Huge theoretical mismatch in tonight's final
Alcaraz return game should be too much for Struff
Struff needing to serve well and take key points
Alcaraz continues dominance in home country
I haven't checked, but I'm pretty certain we'd have to go a long way back in the history books - if it has ever happened - to see a Masters 1000 final between the tournament favourite and a lucky loser from qualifying, but that's exactly what represents the Championship match in Madrid tonight, as Carlos Alcaraz faces Jan-Lennard Struff.
Unsurprisingly, Alcaraz, repeatedly, is the overwhelming pre-match favourite. The world number one is currently trading at 1.061/18, a similar line to matches against opponents who aren't Alexander Zverev in this tournament. Across Barcelona and Madrid, Alcaraz is 20-1 in sets, adequately illustrating his dominance against his tour rivals currently, and also demonstrates quite how difficult the task is going to be for Struff to cause a shock result.
Winning five deciding sets in a row have got Struff to this stage, and having played several qualifiers as well, the German must be fatigued. Hardly the ideal way to face the best clay-courter on tour by some distance right now, with Rafa Nadal sidelined.
Match dynamics different to previous meetings
Interestingly, both previous matches between the duo have been close, albeit in rather different circumstances to tonight. Struff defeated Alcaraz at the French Open in 2021 - when Alcaraz was barely ranked inside the top 100 - and pushed the Spaniard to five sets last year at Wimbledon, on grass where Alcaraz had little main tour experience.
The situation is different today - top ranked, on clay, in his home country, which is why the market perceives this to be not far from a foregone conclusion. The duo have pretty similar serve numbers on clay over the last 12 months but as was the case against Borna Coric in the semi-final, Alcaraz has a gigantic edge on return data.
For this to be close, I feel that Struff has to serve at his best. If he can hold 90% of the time, which is a huge stretch given how good Alcaraz is on return, and nicking a few key points, then this would look like the most feasible - but extremely unlikely - route to success. Otherwise, we can expect yet another routine Alcaraz win.