The big guns struggle through

Antonio Arenas Mutua News

It was a thrilling day in the Caja Mágica as the Mutua Madrid Open clay hosted some of the biggest names on tour and favourites to lift the Ion Tiriac Trophy. Nadal, Djokovic, Nishikori, Wawrinka and Raonic have all now started their campaign for the title.

Rafael Nadal needed nearly three hours of tennis to see off Fabio Fognini in his debut at the 2017 Mutua Madrid Open. “I didn’t play my best match”, he admitted on court soon after the match. The four-time winner in Madrid had a complicated opener against a player who was not about to lie down easily. The Italian gave his all from the get go, confidently stroking forehands and backhands to produce 47 winners that meant Nadal would have to play three sets. The first went to the Spaniard in a tiebreak. The Italian levelled in the second but eventually, Nadal, with the Manolo Santana crowd urging him on, managed to finish the job, 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-4.

The defending champion of the Mutua Madrid Open, Novak Djokovic played his first match at this year’s tournament against Nicolás Almagro. The Spaniard pushed the Serb to the limit, forcing him to dig deep in order to avoid an early exit in a match that looked like it was going to be a walkover after he took the first set 6-1. But Almagro, surviving on pure will power, levelled the tie to take it to a decider. There, in the final set, the Spaniard may have let himself dream of victory and the next round when he reached a 3-0 lead. But the champion, who can never be written off, came back from the dead, winning his next two serves, breaking the Murcia native and levelling the set, only to later break his opponent once more and put the final nail in his coffin with a 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 victory.

Beforehand, the day got underway with matches from Kei Nishikori, Milos Raonic and Nick Kyrgios. The Australian was the first to stamp his ticket to the third round on court 4 in the Caja Mágica. Kyrgios needed a little less than an hour to get past US player Ryan Harrison with a 6-3, 6-3 win to set up a meeting with Rafa Nadal. The next player to progress was Milos Raonic who defeated Luxembourgian Gilles Muller in an hour and ten minutes (6-4, 6-4) and will now be battling for a place in the quarter-finals against David Goffin, who has been waiting in the third round since yesterday.

Kei Nishikori struggled more than the other two to get through his match. The Japanese player made a strong start to the tournament, but to book his place in the third round he had to come back in a match that started badly for him Diego Schwartzman, who saw off Ramos-Viñolas yesterday, was his opponent on his return to Madrid. The Argentinian came flying out of the blocks, taking the first set 6-1, but Nishikori’s response was immediate and his opponent failed to win a game in the second. In the decider the 2014 runner-up demonstrated his superiority and completed his comeback after two hours of tennis (1-6, 6-0, 6-4). His opponent in the third round will be David Ferrer, who progressed without having to unsheathe his racquet after the withdrawal of Tsonga. The Frenchman said adios to the tournament because of an injury to his right shoulder.