Ruud out as big names struggle
Thiem could challenge Tsitsipas at big odds
Zapata Miralles could pick up second Masters win
Conditions a leveller as big names fail to ease to wins
Out of the event at the first time of asking was Casper Ruud and Lorenzo Musetti to lower ranked opposition, while Holger Rune needed a final set tiebreak and to save a match point to get past Alexander Bublik, who is usually not much of a fan of clay.
Carlos Alcaraz, top seed and tournament favourite, was also pushed to three sets by Emil Ruusuvuori.
Furthermore, at the time of writing, Alexander Zverev is also in trouble in set one against Roberto Carballes Baena in the night match, in a meeting where I mentioned yesterday that the bigger-name player could be vulnerable.
Thiem heavy underdog against Tsitsipas
Moving on to discussion of day four, Thursday's winners meet seeded players who picked up a first round bye, and that means that the likes of Stefanos Tsitsipas, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Daniil Medvedev get their tournaments up and running.
Tsitsipas faces an intriguing clash in the night match tomorrow against Dominic Thiem, which previously would have been a top-10 encounter reserved for the latter rounds.
Both have a career-high ranking of three in the world. However Thiem is currently barely inside the top 100 after a long injury lay-off and generally unconvincing results subsequently, and that means that the Austrian is the heavy underdog here at 5.04/1.
Competitive match anticipated in quick conditions
Thiem actually has the edge in their previous eight meetings (5-3) and both players have held serve in excess of 80% of the time overall against each other.
We should see a pretty serve-oriented match here in the quick conditions of Madrid, and this should be one game-plan Thiem can look to if he is to cause a shock. If he can serve well, then this match is likely to be a high-variance encounter where key point performance, and perhaps tiebreaks, will decide the result.
However, Thiem's serve numbers are down to 78% hold across all surfaces this year, while both have pretty mediocre return data in 2023. However, Thiem's return data has rapidly improved in the last month (breaking almost 30% of opponents serve games), albeit against pretty limited opposition. When he's faced quality (Fritz and Rune, for example), he's still been fairly outclassed.
Call me mad though, but I think Thiem has a chance here of keeping the match pretty competitive at least. General market lines are suggesting that Thiem +4.5 games will settle around the 1.84/5 mark, and I quite like this spot.
Medvedev and Norrie among the heavy favourites
In other matches, Daniil Medvedev faces Andy Murray's conqueror, Andrea Vavassori, and is heavy odds-on at 1.132/15 to get the win, and in the quicker conditions Medvedev could well have a deep run in this event as I discussed in the pre-tournament outright preview.
We also see Murray's British compatriot Cameron Norrie get his tournament underway, as another heavy odds-on favourite against the Japanese qualifier, Yosuke Watanuki, while there's several other matches which look pretty interesting.
Zapata Miralles could be celebrating again on Saturday
Bernabe Zapata Miralles celebrated - in some style - his first ever Masters 1000 main draw win and now faces an intriguing match against another Brit, Dan Evans. I think it's fair to say Evans hasn't set the world alight on clay in his career, but impressed last week in Barcelona, reaching the semi-final and picking up three underdog victories.
This looks the classic match-up between a clay specialist (Zapata Miralles) and the bigger name less adept on the surface (Evans). The market agrees, finding it tough to split the duo and making Evans the marginal 1.8810/11 favourite, which looks fair enough given the quicker conditions in Madrid.
Finally, one match which should be of interest for those readers keen to keep an eye on emerging talents is Jiri Lehecka versus Alexander Shevchenko.
Lehecka, a year younger, is ahead right now and is market favourite at 1.4840/85, but Shevchenko's return game could give him problems.
Shevchenko's clay numbers in Challengers look better than his win-loss record over the last year, and won the Challenger event in this city earlier this month. Both players should continue their rise up the rankings in the not too distant future.