Mutua Madrid Open 2012: Draw Analysis
The men's singles draw for the Mutua Madrid Open 2012 was made available earlier on Friday May 4, probably to take some attention away from the criticism of the new blue clay that is featured at this year's event on a trial basis. But the blue clay will be there the whole tournament, and under intense scrutiny. Let us hope there are no significant injuries due to it.
With that said, who stands to benefit from the blue clay change, who stands to suffer, or will it not make any big difference? If it is simply a color difference, I doubt the top players will be affected by it very long. However, preliminary reports from player's pre-tournament practice sessions state that it has been "rather slow", "slippery", "low-bouncing", and "surrounding advertising causing poor visibility". I think the first 3 are primarily due to the cool wet weather that has been present. It is forecast to heat up later in the week, so conditions may change to fast, dry, and high-bouncing. We shall see. I will try to factor in the forecast conditions for my draw analysis, but please be mindful if the forecast differs from reality, the results based on that forecast may differ as well.
So let's take this as usual, quarter by quarter, starting off with the:
QF1 headed by #1 seed Mr. Novak Djokovic
His draw looks to be the easiest of the quarters. It starts off for Djokovic with a second round contest with him almost certainly defeating one of two qualifiers. His 3rd round match might be his toughest, as he'll more than likely play the winner of Wawrinka vs Lopez/Melzer. Melzer is hard to figure. He won Memphis, but hasn't done much since. If he gets through, he has the game to trouble Djokovic, as Melzer beat Djokovic at Roland Garros in 2010. But given Melzer's most recent form, it's hard to see him going through unless he takes to the blue clay conditions. In any case, I think Wawrinka can beat either Melzer or Lopez. So, then it would be Djokovic probably defeating Wawrinka as he has their last 3 times on clay in Rome and Monte-Carlo.
In the other section of the Djokovic quarter, the favorites have to be the hot Gilles Simon and Janko Tipsarevic. But first Gilles Simon has to get past Marcos Baghdatis who has a 2-1 H2H with victories on the Dubai hard court and Halle grass and no clay record between them. In Madrid, Baghdatis has had the misfortune of having to face Ferrer and Nadal in the second round the last two years. Simon is an easier opponent, but has the hot hand on red clay recently. I have to go with Simon to even the H2H, but Baghdatis could win it on the blue clay.
Tipsarevic should take his second round match easily, but then will have to deal with Simon, whom he has never beaten on any surface in 4 previous meetings including most recently in Monte-Carlo 2012. I think Simon will upset Tipsarevic again and avoid having an all Serbian quarterfinal.
QF1 - #1 Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs. #12 Gilles Simon (FRA)
Novak Djokovic has beaten Gilles 5 out of 6 times, all on hard courts. How will it pan out on the blue clay of Madrid? I guess Simon could upset, but it's hard to pick against the defending champion.
Djokovic d. Simon in 3 sets.
QF2 headed by #3 seed Roger Federer:
Federer has potential trouble every step of the way. First, he will have to play 5 days in a row, because one of his second round (bye in first) opponents, David Nalbandian played in the Belgrade final on Sunday, so will not play Milos Raonic until Tuesday, meaning Federer starts on Wednesday. Raonic and Nalbandian could be interesting. The big server playing a good defender. If Nalbandian is not exhausted from his efforts in Belgrade and can neutralize the Raonic serve like he has done vs. Karlovic and Isner, then Nalbandian can get through, otherwise Raonic will do it. If it will still be relatively cool and damp on Tuesday (22 C. 40% rain), the conditions should favor Raonic. I'll pick Raonic to meet Federer on Wednesday. Federer has played Raonic once and now knows his serve. But Federer may still be a bit rusty, so I'll give Raonic the first set, with Federer to take it in 3 as the weather starts to heat up (26 C.). If Federer is too rusty, he could lose to Raonic, but I doubt it. Next, Federer will have to play the winner of Bellucci vs. Gasquet, as I don't see either Donald Young or Victor Troicki beating either of those players. Bellucci and Gasquet have both troubled Federer in the past, so that match to be played on Thursday would not be easy as the weather heats up to a predicted 30 C.. If he somehow were to get by those players, he would have to meet the winner of the other section of his quarter in the quarter final, and that would most likely be David Ferrer who probably would not lose against the likes of Tomic/Stepanek, or Almagro. He's never lost to Ferrer, but he has to reach the quarterfinal first.
