Damien Kayat previews the round of 32 matches between Andy Murray and Denis Shapovalov as well as Jannik Sinner and Alex de Minaur on 3 and 4 May 2022.
Caja Magica, Madrid, Spain (Outdoor Clay)
Selected Round of 32 Matches- 3rd-4th May
Andy Murray 17/10 | Denis Shapovalov 9/20
Andy Murray won his first match on clay in nearly five years when he took down former US Open champion Dominic Thiem. To be fair, Thiem was returning from his own 10-month injury hiatus.
Still, Murray looked amazingly composed in the match as he aims to go deep this week. Murray won this event in 2008 when it was still a hardcourt event. But he also won the title on clay in 2015 before finishing runner-up in 2016.
But his career has obviously been derailed by a litany of injury concerns. I always thought that this post-injury Murray may have his greatest shot at success on clay. He can use his considerable tennis brain to offset some of his physical limitations.
Its’ not too surprising that Shapovalov has a decent record in Madrid. Nominally a hardcourt specialist, Shapovalov reached the semi-finals here in 2018. In the process, he became the youngest semi-finalist in the tournament’s history.
His big serve is obviously advantageous at this altitude. Shapovalov has endured a pretty tumultuous season thus far. He performed brilliantly at the ATP Cup before an excellent quarterfinal run at the Aussie Open.
But the mercurial Canadian has flattered to deceive since the year’s opening major. In fact, his last appearance prior to Madrid ended in a fairly emphatic opening round defeat to Llyod Harris in Miami.
Verdict: Murray to win at 17/10
I was fairly surprised to learn that this will be just their second meeting. Shapovalov easily dismantled Murray in the 3rd round of last year’s Wimbledon Championships.
Murray will need to elevate his game against Shapovalov. Thiem was drastically undercooked in their match and Shapovalov will be far more match-ready.
I think that Murray could frustrate Shapovalov into creating a plethora of errors. The Scot will play percentage tennis and hope that the Canadian defeats himself.
Jannik Sinner 47/100 | Alex de Minaur 33/20
20-year-old Jannik Sinner is coming off a wonderful breakthrough season. He won four titles last year and made it to the ATP finals as an alternate. He also reached his maiden ATP 1000 final, losing to Hubert Hurkacz at Indian Wells.
All in all, it was a season that represented great progress for the Italian. But I think he will be feeling fairly frustrated with his consistent- if unspectacular- 2022 campaign.
Sinner has reached four significant quarterfinals this year. This included runs at the Aussie Open and Monte-Carlo Masters. But he just hasn’t been able to harness all his natural potential into one huge week.
He came within a whisker of reaching the semi-finals in Monte Carlo, losing to Alex Zverev in a nail-biting third set tiebreak. It does seem as if the 2020 French Open quarterfinalist is growing as a clay-court presence.
He played yet another tense match in his opening encounter, beating Tommy Paul in three tight sets. Here he will need to take down the Speed Demon himself: Alex de Minaur.
23-year-old Alex De Minaur will always take some beating. Arguably the most naturally athletic player on tour, he often has to overcome his lack of true firepower with grit and a never-say-die attitude.
Just to illustrate his dogged nature, De Minaur has needed a top 20 player to eliminate him from all four of his last events. That included his spectacular semi-final defeat last time out in Barcelona.
It took Carlos Alcaraz Garfia nearly four hours to defeat the pugnacious Aussie. That match highlighted De Minaur’s defensive capabilities brilliantly, as the Aussie continuously frustrated the hard-hitting Spaniard with his unique brand of determined baseline defence.
De Minaur didn’t look all that uncomfortable in his opening match against the unfancied Martinez. But he should be warmed up now and will relish the chance to take down another big name.
Verdict: De Minaur to win in three at 11/4
This will be their 4th career meeting, with Sinner absolutely dominating their head-to-head 3-0. This will be the first time these two will have met on clay. This should help De Minaur stay involved in more points.
I think that the Aussie has a real chance this week. Sinner has struggled to maintain his form throughout the course of an entire event. De Minaur can go the distance and may sense an upset victory here.
He just needs to combat Sinner’s dangerous two-handed backhand and ensure that he stays in enough rallies.