The 2016 Madrid Masters ended on Sunday with Novak Djokovic claiming his 29th Masters Series title. His collection of titles once again breaks the record for most Masters Series tournament wins, a record Djokovic set earlier this year at 28 only to see Rafael Nadal tie that mark in Monte-Carlo. Djokovic defeated Andy Murray in the final on Sunday in a tough-fought three-set match. Both players will now be preparing for the Rome Masters this upcoming week.
Following his victory in Madrid, Djokovic attributed his success as partly due to the rest he enjoyed since losing in Monte-Carlo weeks ago:
“I had an amazing opening four months of the season. Then an early exit in Monte-Carlo, but it happened for a reason…Three weeks was more than enough to get some freshness and new breath and get ready for Madrid. I came here early, got used to the conditions, and played a really fantastic tournament that will definitely serve as a great confidence boost before Rome and the French Open.”
When it comes to being well rested, Djokovic certainly won’t be that as he enters Rome. He does have a bye into the second round, but matches could get difficult as early as the third. In that round, Djokovic could face Gael Monfils while his quarterfinal match might be against Rafael Nadal. The Spaniard, who lost to Murray in the semifinals on Saturday, shares a draw with Milos Raonic to the quarters. However if Djokovic can survive a shared draw with Monfils and if Nadal can survive a shared draw with Raonic then Rome will feature the top-two French Open favorites in the quarters.
Roger Federer is also in the Rome draw, the Swiss Maestro returning from a back injury that kept him out of Madrid last week. He has a bye through the first round too, but things promise to get tricky as early as round two. Federer will face the winner of Alexander Zverev and Grigor Dimitrov, two younger players that will each be keen on knocking Federer off if given the opportunity. Ahead of the quarters, Federer could also face Dominic Thiem, a talented clay-courter that has improved greatly in 2016.
Federer is certainly a tricky player to analyze right now as he has missed a lot of time this season due to illness and injuries. How he will deal with missing so many events remains to be seen, but dealing with missed tournaments is not something that he has a lot of experience in.
Rounding out the Big Four, Murray is very dangerous in the Rome draw, sitting basically alone on the bottom half of it. Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic are all up top while only Stan Wawrinka and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, two players that do not look dangerous right now, sit on the bottom half of the draw with Murray. Unless he lets down in Rome due to fatigue from Madrid, there doesn’t seem to be much standing between Murray and a spot in the final. He did play exceptionally well in Madrid and if he continues to play like that then only the best players will be able to stop him.
The Rome Masters will run alongside the women’s Premier Mandatory event. Serena Williams is the top seed in that event after missing last week due to the flu. Victoria Azarenka is in the draw after having to pull out last week mid-tournament in Madrid with a minor injury. Simona Halep, who won in Madrid, is also in the draw but she could be fatigued from winning last week’s title. That tournament appears to be an Azarenka/Williams showdown and one that I think Vika will win if her back injury is indeed minor.
Whether for the women or the men, the Rome draw is the last significant tournament before the French Open. There are events to be played after Rome and before Roland Garros, however, those tournaments do not attract the top players in the world. The finals for Rome will be played on May 15th with the quallies for the French Open scheduled to start the next day.