QF2 - #3 Roger Federer (SUI) vs. #5 David Ferrer (ESP)
A Friday meeting with Ferrer will be Federer's 3rd day in a row if he makes it this far. The weather is predicted to be it's warmest of the tournament at 31 C. (88 F). David Ferrer played well, maybe better overall in losing to Nadal in Barcelona. Can he bounce back? Probably yes, he will give it his usual best effort, but he has never beat Federer, losing 4 times on clay, twice in Monte-Carlo, once in Madrid, and once in Hamburg. So if Federer makes it this far, I think he's likely to beat David Ferrer again.
Federer d. Ferrer in 3 sets.
#1 Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs. #3 Roger Federer (SUI).
Saturday is predicted to be 29 C./84 F. I think the conditions may be similar to Roland Garros by then, except for the blue color. Djokovic is defending champion. He knows what's at stake if he loses in the semifinal here. He'll lose 640 points, and Federer will gain at least 240 if he makes the final and 640 if he wins. That's a maximum of a 1280 point swing. That still leaves Federer with about a 2800 point deficit to Djokovic. But a win could set up Federer for a #1 push at Wimbledon, so Djokovic must attempt to win Madrid at all costs. Federer also knows what is at stake, so if he can make it through his tough draw all the way to Djokovic, I think he will beat Djokovic, primarily because Djokovic will have had too easy a draw. If Federer gets upset earlier, I don't see Djokovic losing to anyone other than David Ferrer who dominates Djokovic on clay, but Ferrer would lose in the final.
SF1 - Federer d. Djokovic in straight sets.
QF3 headed by #2 seed Rafael Nadal
Nadal's toughest match of the quarter might be his first in the 2nd round against Nikolay Davydenko. Davydenko has beaten Nadal in their last 4 matches. But those were all on hard court. On clay, Nadal is undefeated in 3 matches. But the blue clay of Madrid is not normal red clay. If the weather is still cool and damp, expect to see conditions more favorable to Davydenko than Nadal, and I pick Davydenko in a big upset over Nadal. But if by the time they play, the weather has warmed up and the ball is bouncing higher, then Nadal should take it.
I really can't see Mr. Nadal losing to anyone else in his quarter.
QF3 - #2 Rafael Nadal (ESP)/Nikolay Davydenko (RUS) vs. #6 Tomas Berdych
If Nadal beats Davydenko, he'll beat Berdych.
If Davydenko beats Nadal, he'll lose to Berdych.
QF4 headed by #4 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Mr. Tsonga inherited the #4 seed when Andy Murray pulled out with a back injury.
But Tsonga is a rather weak seeded 4 as his clay form has not been good this year so far.
I think the co-favorites of this quarter have to be Juan Martin del Potro and John Isner.
I think Alexandr Dolgopolov will make it to the quarter final in Tsonga's section.
It's likely going to be a battle of the giants in the other section, set for Thursday, as Del Potro won't start until Tuesday. If Thursday is hot as predicted and the conditions change to faster, I think it favors del Potro a bit. They are both tall so a higher bounce will be a non-factor. If Isner serves big, he could take del Potro. It's a tough call, and it might be the match of the tournament. I'll flip a coin and say the Gentle Giant beats Big John to play Dolgopolov in the quarterfinal.
QF4 - #10 Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) vs. #16 Alexandr Dolgopolov (UKR)
If the Isner-Del Potro match is very tough, young Alexandr might benefit in the predicted 31 C. heat and beat del Potro, but the talented shotmaker Dolgopolov has to be better mentally before I back him against the likes of del Potro.
Del Potro d. Dolgopolov in 3 sets.
Nadal/Berdych vs. Del Potro
I'll take Juan Martin to beat either of the two players in the other quarter.
He'll get revenge for the Davis Cup loss. Nadal will exit Madrid at some point, whether here in the semis or in the 2nd round vs. Davydenko and not push his knees on this blue clay which he detests. I don't think Tomas can stay with Del Potro on clay, even if it is blue, and Saturday is predicted to be a warm 29 C. so no low bounce.
#3 Roger Federer (SUI) vs. #10 Juan Martin del Potro (ARG)
Sunday's final will be contested on what's predicted to be a 28 C. day.
The conditions should be faster than at the start of the tournament, drier, and higher bouncing, but Del Potro is not Rafael Nadal, and does not produce the high topspin to the Federer backhand. My pick:
Federer to beat del Potro again for the 5th time in as many months this year (this is really too many meetings) and take the 2012 Mutua Madrid Open crown.