The 2019 Barcelona Open will kick-start Monday with some of the top tennis stars including Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem featuring in it. We look at the start of the clay court swing last week, the Barcelona Open draw and preview what could happen this coming week.
The clay court season is one well known for its unpredictabilities and upsets, but the start of the 2019 clay season has attained levels of surprise unprecedented in recent times with the Monte-Carlo Masters semi-final defeat of Nadal.
Tennis pundits and enthusiasts billed the season as a clash between the world number one Novak Djokovic and the King of Clay and world number two Rafael Nadal.
Two weeks into the clay court season and the first Masters 1000 on the surface has Serbian Dusan Lajovic and Italian Fabio Fognini playing for the title, not something many would have foreseen. Few, if any would have not expected to see Rafael Nadal going for a record twelfth title at the Monte-Carlo Masters instead.
The tour moves to the only ATP 500 on clay in Barcelona, a tournament that has in years past seen many of the prominent names on the tour participate. Yet again, the draw this time is well stacked with a host of big names and top ranked individuals.
Number one seed and defending champion Rafael Nadal will again start as favorite, going for a record 12th title. However, the humiliating defeat to Fabio Fognini in the Monte-Carlo semi finals will leave one wondering if his invincibility on clay is coming to a close, and also make the others on the tour believe in their chances against the Spaniard.
Given the presence of top ranked players, Nadal has a challenging draw with his quarter also featuring David Ferrer, Lucas Pouille, Stefanos Tsitsipas and David Goffin. On recent form and performance, Nadal’s biggest challenge will probably come from Stefanos Tsitsipas – his likely quarter final opponent.
The top half of the draw also features Dominic Thiem, Pablo Carreno- Busta , Frances Tiafoe and Karen Khachanov. Khachanov has had a poor year thus far with plenty of disappointing early losses, after a breakout strong 2018 with a Paris Masters 1000 win among other positive results.
Despite some good results, Tiafoe continues to lack consistency, leaving Pablo Carreno Busta as the most likely to challenge Thiem enroute the semi finals. Thiem, who has often been referred to Nadal’s successor on clay, has beaten Novak Djokovic on clay in 2017 and Rafael Nadal on clay in 2018.
Thiem also won his first Masters 1000 in March at Indian Wells with a spirited performance to beat Roger Federer in the finals. However, Theim himself can prove to be inconsistent with some impressive and some disappointing showings in recent times.
The bottom half of the draw features Kei Nishikori , Fabio Fognini, and the two Canadian teenagers Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger Aliassime in the same quarter. Though Nishikori stands out as probably the most seasoned, one cannot discount Fognini’s capabilities and more so given his run at Monte Carlo this week.
Additionally, the two Canadians remain spirited and talented and makes it tricky to choose a favored semi finalist from this quarter.
The feature names in the bottom quarter of the draw are Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev, with Grigor Dimitrov and Giles Simon also in the same quarter. Dimitrov and Zverev have been out of form for a while, with several disappointing results.
🎂🎂 HAPPY BIRTHDAY ALEXANDER ZVEREV! 🎂🎂 pic.twitter.com/t9DZlxZLH6
— Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell (@bcnopenbs) April 20, 2019
Medvedev on the other hand has had a strong 2019, with his victory against Novak Djokovic at Monte Carlo being the highlight, leaving him as the favorite in this half.
The draw also contains veterans such as Fernando Verdasco, Feliciano Lopez and Philipp Kohlschreiber, and young guns such as Taylor Fritz, Reilly Opelka, and Jaume Munar, all capable of springing upsets and surprises.
With no particular early advantage after the first two weeks of the clay season, a number of players will be looking to make amends for disappointing losses and get some momentum going at Barcelona before the month of May featuring back to back Masters 1000s heading into the French Open.
An interesting week lies ahead, with a lot of unknowns and uncertainties. Expect Rafael Nadal to assert his dominance on clay yet once again, with Thiem and Medvedev being close seconds and key contenders to Nadal for the Barcelona title.
Barcelona Open Tips & Predictions:
Nadal to win