By Siddhant Guru and Nick Carter
The following is a transcript of a conversation held at Popcorn Tennis HQ between Nick and Siddhant.
Nick: So, Siddhant, I thought it might be fun to talk about our predictions for what’s going to happen at the Madrid Masters this week.
Siddhant: I agree. I have some… ideas on how I think this is going to turn out.
Nick: I think we both do. Let’s start with the obvious question, is Rafa really the favourite? It’s clay but Madrid conditions aren’t ideal for him.
Siddhant: I fully agree on that. He hasn’t won Madrid since 2017. Plus, he had that rib injury recently. His pre tournament presser… he didn’t sound very confident about his chances.
Nick: True,, but whenever he says stuff like that he usually ends up winning. That being said, if he’s vulnerable, who do you think might take him down? I have him making at least the quarters.
Siddhant: Yeah, I also have him in the quarterfinals. There’s a new Spaniard in town who’s raising all the eyebrows these days.
Nick: Yeah I think this could be a passing of the torch moment, although I don’t think Rafa is done if he doesn’t win Madrid. That’s a match I’m looking forward to!
Siddhant: Yeah, same here. Rafa being Rafa, he’s always going to be one to watch out for. What do you think about Novak’s chances? It will only be the fourth tournament of the year for him and he has lost early in the first two.
Nick: Not sure if I’d call losing in a final early (laughs) but I am concerned he’s not fully fit. I don’t think his draw is too bad but I think he’ll run out of gas again. It’s possible he’ll still win but I don’t think he’s ready yet.
Siddhant: I agree with all that, although I meant Dubai and Monte Carlo as the first two tournaments (laughs). But yeah, he’s looked tired in most of his matches. If not Novak and Rafa, who do you think is winning this tournament then?
Nick: I keep forgetting about Dubai! I have clay brain! I’d say the new Spaniard is the favourite, I think Alcaraz is playing well enough that I’m not sure who can beat him. Especially in Madrid which plays a bit quicker.
Siddhant: Hmmm, you really like putting pressure on a teenager like that. What about the bottom half of the draw? No real hope from Tsitsipas/Zverev?
Nick: Hey, I’m a British Emma Raducanu fan so I’m used to expecting big things from teenagers. As for the bottom half of the draw, Tsitsipas is a clay contender wherever he goes but again I don’t think these conditions are as favourable for him and he’s probably still stinging from the Barcelona loss. I still think he could be in the final though, it’s between him and a couple of others for me. Not Zverev though, he’s not in good form right now so I’m not confident he’ll get far.
Siddhant: I mostly agree with all that (also booo for supporting Emma!). I agree with Tsitsipas but I don’t think he’s making the final. His form and level isn’t quite the same as last year’s. Zverev is a known Madrid specialist though. Even in 2019, when he was quite woeful, he still made the quarterfinals. So, with the relatively kind draw he has gotten, I won’t be surprised if he serves his way to the later stages.
Nick: He could do, I think he’ll get upset by a new generation player though. Most likely Sinner, I’m confident he’s looking good (Ed. note: this conversation took place before his match against Paul).
Siddhant: Yeah, Sinner is one of my picks for this tournament if he’s fit. He tends to take his time early on though. That Paul match could be tricky but otherwise, he should be one of the favorites. I think Sebi Korda also might have a shot vs Zverev.
Nick: Surprisingly, you and I are on the same wavelength. I’ve marked Korda as a potential upset for Zverev. So you say Sinner is one of your picks, is he the guy you think might win this then? Bold if so.
Siddhant: Okay. Here’s the thing. Sinner isn’t winning in my brackets. Uhhh…. It’s… Ugo Humbert.
Nick: I’m sorry?
Siddhant: You heard me. I have Ugo Humbert winning the Madrid Masters.
Nick: The grass court specialist Ugo Humbert?
Siddhant: The very same!
Nick: You are aware he needs to beat Shapovalov, Thiem or Murray, Djokovic, Ruud and then Nadal or Alcaraz just to reach the final right?
Siddhant: Yup. I realize all that. But here me out on my explanation.
Nick: Go on…
Siddhant: First round vs Shapovalov – realize that this is Shapo’s first tournament on clay this season. He does hold a 2-0 H2H on Clay vs Humbert but it’s not quite representative given both those matches went to deciding sets. I think Humbert might nick that match in three sets.
(Siddhant pauses for breath.)
