As it does every season, the Mutua Madrid Open has its glad rags on as it prepares to welcome the best ATP and WTA players in the world. The Madrid tournament always provides us with some memorable moments, unbelievable upsets and, of course, players who have never before graced the red courts of Madrid. In addition to the hot favourites for the crown and those that are now well experienced at this event, a group of young players who are appearing at the tournament for the first time in their promising careers are hoping to leave their mark.
Andrey Rublev, Matteo Berrettini, Jannik Sinner and Aslan Karatsev are just some of the players making their first appearance in the men’s competition. In the women’s draw we will have the opportunity to enjoy brilliant players such as Bianca Andreescu, Iga Swiatek, Ons Jabeur and Nadia Podoroska, among others, all of whom will be taking to the clay in the Spanish capital.
The Russian empire
The Caja Mágica will be receiving a new visitor; Rublev. Until he recently lost his first final at the Monte Carlo ATP Masters 1000, the Russian had won all seven he competed in. The world No. 7 has produced some impressive performances on clay. In 2014 he was crowned champion of the Junior French Open and in 2020 he bowed out in the quarter-finals at Roland Garros against Stefanos Tsitsipas. Also, at the last Masters 1000 before the Madrid tournament, Rublev managed to overcome Rafa Nadal in the quarters. He will be one of the main attractions in 2021.
His compatriot Karatsev, one of those players who always seem to come in under the radar, will also be there. He is still a newcomer to ATP competitions, despite having some formidable qualities in his game. In January 2021 he sat at No. 114 in the ATP Ranking with just three wins under his belt on the pro tour. But the Muscovite has quietly notched up some great results, such as reaching the semis at the Australian Open, where he met Novak Djokovic, in his first participation. After this extraordinary performance, he was victorious at the ATP 500 in Dubai and he is now the world No. 27. He comes to Madrid confident of a strong performance on clay.
The NextGen step up
Of the new generation of players making their bid for a place among the elite, Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz are surely the most precocious talents. The Italian world No. 19 won the ATP 250 in Melbourne this year and the ATP in Sofia in 2019, at the age of just 19. His ability to dictate the tempo of a match and a serve that strikes fear into his opponents make him one of the NextGen’s best players.
Spain has a huge pool of young talented players who are constantly making the headlines. Among them, the young Carlos Alcaraz stands out. Yet to reach adulthood, the Murcia native became the second Spanish player in history to win his first Grand Slam match when he racked up three straight sets against the Dutch Zandschulp at the Australian Open. Also, the Juan Carlos Ferrero pupil picked up his first ATP win against Albert Ramos in Rio de Janeiro and claimed his first Top 15 scalp, that of David Goffin, at the ATP 250 Great Ocean Race. He also reached his first ATP Tour semi-final in Marbella.
Berrettini also makes his debut
The Italian looks like one of the most promising emerging players in Italian tennis. At 25 years of age, Matteo has lifted three titles, two of them on clay (Gstaad and Budapest). Despite multiple injuries in recent tournaments, he reached the last sixteen at Wimbledon and at the US Open last season. His compatriot Lorenzo Sonego will also be making his bow in the Caja Mágica.
Chilean talent on the clay
Cristian Garín is one of the players with the greatest potential in the men’s draw thanks to a majestic forehand and a double-handed backhand that he uses so effectively, above all on clay. All of the Chilean’s titles were picked up on this surface. His five crowns include the ATP Rio de Janeiro in 2020 and victories at the ATP 250 in Houston and Munich in 2019. Also, his early outings on clay provided a glimpse of what was to come when he won the Junior French Open in 2013. The world No. 22 will debut in Madrid in a bid to continue producing results on the red stuff.
The resurgence of Bianca Andreescu
The young Canadian player with Romanian roots is looking to rediscover her form after a year of injuries that have kept her on the sidelines since the WTA Finals in Shenzhen. The 2019 US Open champion was back in a final this season, this time at the Miami WTA against world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, where she had to withdraw with an ankle injury. The young player from Ontario has been among the top 10 in the world for over two years. However, the North American has said that she does not think about rankings and her goal is to recover her best form in order to be consistent in the upcoming tournaments.
The youth of an unstoppable star
Swiatek is the epitome of talent. The 19-year-old Pole is more than familiar with the taste of victory on clay. Last year, she won her first Grand Slam at Roland Garros without losing a single set in the entire tournament. The Warsaw native become the first Pole to win a women’s major, as well as the lowest ranked player to do so (No. 54). Her precociousness is simply unequalled. In 2018 she lifted the title at Wimbledon Junior and took the spoils at the Junior French Open in the doubles in the same year. This season she won the Brisbane WTA and reached the last sixteen at the Australian Open.
Indefatigable Argentine pride
Nicknamed ‘la rusa’, Nadia Podoroska is a player who is capable of producing an upset on any surface. Last season she produced a standout performance at the French Open, where she came through qualifying to reach the semis. The young player of Ukrainian descent made her ITF competition debut at 14 years of age and made her Grand Slam bow in 2016, reaching the main draw by seeing off Vekic. The No. 46 in the WTA Ranking boasts a doubles title from the Bogota WTA. She is just one of the stars hoping to shine bright at this year’s Mutua Madrid Open.