2024 ATP Tour – Masters 1000

Friday - 25 April

The ATP Tour’s Madrid Masters continues with the Round of 128. The upcoming battles between Tomas Machac vs Emil Russuvuori and ZZ Zhang vs Miomir Kermanovic caught our attention…

2024 ATP Tour – Masters 1000
Mutua Madrid Open
La Caja Magica
Selected Ro128 Matches – 25 April

ZZ Zhang (Pic – Supplied)

Tomas Machac 59/100 | Emil Ruusuvuori 13/10

Tomas Machac has been quietly rising in the rankings for some time and this year he has managed to burst his way into the top 50 in the world. The 23-year-old Czech defied expectations with a maiden Grand Slam third round appearance at the Aussie Open.

He reached a quarter-final in Marseille and would enjoy a breakthrough fortnight at the Miami Open, picking up the biggest win of his career with victory over hardcourt dynamo Andrey Rublev. His form continued in Miami, as he outlasted Andy Murray in one of the matches of the season before slipping past Arnaldi into a first Masters 1000 quarter-final.

The rising Czech star pulled out of the Barcelona Open due to injury and it will be interesting to see how his fitness holds up here. Machac is a throwback to a different time. He doesn’t possess an explosive serve and creates outrageous angles, using his court coverage to grind opponents down.

That really means he should be a brilliant fit for clay. He has an astonishingly versatile backhand that actually delivers inside-out winners!

25-year-old Emil Ruusuvuori will be playing his first clay-court match of the season this week. The Finn was forced to withdraw from both the Monte-Carlo Masters and Barcelona Open due to a recurring back injury.

He actually hasn’t won a match since February, eliminated in the first round of both legs of the ‘Sunshine Double’. But the industrious Finn enjoyed a really encouraging start to the season and he will be hoping that some time away from action will give him a chance of rediscovering that level.

He won his second career title in Hong Kong before surrendering a two-set lead to Daniil Medvedev in the Aussie Open. He also reached the quarter-final stage of the Rotterdam Open. Can he get back to that level in Madrid? I think it’s going to be very tough ask.

He has barely played any competitive tennis of late and- more importantly- he isn’t exactly tailor-made for the vagaries of clay. He likes quicker surfaces that reward his brand of first-strike tennis.

Verdict: Machac to win in straight sets 14/10

This will be the first career meeting between these two. Machac has more variety and should be able to easily see off the Finn. He creates crazy angles that allow him to approach the net and finish off points easily. Ruusuvuori is more robotic, siting back and attempting to outduel his opponent.

Z.Z. Zhang 5/4 | Miomir Kecamanovic 61/100

Zhizhen Zhang created some history last season, going where no other male Chinese player has gone before on various occasions. And it all really started with his groundbreaking performance in this very event.

Zhang became the first man in Chinese history to reach the quarter-finals of a Masters 1000 event, saving three match points against Taylor Fritz in the process. Later in the year, the counterpunching Chinese star would also go on to reach the semi-finals of the Hamburg clay-court event.

He also became the first Chinese man in history to win against a top-five player, overcoming Caser Rudd en route to a third round finish at the US Open. He also went on to claim the gold medal at the Asian Games.

He unfortunately arrives in Madrid in a bit of a rut: he has gone 3-7 since reaching the quarter-finals in Marseille. Perhaps this venue will give him some positive juju. As I noted earlier, Zhang is a counterpuncher who loves to absorb pace and wear his opponents down. This makes clay the perfect surface for him.

24-year-old Serb Miomir Kecamanovic has all the ingredients to be a consistent top-20 presence. He serves well, moves brilliantly and hits the ball consistently off both wings. He just sometimes lacks a bit of self-belief and that has tended to ruin his consistency.

Just look at last season. Kecamnovic had a decent campaign, losing in finals at Delray Beach and Estoril (with three other semi-finals to his name). But he choked on the big stage, failing to progress beyond the third round of a Masters 1000 event.

He also failed to win a single Grand Slam main draw match last season. At least he rectified that this year, producing a very solid fourth-round run in Melbourne. But the erratic baseliner also has five first-round exits this calendar year.

It’s only April. Can he steady the ship and produce some decent tennis this fortnight? He is frankly too talented to be languishing outside the top 50 in the world. Two of his four career finals have come on clay and he simply needs to find something in the next few months.

Verdict: Kecmanovic to win in straight sets 15/10

The Serb won their only previous encounter some seven years ago. It seems that Kecmanovic is too good to struggle indefinitely. He is a brilliant mover and possesses the physical prowess to match Zhang’s energy.

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