Madrid after reaching the quarterfinals in Barcelona and Munich. Djokovic will need to bring his best if he wants to progress.
Novak Djokovic's likely semi-final opponent - Rafael Nadal or Carlos Alcaraz
Should Djokovic reach the semifinals, he could meet one of the two best players of the season, Rafael Nadal or Carlos Alcaraz.
Nadal was on a roll before injury halted his momentum. The Spaniard has already made one successful comeback this year and he could be even more dangerous this time around on his favorite surface.
Alcaraz's sensational rise to the top has taken the tennis world by storm. He has won two titles on clay this year, including the recent Barcelona Open. The teenager and Djokovic were slated to clash in the quarterfinals of the Monte-Carlo Masters earlier this year, but both failed to win a match at the tournament.
Djokovic and Nadal have faced each other 27 times on clay, with the Spaniard having won 19 of those matches. While Djokovic won their previous encounter at the 2021 French Open semifinals, Nadal would be favored to win if they squared off in Madrid.
Novak Djokovic's likely opponent in the final -
Alexander Zverev / Stefanos Tsitsipas
Defending champion Alexander Zverevhas had a dismal season so far. As the top seed in Munich, he was upset by Holger Rune in straight sets in the second round. But the German often comes to life in big tournaments.
Zverev has enjoyed considerable success in Madrid in the past and has beaten Djokovic in several matches outside of Grand Slams.
Tsitsipas, meanwhile, commenced his clay season by successfully defending his Monte-Carlo Masters title. He then reached the quarterfinals in Barcelona, losing to eventual champion Carlos Alcaraz. The Greek is yet to defeat Djokovic on clay, losing all four of their encounters on the surface.