The fourth Masters 1000 tournament of the season is upon us and the battle for top honours will no doubt be fierce at the Caja Magica this fortnight.
Here are five players seeking a maiden Masters 1000 crown at this year’s Mutua Madrid Open.
He is a Roland-Garros and US Open finalist, was runner-up at the ATP Finals, and hit a career-high No.2 in the world last fall, but Casper Ruud is still searching for a first champion’s trophy at a Masters 1000 tournament.
The Norwegian owns 10 career titles, nine of which have come on clay, and all of which were captured at ATP 250 events.
His best result at a Masters 1000 came in Miami last year, where he reached the final before falling to Carlos Alcaraz. He has five more semi-final appearances at that level, including one in Madrid in 2021.
Ruud is seeded No.3 at this year’s Mutua Madrid Open and begins his campaign against Benoit Paire or Matteo Arnaldi.
He kicked off his clay season with a title run in Estoril before suffering last-16 exits in Monte Carlo and Barcelona.
Felix Auger-Aliassime went from losing his first eight consecutive ATP finals to clinching four titles in one season, including three back-to-back-to-back.
The Canadian owns two ATP 500 titles – Rotterdam and Basel – and a pair of 250s, all captured in 2022.
Madrid will be Auger-Aliassime’s first clay-court tournament of 2023 as he was forced to miss a month of action while nursing a left knee injury.
His first match since Miami will come against recent Banja Luka champion Dusan Lajovic or Jason Kubler.
“My ambitions are high but my expectations are low,” the 22-year-old Auger-Aliassime told reporters in Madrid. “In a way I hope to do really well and I’m confident that I can do it but at the same time I’m going to really expect the worst a little bit or expect that everything’s going to be really tough. I think I’ll need my max focus and concentration from the first match.”
Auger-Aliassime’s best results at the Masters 1000 level are semi-final showings in Miami 2019 and Paris 2022. On clay, at this level, he made the quarter-finals in Madrid and Rome last year.
Lorenzo Musetti’s clay campaign so far this season includes a win over world No.1 Novak Djokovic en route to the Monte Carlo quarter-finals, and a semi-final appearance in Barcelona last week.
The 21-year-old Italian cracked the top-20 for the first time early this year and is up to a career-high No.18 this week.
Owner of two career titles, Musetti’s best results at the Masters 1000 level are reaching the quarters in Paris 2022 and Monte Carlo earlier this month.
Musetti is seeded No.15 in Madrid and will open against Yannick Hanfmann or Juan Pablo Varillas.
Alejandro Davidovich Fokina
The Spaniard had a big breakthrough last year when he stormed to the final at the Masters 1000 tournament in Monte Carlo, upsetting a top-ranked Djokovic en route.
Alejandro Davidovich Fokina can be absolutely relentless on a tennis court and is the kind of opponent many dread to face.
He reached his fifth quarter-final of the season in Barcelona last week (lost to Alcaraz) and his biggest highlight of 2023 so far came in Indian Wells, where he made the last-eight stage.
Davidovich Fokina is the No.29 seed in Madrid and will face fellow Spaniard Albert Ramos Vinolas or Ilya Ivashka in his opening match.
An impressive run to the Australian Open semi-finals carried Tommy Paul into the world’s top-20 for the first time earlier this season.
Currently perched at a career-high No.17 in the world this week, the American came close to winning a maiden ATP title in Acapulco in February but fell at the final hurdle to Alex de Minaur.
A former Roland Garros junior champion, Paul has yet to enjoy success on clay on the men’s tour but his rise in recent months makes him a real danger in any draw.
His best Masters 1000 results are quarter-final appearances in Canada and Paris last year.
Paul is the No.14 seed in Madrid and awaits qualifier Roman Safiullin or Nicolas Jarry in round two.