A host of talented players from all across the globe will descend on the Mutua Madrid Open this week, some of which will be competing at the tournament for the very first time.
Here are five Madrid debutants to look out for in the ATP draw this fortnight at the Caja Magica…
Holger Rune (Denmark)
Such has been the speed of Holger Rune’s rise to the upper echelons of men’s tennis, that this time last year, the Danish teenager was ranked 70 in the world and had to miss the qualifying tournament at the Mutua Madrid Open because it clashed with his breakthrough run to the Munich title that same weekend.
Today, Rune is enjoying a career-high No.7 in the world rankings and is ready to make his Madrid debut as one of the top seeds of the event and a genuine contender for the title.
Rune’s clay-court campaign so far this season has seen him reach the final in Monte Carlo before successfully defending his crown in Munich.
He already owns a Masters 1000 title, captured in Paris end of last year, where he defeated five top-10 players in a row.
Seeded No.6 in Madrid, Rune anchors the top half of the draw, sharing a quarter with Roland Garros and US Open runner-up Casper Ruud.
Ben Shelton (USA)
He is ranked in the world’s top 40 yet up until three weeks ago he had never competed on red clay. Meet the exciting American talent Ben Shelton, whose heroic run to the Australian Open quarter-finals earlier this year jumpstarted his young career and quickly positioned him as a fan favourite.
The 193cm lefty had never been outside the United States until that trip to Australia in January and he continues to tick new boxes on his list of firsts as he gets set to make his Mutua Madrid Open debut this week.
The 20-year-old from Atlanta, Georgia is seeded 32 at the Caja Magica and commences his campaign against Italian Lorenzo Sonego or a qualifier.
While his experience on red clay is limited to just competing in Estoril, Monte Carlo and Barcelona these last three weeks, Shelton has shown how fast he can adapt to new situations, given he was ranked outside the top 500 this time last year and is now perched nicely at No.38 in the world.
Jiri Lehecka (Czech Republic)
Another surprise Australian Open quarter-finalist who has made waves this season is 21-year-old Jiri Lehecka.
The powerful Czech knocked out the likes of Borna Coric, Cameron Norrie and Felix Auger-Aliassime en route to the last-eight stage in Melbourne and claimed the second top-10 victory of his career the following month when he upset a fifth-ranked Andrey Rublev on his way to the semis in Doha.
Lehecka started 2023 ranked 81 in the world and is now up to No.37.
He will make his Madrid debut as the No.31 seed and will begin his tournament against American J.J Wolf or a qualifier.
An exciting possible third round could come against No.2 seed Daniil Medvedev.
Wu Yibing (China)
A week in February was both record-breaking and life-changing for Wu Yibing.
Competing at the ATP tournament in Dallas as the world No.97, Wu became the first Chinese man to win a tour-level title by upsetting John Isner in the final.
On his way the trophy, Wu ousted an eighth-ranked Taylor Fritz in the semi-finals to become the first Chinese man to defeat a top-10 player.
Now ranked 57 in the world, the 23-year-old Wu will be contesting just his second-ever tour-level tournament on clay in Madrid this week.
He made his ATP clay debut last week in Barcelona – falling to Diego Schwartzman in the first round – and will face Slovakian Alex Molcan in his Madrid opener.
Abdullah Shelbayh (Jordan)
This time last year, Abdullah Shelbayh was a college freshman studying at the University of Florida.
He then decided to turn pro in May 2022 and has rocketed up the rankings from 1293 to 243 in less than a year.
The 19-year-old is the first Jordanian in tennis history to earn an ATP ranking and last week in Banja Luka, he posted his first main draw match-win at an ATP tournament.
In February, he became the youngest Arab to reach a Challenger final – falling to Thanasi Kokkinakis in the decider in Bahrain – and he will make his Madrid debut courtesy of a wildcard.
No stranger to Spain, Shelbayh started training at the Rafa Nadal Academy in Mallorca back in 2018.
He has a creative lefty game – he switched from playing right-handed to left-handed to emulate his idol Nadal – and will take on Argentina’s Pedro Cachin in the Madrid first round.