Quick conditions again on show in Madrid
Thiem heavy favourite to meet Tsitsipas
Struff potential underdog value
Serve-oriented matches on day one in quick conditions
Across both yesterday's preview, and the outright preview, I discussed the quicker than average clay-court conditions in Madrid due to the altitude of the Spanish capital, with the implications being more matches decided on key points and tiebreaks more likely than a standard clay venue.
This dynamic certainly manifested itself on day one, with 11 tiebreaks in 16 matches, working out at 0.27 tiebreaks per set - not far off double the ATP clay-court average for 2023.
On day one, almost 85% of service games were held, a figure around 10% more than ATP clay matches this season. So, there is little doubt that the trend continues, and we should anticipate further serve-oriented matches as the tournament evolves.
Not only this, but on day one, court speed proved to be a great leveller in some cases on day one, with Maxime Cressy's big serve enabling him to give Stan Wawrinka a tough time of things, although the Swiss man eventually did nick the final set tiebreak to progress.
Conversely, Diego Schwartzman's poor season continued, losing to Hugo Grenier in straight sets, with the quicker conditions unlikely to suit the return-oriented Argentine.
Thiem should have too much for off-pace Edmund
Moving on to Tuesday's card, the 16 matches come from the bottom half of the draw, with arguably Dominic Thiem versus Kyle Edmund being the match of the day.
Both players are far from former levels, although Edmund's 2023 data is dreadful and he looks far off the player who was ranked as high as 14 at the age of 23 and tipped to be a big star of the future. Thiem is a heavy 1.182/11 favourite to progress and meet Stefanos Tsitsipas in round two.
Murray could face tricky test from Vavassori
Edmund's fellow Brit, Andy Murray, threatened to quit the clay season after losing in poor fashion to Alex De Minaur in Monte Carlo, but conditions there compared to Madrid are like two extremes.
Opponent Andrea Vavassori has qualified to be here, and has picked up some good runs in Challengers of late, regularly reaching quarter-finals or better on clay at that level this season.
Vavassori also picked up two top-70 wins on his way to the quarter-finals of the Marrakech 250 earlier this month, and with a lot of clay wins recorded of late, should give Murray a tricky test.
Murray is 1.774/5 to edge this, and it's tough to price this match up given Murray's lack of clay activity in the last year or two. If it was on slow clay, Vavassori at prices would be more enticing.
Struff surprisingly underdog against Sonego
In other matches, I wouldn't be surprised if Jan-Lennard Struff overturned the odds at 2.35/4 against Lorenzo Sonego, having a better record on clay over the last couple of years and also in much better form this season as well.
Struff is here by way of a lucky loser spot after losing to Aslan Karatsev in qualifiers, but Sonego could well be a step down in opposition quality to the hit-and-miss Karatsev.
Improving Shelbayh in first Masters match
We also see the first Jordanian player I can think of playing a Masters 1000 level tournament with wild-card Abedallah Shelbayh facing Pedro Cachin.
Shelbayh picked up his first main tour win last week in Banja Luka against Elias Ymer having qualified to make the main draw, and that is in line with continued improvement in 2023 which saw him reach a Challenger final in February on hard court and not far off halving his ranking in the four months this season so far.
The Argentine clay-courter Pedro Cachin stands in the way of a round two spot, and again, this is a tough match to price up. I'm fascinated to see how competitive Shelbayh could be here at underdog odds of 3.185/40.