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Nadal to be the Madrid maestro

Nadal to be the Madrid maestro

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With Novak Djokovic struggling for form and Roger Federer opting not to take part in the tournament, it is difficult to see beyond Rafael Nadal as the winner of the Madrid Open.

The Spaniard is the defending champion – he beat Dominic Thiem in the final 12 months ago to claim his fifth Madrid title – and remains imperious on clay.

The 31-year-old returned to action last month for the first time since the Australian Open in January and promptly won the Monte Carlo Masters before triumphing at the Barcelona Open.

Nadal has won 19 successive matches on clay, and 46 sets in a row, and the line-up in Madrid should not give him any cause for concern.

Nadal could face Thiem in the quarter-finals and Juan Martin del Potro in the last four but should be too good for both of them.

Djokovic admitted earlier this week that he was struggling for confidence after returning to action too early following elbow surgery but the facts suggest the Serbian is in terminal decline.

He has never really been the same player since he lost to Sam Querrey at Wimbledon almost two years ago and he is not playing well enough to add to his Madrid triumphs in 2011 and 2016.

Djokovic will play Kei Nishikori in a mouth-watering first-round clash and it may be worth considering a victory for the Japanese player in two sets at 3/1.

The winner of the tie could potentially meet David Goffin in the third round and third seed Grigor Dimitrov in the quarter-finals.

Meanwhile, Tomas Berdych comes up against Richard Gasquet in what looks set to be a tight encounter. The Frenchman has won seven of his 16 contests against Berdych so a victory in three sets for Gasquet could prove to be profitable at 11/4.

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Mark Race Having worked in the media for nearly 30 years, Mark knows his sport inside out and at all levels. An avid football fan, Mark also has serious knowledge of the tennis world and is quick to point out value bets in a number of other sports.