The Madrid Open is not a Grand Slam, but it remains one of the better tennis tournaments each season.
Featuring players such as Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, Madrid is quite appealing to catch star talent. That said, just like any other sport, there's a reason why the competition is played.
Meaning: The favorites don't always finish what they start.
As a result, upsets occur and the pressure gets put on the best of athletes to meet expectations. Regarding 2013, the following are not only ranked among the best but still in sound position to reach Madrid's final round.
With Novak Djokovic going down in Round 2, Andy Murray's path to the Madrid final got much easier.
Although he got a tough effort from Florian Mayer, it was also Murray's opening match of the tournament as he received a bye in Round 1. Next is Gilles Simon, who didn't land nearly as many aces as Mayer last round, so expect Murray to return more consistently.
Two other contenders that won't be cakewalks are Tomas Berdych and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Berdych has the power to extend volleys and marksmanship to land tough shots. Tsonga, on the other hand, brings the serve to rally back if down and the athleticism to deflect anything across the baseline.
Still, Murray's overall defense and instincts bode well to constantly get in position for scoring. And he also has significantly improved his success in clutch moments.
Since Madrid is competed on a clay surface, Rafael Nadal already has that favorable advantage.
Unsurprisingly, Nadal has yet to drop a set at this year's Madrid Open and faces fellow countryman David Ferrer next. Don't expect an upset, though, because Nadal's combination of power, velocity and accuracy will get Ferrer out of position on serves.
Even with Ferrer's ability to counter-punch, Nadal is easily capable of mirroring him to a T. Factor in the elimination of Roger Federer and he'll cruise into the finals.
Nadal's entire skill set of explosive offense, consistent defense and effort will simply be too much for the rest of his side of the bracket to handle.
For starters, Williams entered Madrid as the No. 1 seed and has not disappointed.
She has won in straight sets through three rounds and only lost four games to Russia's Maria Kirilenko. Next, Williams takes on Anabel Medina of Spain who began the tournament as a wild card.
It's definitely a strong run for Medina to reach the quarterfinals, but Williams' ability to generate quick power on each serve and return is her major advantage. Include the strength and accuracy behind each stroke and Williams advances.
Thereafter, another low seed will be her opponent as the third-seeded Victoria Azarenka was upset in Round 2. Williams won't face another stellar opponent unless Maria Sharapova reaches the final, and she also won Madrid last year.
With the confidence to perform well, this is Williams' tournament to lose.