Struff picks up underdog winner
Zverev facing test from Carballes Baena
Molcan our pick against Nishioka
Struff triumphs on one-sided Thursday
Most of Thursday's round one matches in the Spanish capital were decided in straight sets, including our underdog pick Jan-Lennard Struff, who dropped just four games in the process of beating Lorenzo Sonego.
Brits disappointed, however, with Kyle Edmund's miserable return to tour continuing, being thrashed by Dominic Thiem, while Andy Murray didn't fare much better at the hands of the Italian qualifier, Andrea Vavassori, who now takes on Daniil Medvedev in round two.
Zverev could make a hat-trick of recent short-priced losses
Going on to Friday's schedule, there are 16 matches from the top half of the draw, which means top seed and tournament favourite Carlos Alcaraz starts his campaign, facing Emil Ruusuvuori. In his quarter is also Alexander Zverev (who faces Roberto Carballes Baena) plus Andrey Rublev, who has one of the potential matches of the round against Stan Wawrinka.
While Alcaraz is an overwhelming favourite to win, priced at 1.051/20, the other two are trading at far bigger lines around the 1.330/100 mark.
Carballes Baena could be a real tricky test for Zverev, with the Spaniard having one the Marrakech 250 earlier this month, while in my view Zverev is still not close to his previous best level after his injury comeback.
In his last three tournaments, Zverev has lost twice as a sub 1.251/4 favourite against opposition ranked outside the top 80, so a win for the German looks far from guaranteed here. I wouldn't be stunned if Carballes Baena took at least a set.
Halys' improved serve should see a close repeat against Bautista-Agut
Moving on to some more competitive-looking matches from a market price perspective, it's interesting to see Roberto Bautista-Agut as big as 1.855/6 against Quentin Halys.
The duo met earlier this month in the second round in Estoril, with Halys overturning the odds and winning 7-6 7-5. Bautista-Agut started around the 1.75/7 mark that day, so there's a not inconsiderable price movement following that recent clash.
That match saw serves dominate, with only five break points in 24 service games, and Halys won just two more points in the entire match. Given that he won via a three-game margin, that would suggest that Bautista-Agut held serve easier generally. I'd expect a similarly close match here, given the quick conditions and the seemingly vast improvement in Halys' serve this season.
Molcan simply far better on clay than Nishioka
Home player Jaume Munar got past Thanasi Kokkinakis on Wednesday via two tiebreaks, and the Spaniard now faces Tallon Griekspoor in round two.
Griekspoor is currently ranked just outside the top 30, and apart from a run to the semi-finals in Santiago earlier at the start of March, Munar has struggled to convince this season, even on his preferred clay.
The quicker conditions in Madrid compared to the average clay court should be a huge leveller here, with Griekspoor not impressing on clay so far this season, but more adept on surfaces with more pace.
This is probably one of those matches where on the average clay court, Munar looks value at the current 2.0621/20, but in quicker conditions, it looks like a pass.
Finally, clay-courter Alex Molcan should have too much for Yoshihito Nishioka even in these conditions.
Molcan has an excellent record on the dirt in the last year, winning around two-thirds of his main tour matches on the surface, while Nishioka has struggled on the surface throughout his career, holding serve just 66% of the time.
Those numbers are unlikely to get the job done against a very competent clay-courter like Molcan, who already beat Nishioka on hard court in Madrid last month. Molcan is also coming off a decent week in Bosnia last week, where he lost to Andrey Rublev in the semi-final, and he should have too much for Nishioka here as a value 1.684/6 favourite.