It's Time to Say 'Hola' Madrid

Sudeshna BanerjeeAnalyst IOctober 12, 2008

The last three weeks had been the lull before the storm, which will consist of some mouth-watering clashes, grinding sets, smashing aces, lethal forehands, blistering backhands in the next few days to come!

Yes, we are talking about the storm of tennis, which is going to sweep the world now with two classic AMS events and one awesome Masters Cup.

And the first tournament to kickstart this exciting fall is the Mutua Madrilèna Masters Madrid. Yes, it’s once again time to say, "Hola, Madrid!’’

The picturesque city of Madrid, known for bull-fighting, flamenco dancing, and most importantly, for its mesmerizing beauties, had often been called the sports capital of Europe.

This is no surprise,considering the frenzy of the Spaniards and their excellence in all spheres of sports. So, although only six years ago, the Rockdromo in Madrid became the central court for the then newly-incepted eighth AMS event, it has always held a very special place in the hearts of all avid tennis watchers.

And the fact that all the top 30 players in the South African Airways ATP rankings will be vying for the 378,000 euros on the Green Set of Madrid this year will be why every tennis enthusiast all over the world should watch it!!

The marquee Spanish tennis event, playing host to four past champions this year, will certainly witness some enthralling tennis. With four Masters Cup spots up for grabs, surely in the next few days tennis will culminate into competition of the fiercest degree.

The defending champion, David Nalbandian, returns to the scene of his first big title. A well-timed good finish at Stockholm certainly has boosted his confidence. Same applies for his compatriot, the dangerous Juan Martin Del Potro.

Even though his very recent performances don’t speak that, undoubtedly the Argentine has cemented his place amongst the few budding talents to watch. Roger Federer ended speculations and confirmed his participation and this will be his first AMS event this year after a Grand Slam triumph.

Novak Djokovic, a semifinalist last year, returns to threaten Federer’s No. 2 spot. Considering the fact that historically Nole had faded in this part of the season, much due to fatigue, the signs of which were visible in his defeat to Tsonga at Bangkok, this will be a tough call for him.

That brings us to the man of the moment, the home-hero, Rafael Nadal, who comes to Madrid for the first time as the numero uno player in the world.

Fatigue might play a role for the man who has already played a staggering 86 matches this year, but knowing it’s the ever-spirited Rafa, who’s gunning for a year-end No. 1 finish, we might be proven wrong!

The draws that have been released on Saturday show Nadal getting competition from the budding Ernests Gulbis. Gulbis, keen to settle a score after Wimbledon, might provide a challenge but that wouldn't be good enough to overcome the Spaniard.

Compatriot David Ferrer lies in the same quarter, but inconsistency is the first word one would like to attach to him. Stanislas Wawrinka, known for good performances on the indoor hardcourts, also cannot be seen troubling Rafa much. If tiredness doesn’t creep in, it should be Nadal in the semis.

Novak Djokovic also has dangers, being pitched against the likes of Dmitry Tursunov, the big-serving Ivo Karlovic and Nikolay Davydenko.

On top of that somewhere down there, lurking in that part of the draw, is the ever-unpredictable Marat Safin, who convincingly beat him at Wimbledon. Moreover, a showdown with Nadal also waits if he manages to cross the first few hurdles, which he obviously can.

Andy Murray returns after a swashbuckling season ranked as No. 4 in the world. With a final appearance at US Open and an AMS title under his belt, he is ready to take on the world. But competition will be ferocious, with the booming-server, Andy Roddick; the forehand superpower, Fernando Gonzalez; and the in-form Gael Monfils hovering in that part of the draw.

Coupled with the likes of Marin Cilic and Nicolas Almagro, Murray will have his hands full.

The last quarter is headed by Roger Federer, who is coming to play after quite a bit of drama.

Keeping everybody on the tenterhooks after pulling out of Stockholm with startling comments that drew a line of uncertainty over his participation in the remainder of the season, it is indeed a welcome decision from the Swiss.

The draw for him obviously gives testimony to the fact that things might not prove to be a cakewalk for Federer, who was on a self-imposed three-week rest. Dangerous customers in the names of Del Potro, Tsonga, and Nalbandian float in his part of the draw.

Del Potro sure has the firepower, but Federer’s poise, temperament, and renewed confidence will ultimately sail him through. Same should be said for the talented yet injury-prone Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

But against his former nemesis, Nalbandian, Federer always has a different battle on the cards because their rivalry dates back to their junior days.

If Fedex can overpower these, he will be required to overcome one of the two Andys in the  semis and who knows, we might even be looking at the prospect of a relishing Roger-Rafa clash on Oct. 19.

So, the stage is set for one week of some exhilarating tennis spectacle. Without a doubt, the last edition of the Madrid Masters at the Recinto Ferial Casa de Campo promises to be one which no tennis enthusiast would dare to miss!