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Madrid Masters 2017 Preview, Dates and Details: Rafael Nadal bids to regain Madrid title

Live Tennis Staff in News 2 May 2017
  • The 2017 Mutua Madrid Masters is live from Spain from 5-14 May
  • The Madrid Masters has become a huge event in the build-up to the French Open
  • Local hero, Rafael Nadal is favourite to regain the title he last won in 2014
Rafael Nadal. (Photo by JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images)

After completing 'La Decima' in Monte Carlo and Barcelona, Rafael Nadal seeks further glory when the clay court season stops by in Madrid next week. With his main rivals struggling for form, Nadal is favourite to reclaim the title he last won his 2014.

Will the King of Clay win a fifth Madrid title, or will top seed, Andy Murray finally find some spark in the Spanish capital? How will Novak Djokovic fare in his title defence? Answers will be provided when the Madrid Masters holds from 5-14 May.

Held just three weeks before the French Open, the Madrid Masters is a key battleground in the run-up to the second Grand Slam of the year and, at the very heart of the clay-court season, the battles fought between the top players at the iconic Caja Magica ('Magic Box') will be fierce.

Again unsurprisingly, Nadal, the King of Clay, has the most titles with three, (four overall as he also won an epic five-setter against Ivan Ljubicic in the 2005 final on the hard courts of the Madrid Arena), Roger Federer has two titles, including the 2012 edition when the tournament experimented with blue clay (that idea didn't really catch on, did it?), Novak Djokovic is a two-time champion, while Andy Murray has one title on the Madrid clay. The Scot has two titles overall, having also claimed the 2008 edition- the last Madrid Open to be held on hard courts.

Given its proximity to the French Open, the Madrid Open has become one of the most important tournaments on the ATP World Tour, where the players sharpen their skills ahead of the big one in Paris. It also provides an early indicator to the possible direction of Roland Garros. Djokovic and Murray contested the 2016 final in Madrid; both men went on to reach the French Open final. And like in Madrid, where Djokovic won in three sets, the Serbian also triumphed in Paris, recovering from the loss of the opening set to outclass his British opponent.

With Nadal operating below full capacity, Murray and Djokovic dominated the 2016 clay court season, with the pair playing the finals in Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros.

However, the tables have been turned in 2017. Nadal is playing some of his best tennis in recent memory, while Djokovic and Murray have endured a torrid 2017. The Spaniard has been on a mission in to reclaim his lost clay kingdom in 2017, and the next event on his agenda is the Madrid Open. Nadal won back-to-back titles in 2013 and 2014, but he has fallen just short since then, losing to Murray in the 2015 final, and falling again to the Scot in the semis in 2016.

Nadal's encouraging form on hard courts had restored hope that the great Spaniard can once again become a dominant force on his favourite surface, and the early evidence from Monte Carlo and Barcelona suggests that will indeed be the case. Nadal looked a little flustered in his opening match in Monte Carlo, taken the distance by Great Britain's Kyle Edmund, but he has been unstoppable since then, scoring dominant victories over the dangerous Alexander Zverev and David Goffin in Monte Carlo, and against Dominic Thiem in the Barcelona final.

For all of Nadal's dominance, he is still yet to play any of the top two this year, (no fault of Nadal's of course), but given Nadal's struggles against Murray and Djokovic in the last couple of seasons- he has lost to Murray in Madrid for two consecutive years- it will be interesting to see how he gets along should he have to face one or both of his rivals in Madrid.  

Murray hasn't quite reproduced his world-number-one form from late last season, suffering surprising early losses in key meets at the Australian Open and Indian Wells, and his cause has not been helped by an elbow injury that forced him out of the Miami Open. The Scot returned in time to commence his clay court season in Monte Carlo, but his troublesome season continued with a third round loss to Albert Ramos-Vinolas. Murray fared slightly better in Barcelona, reaching the semi-finals, but only after surviving another close contest against Ramos-Vinolas. The world number one was stopped by Dominic Thiem in the last four.

Murray has made rapid improvements on clay over the last couple of seasons. Up until 2015, the world number one had no titles on the surface, but so drastic have his improvements been that he now boasts three clay-court titles including Madrid in 2015, and two victories over Nadal on Rafa’s favourite dirt. Will a return to Madrid spark a return to form?

Defending champion, Djokovic beat Murray in last year's final, and repeated the feat at Roland Garros, but that was followed by a dramatic drop in form. Djokovic has won just two titles in the nine-month period since his French open victory, and of course, he has lost his number one ranking. The Serbian appeared to have got over his troubles when he battled to the Doha title at the start of the year, but that proved to be a false dawn, as he was stunned by Denis Istomin in the second round of the Australian Open- his worst result at a major since 2008. Djokovic was mastered by nick Kyrgios in back-to-back tournaments- Acapulco and Indian Wells- and just like Murray, an elbow injury forced him out of Miami.

Djokovic never looked comfortable on his return to action in Monte Carlo, and after grinding out consecutive three-set victories over Gilles Simon and Pablo Carreno-Busta, the world number two eventually crashed to David Goffin in the quarter finals.

Outside the traditional Big 4, Dominic Thiem, with his decent showing in Barcelona looks the man most likely to upset the Murray-Djokovic-Nadal triumvirate in the Spanish capital in 2017, while Stan Wawrinka retains a real threat despite his early loss in Monte Carlo. There are question marks over the fitness of Kei Nishikori, who was forced to pull out of the Barcelona Open, and do not discount Albert Ramos-Vinolas, who has taken great strides on clay in the last twelve months..

As usual, it will be worth keeping a close eye on youngsters, Nick Kyrgios and Alexander Zverev, but it does look like everyone else is lining up behind Nadal as far as the favourite for the title is concerned.

You can watch the Mutua Madrid Masters live from the Caja Majica from 5-14 May, 2017.

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Madrid Masters 2017 Preview, Dates and Details: Rafael Nadal bids to regain Madrid title

The Madrid Masters holds from 5-14 May. Who will make a big statement ahead of Roland Garros? Read our tournament preview and stream the Madrid Masters live online.

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