Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz, the present and future faces of Spanish men's tennis, could meet in the second round at this year’s Mutua Madrid Open.
Five-time champion Nadal will meet the winner of #NextGenATP Alcaraz’s first-round encounter against Adrian Mannarino. No matter how talented 17-year-old Alcaraz may be, a first-round challenge against wily French veteran Mannarino is not to be taken lightly. A Madrid clash against Nadal would be a dream for Alcaraz, but the Murcia native's coach, Juan Carlos Ferrero, will make sure his charge does not look past his first-round opponent.
Nadal is aiming to capture his first title in the Spanish capital since 2017, when he defeated Dominic Thiem in the final. The Austrian joins Nadal in the top half of this year’s draw.
Nadal enters the tournament fresh from his 12th title run at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell. The World No. 2 saved a championship point in a dramatic three-hour, 38-minute final last week to end Stefanos Tsitsipas’ 9-0 unbeaten start to the European clay swing. Tsitsipas features in the bottom half of the draw alongside second seed Daniil Medvedev.
Alcaraz is not the only #NextGenATP talent in Nadal’s section of the draw. Miami runner-up Jannik Sinner, the 14th seed, is the first seed the 35-time ATP Masters 1000 champion could meet in Madrid. Acapulco titlist Alexander Zverev and Miami champion Hubert Hurkacz are also in Nadal’s quarter of the draw.
Third seed Thiem will make his first appearance since the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in March. The two-time Madrid runner-up will face a qualifier in the second round and is joined in his section by Grigor Dimitrov, the man who ended his Australian Open campaign.
Thiem is projected to face Monte-Carlo runner-up Andrey Rublev in the quarter-finals. Rublev may need to get past ninth seed Roberto Bautista Agut to reach that stage. Rublev and Bautista Agut, who could meet in the third round, played one of the standout matches of this year’s European clay swing in Monte-Carlo. Rublev needed two hours and 44 minutes to overcome the Spaniard 7-6 (2), 5-7, 6-3 at the same stage in the Principality.
Medvedev will contest his first clay-court match of the season against Estoril semi-finalist Alejandro Davidovich Fokina or a qualifier. The Russian, who owns a 17-3 record this year, will be seeking his first win at the Masters 1000 event after first-round losses in 2018 and 2019. Medvedev shares the bottom quarter with a trio of 2021 clay titlists: Belgrade winner Matteo Berrettini, Marbella champion Pablo Carreno Busta and Santiago titlist Cristian Garin.
Monte-Carlo champion Tsitsipas will attempt to continue his impressive start to the European clay swing in Madrid. The FedEx ATP Race To Turin leader will face Doha champion Nikoloz Basilashvili or Benoit Paire in his first match.
The Greek headlines the third quarter alongside last year’s Rome runner-up Diego Schwartzman, 11th seed Denis Shapovalov and #NextGenATP Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime. In one of the standout first-round matches, Auger-Aliassime will meet Monte-Carlo semi-finalist Casper Ruud for a spot in the second round.
Schwartzman could meet red-hot Russian Aslan Karatsev, who defeated World No. 1 Novak Djokovic en route to the Serbia Open final, in his tournament opener. Karatsev will face Estoril quarter-finalist Ugo Humbert in the first round.