It doesn’t happen too often but Rafael Nadal has begun the 2019 claycourt season by failing to reach a final in his first two events.
Such have been his standards on the surface over the past 14 years, that almost represents a crisis.
Of course, I’m being dramatic but Nadal’s defeats to Fabio Fognini and Dominic Thiem – both very good clay court players – are certainly enough to put me off backing him here at 11/10.
Spain may be his homeland, but Madrid has been his least successful of three clay Masters venues – he’s ‘only’ won on four of his 10 visits to the Caja Magica.
That 40inals in Monte Carlo where he lost to eventual champion Fabio Fognini (from a set and a break up).
A defeat the following week in the last eight of the Hungarian Open to Filip Krajinovic wasn’t the best but the Croat has long been a player who intersperses his good weeks with a few shockers.
We’ll need him to be in one of those good weeks but the kind draw makes that more than possible for the 2017 quarter-finalist, who has also been to the semis in Dubai and the quarters in Miami in the past couple of months.
Coric beat then-world number one Andy Murray during his 2017 run here before it was ended by Thiem, the same player who was also behind his exit 12 months ago – Coric failing to serve the match out in the second set before losing 6-4 in the third.
If he can find that sort of form, this section of the draw should hold few fears.