Siddhant: Second round vs. Thiem/Murray – Whoever wins in the Thiem-Murray match, I don’t think they would be fit enough in the next round. This is Andy’s first tournament on clay in a year and a half. Thiem has looked out of touch. He isn’t quite there physically or game-wise. Plus, the traditional lefty angle to Thiem’s backhand on serve could be a winning tactic for Ugo.
Siddhant: Now for the fun part. I don’t think Djokovic is winning the first match…
Nick: He’s not??? Who’s he losing to?
Siddhant: He’s playing Monfils in the first match (assuming Gael wins). First, nobody beats Gael Monfils 18 times in a row. Secondly, I think Monfils can really grind Novak down, especially with Novak’s recent physical issues. I think Monfils can win the match in three sets, with Novak gassing out in the third again.
Siddhant: So anyway, I think Monfils vs Humbert is the pre-quarterfinals in that section, which Humbert can win. In the Quarterfinals, it’s either Ruud or Fokina, going by the draw. Fokina is in good touch while Ruud isn’t. But I think Ruud’s problems in this clay season are more about him rushing his strokes rather than anything fundamental. He can beat Fokina but regardless, I think Humbert can outlast them in a long drawn out battle. (1) Humbert’s CCFH to their obviously weak BHs could be the money play (Humbert averages 2500+ RPMs on his FH, which is slightly above average on the ATP Tour).
(Siddhant once again takes a long breath.)
Siddhant: Now, I agree that Alcaraz can beat Nadal. In fact, I think he will beat Rafa. Madrid’s HC-like conditions are suitable for his game. However, like we saw vs De Minaur in Barcelona, he doesn’t quite enjoy playing against players who redirect linear pace relatively well – something Humbert does well on a grass court, and which he can do on the relatively quicker courts of Madrid.
Siddhant: It’s a tough ask but I think Carlos will have an off day in that semifinal. In the final, I think Humbert can beat Tsitsipas or Sinner. He has a very good record vs Stefanos. Jannik would be tougher but once again, I think he can force Sinner to overhit enough to make the difference. That’s my logic for going with Humbert. I just think the two titans are not reliable enough for this tournament. I think a new winner is not entirely unexpected. Fokina made the final in Monte Carlo, after all!!
Nick: Ummm…. OK! I… don’t know what to say to that! Your logic is sound I suppose… (It sounds like he’s just utterly confused)
Siddhant: I will also point out that even in his loss in Monte Carlo, Humbert won more points in the four-plus shot rallies. He only struggled in the shorter rallies, which I think will be ironed out in the Madrid HC-like conditions. The same was true against De Minaur but to a lesser extent.
Nick: Siddhant, you have inspired me. We need to take the depth of talent in the men’s field more seriously. I’m changing my pick now.
Nick: But not to Humbert. I could see him making a deep run now you’ve explained it, but there’s one other name on my mind.
Siddhant: Who’s that?
Nick: Andrey Rublev.
Siddhant: Ho ho ho! I need to see his draw again. I vaguely remember he’s in the Tsitsipas quarter?
Nick: Yeah. All this talk of Madrid basically playing like a hard-court makes me think he’ll beat Tsitsipas.
Siddhant: Hmm, it’s not outside the realm of possibility, you know. If he beats Tsitsipas, it’s Zverev or Sinner in the semis. Hmm. Andrey is in good form too…
Nick: He’d definitely beat Zverev, Sinner might be close but I think he could win it. Then he could out-rally Alcaraz in a battle of big forehands. Or, if it is Humbert in the final, it might be too much for the Frenchman to handle.
Siddhant: It could be too much but I trust in my pick!
Nick: To be honest, I’m just glad we didn’t try to predict the WTA, not sure my brain could handle that!
Siddhant: WTA, for me, is just hoping that the chaos falls in your lap, or in this case, doesn’t interfere with your pick, haha.
Nick: Dare I ask, how are your predictions working out for that? Is your pick still in?
Siddhant: I can tell you my finalist is Sara Sorribes Tormo, who is in the 4th Round. Sadly, my winner is out.
(There is a crashing sound, as if a table is being flipped)
Nick: Sorry, I don’t know what came over me. I’m fine now. Just goes to show that nothing is very predictable right now.
Siddhant: If you thought the WTA without Iga Świątek is even remotely predictable… I don’t know what you expect.
Nick: Yes… well… This was fun Siddhant. I look forward to seeing how things play out in Madrid.
Siddhant: Cheers Nick! It’s going to be a great watch!
(Siddhant stands up and stumbles out in a zigzag manner. Nick was later found sitting silently in the same spot many hours later by Owen.)
Screenshots from the TNNS Live App later confirmed that Siddhant was sticking to his picks.