All eyes were on the Spanish capital last week as Madrid hosted Masters Series action on the ATP Tour and a Premier event on the WTA circuit.
No surprises to see Rafael Nadal land the men’s event… although a slice of good fortune certainly seemed to help the world No.1.
Whilst the women’s No.1 Serena Williams pulled out of the women’s event through injury, allowing Maria Sharapova to take the title.
I asked my tennis tipster for his views on last week’s main talking points…
Nadal benefits from Nishikori injury. Wins Madrid title.
The thought running through the minds of every spectator, pundit and tennis tipster (including this one) after the final in Spain was the same…
Did Nadal get lucky?
At one stage the ‘hometown-hero’ and red-hot favourite (Nadal) was trailling 2-6 2-4.
He was losing badly to an inspired Nishikori, who was well on top and seemingly on his way to bagging a first Masters Series title.
Then, with the aid of some improved play, and crucially a back injury to his Japanese opponent, the world No.1 reeled off seven straight games to lead the match 2-6 6-4 3-0… at which point, Nishikori could continue no more and retired.
Whether Rafa would have turned the match around (or done it quite so quickly) without the injury to Nishikori… this remains the $64m question.
The No.1 seed had cruised through to the final… and four straight sets wins (including convincing displays Juan Monaco and Tomas Berdych) suggested he was in good touch.
However, he then faced a man (Nishikori) who he had beaten in each of their previous 6 meetings (by a combined 15:1 in sets) and was the overwhelming 1.14 favourite to win.
And he ends up 2-6 2-4 down.
A few concerns have already been raised about Nadal’s well-being, and this result whilst reading well on paper – career title No.63 for the Spaniard and a 27th Masters Series crown – does little to banish these nagging doubts.
Rafa isn’t the player of 2, 3 or 4 years ago… and he’s not even the same guy that played so well in the early part of 2013.
Nishikori’s stock continues to rise
It’s a worry to see the Japanese player retiring with an injury… as he’s proving a lot more injury-prone than most players on the tour.
He’s almost becoming the new ‘Tommy Haas’.
However, this takes little gloss off his achievements here in Madrid, including a great win over David Ferrer in the SFs (a near 3-hour battle), added to a tournament win in Barcelona two weeks previous.
Nishikori was listed on our “Future Winners” guide for his undoubted potential and tough competitor status.
This was more to do with his hard court play, than on the dirt. So maybe his all-round game needs re-assessing!
Fully fit the Japanese player is a dead cert to reach, and stay in, the Top 10.
He’ll also be a guy to note through the grass court season and then into the North American swing ahead of the run-up to the US Open.
Williams out: Sharapova in
The withdrawal of the No.1 seed Serena Williams with a thigh injury really opened up the women’s event.
The American had to pull-out ahead of her QF with Petra Kvitova and remains a doubt for this week in Rome and will hardly go to Roland Garros in a couple of weeks feeling 100% confident about her fitness.
Williams is the defending champion at the French Open.
In her absence, which is usually the only way she can win, Maria Sharapova claimed the “W” by overcoming Simona Halep in the final.
A see-saw battle, the Russian winning it 1-6 6-2 6-3.
Having won on her previous start in Stuttgart, Sharapova will head to Paris as the form-horse on clay and (Williams aside) the one-to-beat.
The 27-year-old has beaten Na Li, Radwanska (twice) Halep, Ivanovic, Stosur and Errani in these two events…
That’s pretty much the entire competition apart from Serena.
As ever, much will depend upon the draw at the French Open… it’ll be interesting to see where Sharapova gets placed in the field for Roland Garros.
Updating the ATP Tour stats after last week…
So another win for a No.1 seed. Only the second in the last 12 tournaments… end even then, only just!
And after last week’s round of action, the verdict is…
Who’s Hot… Kei Nishikori, Roberto Bautista Agut & Maria Sharapova.
Who’s Not… Andy Murray, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga & Stanislas Wawrinka.
This week the action moves onto Rome.
Once again it’s a joint ATP/WTA Tour event at the Foro Italico as all the top players will compete in the last major tournament before the French Open 2014 starts on Sunday, May 25th.
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