Friday Madrid Open Odds, Predictions, Analysis: Our Best Bets For Nadal vs. Alcaraz & Djokovic vs. Hurkacz (May 6)
Matthew Stockman/Getty. Pictured: Rafa Nadal & Carlos Alcaraz
The ATP Tour has one of the best schedules that it will have all year on Friday at the Madrid Open, as Novak Djokovic, Rafa Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz will all take the court.
Other top-10 players — including Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrey Rublev and Felix Auger-Aliassime — will be playing, as well.
Here’s where I see value ahead of the blockbuster slate of play.
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Novak Djokovic (-360) vs. Hubert Hurkacz (+270)
8 a.m. ET
Djokovic and Hubert Hurkacz have played three times before, with the 20-time slam champion taking all three of the battles.
Most recently, Djokovic defeated the 2021 Wimbledon semifinalist in a third-set tiebreaker at the Paris Masters. Their only meeting on clay came at the French Open in 2019, when Djokovic defeated Hurkacz in three quick sets.
Djokovic hasn’t been perfect thus far in Madrid, but he’s steadily improved since the start of his clay season in Monte Carlo, where he collapsed in the third set of his opening match against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.
In his following tournament in Belgrade, Djokovic reached the final before suffering another disappointing third-set breakdown against Rublev.
He opened his Madrid campaign with a routine victory over Gael Monfils, and he advanced past Andy Murray after the Brit withdrew due to illness.
Hurkacz is currently experiencing the best clay season of his career by a wide margin, as he’s already topped his career high in yearly ATP clay wins by a significant margin. He also has a 6-1 record on the year after finishing 1-4 on the dirt last year.
This will be his biggest test of the clay season, however, and it’s an incredibly difficult spot for Hurkacz, who still hasn’t refined his game on the surface to the level of someone like Djokovic. The Pole hasn’t dominated any of his seven matches, relying on a massive first serve to carry him through matches.
He’s amassed a whopping 43 aces and just four double faults thus far in the high altitude conditions of Madrid. If any clay environment is going to be helpful to his game, it’s this one.
Unfortunately, this is still clay, and he’ll be dealing with the greatest returner of all time.
Djokovic limited Monfils to 64% of his first-serve points and 38% of his second-serve points, and he’s far more conditioned to succeed on clay than his counterpart.
When the Serbian can simply get the ball back into play, rallies will instantly shift to his favor, and the pressure that Djokovic can apply on the ground will be tough for Hurkacz to withstand.
Hurkacz has been impressive in previous matches against Hugo Dellien, Davidovich Fokina and Dusan Lajovic, but this is a different type of player that he’s about to face. Djokovic also appears to be rounding into form as the French Open nears.
I’ll take my chances with the world No. 1, who has a clay Elo Rating that is approximately 350 points higher than Hurkacz’s.
Pick: Novak Djokovic -3.5 games (-135 via DraftKings)
Rafa Nadal (-108) vs. Carlos Alcaraz (-108)
10 a.m. ET
The matchup that everyone is waiting for comes between the teenage prodigy Alcaraz and his idol Nadal.
Both Spaniards will see the match as a great litmus test for their upcoming Roland Garros chances, though Alcaraz will likely see the match with marginally greater importance, as he’s still lacking a win against the big three.
He hasn’t faced Djokovic yet, but he’s 0-2 against Nadal, including a loss at this event a year ago.
At Indian Wells this year, the duo treated us to an all-time classic, with Nadal gutting out a three-set victory.
The match easily could have gone Alcaraz’s way, as Nadal won just five points on return in the third set. Unfortunately for the youngster, four of those points came in the same game, and Nadal secured the break. That’s incredibly clutch and a testament to what Nadal can do, but Alcaraz will be fancying his chances this time around.
Nadal and Alcaraz combined for 35 break points in the desert, and I think we can expect something similar in these conditions. For Alcaraz, however, he should have an advantage on serve this time around.
The recently turned 19-year-old has posted 11 aces and four double faults thus far in Madrid, posting 65-70% first-serve percentages through two matches.
Alcaraz has won over 52% of the points behind both of his serves in each match, as the pressure that he applies on the ground makes it incredibly hard to find points on return when he’s serving that well.
Alcaraz excelled on his serve-plus-one against Cameron Norrie in the last round, and Nadal struggled with the depth of his strokes throughout his recent match with David Goffin.
If that trend continues in this match, it’ll be incredibly hard for Nadal to gain a foothold.
Of course, we’re still talking about the king of clay, and fading Nadal isn’t typically a profitable endeavor. Nonetheless, his level against Goffin simply won’t stand up against Alcaraz, and he even needed to save a number of match points against the Belgian.
Alcaraz will likely look to get as many balls to the Nadal backhand as possible, and he already experienced a battle with a lefty in this tournament (Norrie). Alcaraz is 10-2 against lefties in the last year, with his only losses coming against Nadal and in an inexplicable collapse against Hugo Gaston.
At this price, it’s worth diving into the treacherous waters of fading Nadal and backing Alcaraz to secure the biggest win of his career.
Pick: Carlos Alcaraz ML (-108 via FanDuel)
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