5 Things We Learned From Madrid
1. Zverev Feeling Comfortable On Clay Again
So much for feeling the pressure to repeat. German Alexander Zverev reached two ATP World Tour Masters 1000 finals in 2017 (Rome, d. Djokovic; Montreal, d. Federer), his breakout season on Tour. Already this year, however, Zverev has matched his Masters 1000 finals appearances, making the Miami Open presented by Itau title final (l. to Isner) and the Mutua Madrid Open title match on Sunday (d. Thiem).
The 21-year-old also has more Masters 1000 titles than any active player outside the “Big Four” of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. Zverev, the defending Rome champion, might also run into Federer in the near future in the ATP Race To London. The German is currently in second place in the Race, with 2,535 points. But he's only 575 points behind the 36-year-old Swiss, who won't be playing again until the MercedesCup in Stuttgart, which starts 11 June.
2. NextGenATP Is Here, Now
Before Madrid, Denis Shapovalov had exactly zero ATP World Tour wins on clay. Turns out the 19-year-old Canadian can play OK on the red dirt. The #NextGenATP left-hander made his second Masters 1000 semi-final in Spain (l. to Zverev) to secure a new career-high in the ATP Rankings of No. 29.
The Canadian also picked up what has to be one of his career highlights, beating top countryman Milos Raonic in straight sets. “[It was] definitely one of my best days on clay,” said Shapovalov. “To be on the court against such a legend for me, and for my country, it was an honour. It was fun.”
3. Confident Thiem Forges Ahead
In recent years, Dominic Thiem has dominated during the European clay-court swing. But before Madrid, the Austrian hadn't made a final on his home continent, losing in the quarter-finals in Monte-Carlo (l. to Nadal) and Barcelona (l. to Tsitsipas). But Thiem showed the entire tennis world that he was back to his usual self in Madrid when he upset No. 1 Rafael Nadal, ending the Spaniard's 50-set and 21-match win streaks in the quarter-finals.
Although Thiem again missed out on winning his maiden Masters 1000 title, falling to Zverev in the final, the Austrian said he's feeling confident again. Thiem's belief will no doubt be a key factor in if he'll repeat his Madrid performance – or his Monte-Carlo showing – as the clay-court season continues this week in Rome.
4. Djokovic's Road Back Continues
Novak Djokovic can't be too excited about his 2018 so far, but he can't be all that disappointed, either. The Serbian, after losing to Brit Kyle Edmund in the Madrid second round, is now 6-6 in 2018. But Djokovic, as has been the case for much of the year, left the season's second clay-court Masters 1000 tournament with a positive outlook.
The Serbian beat Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters finalist Kei Nishikori in straight sets and pushed Edmund, an Australian Open semi-finalist earlier this year, to three sets before falling 6-3, 2-6, 6-3. The former No. 1 in the ATP Rankings now heads to Rome, where he is the 11th seed and is defending 600 ATP Rankings points after reaching the 2017 final (l. to Zverev).
5. Mektic/Peya End The Bryans' Run
Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan hadn't lost in nearly a month and were a win away from becoming the oldest No. 1s in ATP Doubles Rankings history. But, down 3-5 in the first set to Nikola Mektic and Alexander Peya, the second-seeded Americans had to retire after Bob suffered a hip injury.
For Mektic/Peya, the scenario wasn't how they wanted to win their first Masters 1000 title, but they were more than happy to take home the prestigious crown. Mektic/Peya now have won two tour-level titles (Marrakech) and reached five finals. The Croatian/Austrian pairing is in third place in the ATP Doubles Race To London.