At ATP Masters 1000 level, no win is taken for granted. But Friday’s release of the Mutua Madrid Open draw has thrown up some potential mouth watering early-round showdowns that have grabbed the attention of tennis fans.

Ahead of the start of play Sunday, looks at one guaranteed first-round match and four possible second-round blockbusters.

[7] Diego Schwartzman vs. Aslan Karatsev
If Karatsev can first get past Ugo Humbert, he’ll get to face Schwartzman for the second time in three months. The Russian, who is fresh from an upset of World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in Belgrade, took out Schwartzman in the third round of the Australian Open in straight sets during a memorable breakthrough run to the semi-finals. Both Karatsev and Schwartzman have won a title this year (the Russian in Dubai and the Argentine in Buenos Aires). World No. 9 Schwartzman will have points to defend after having a stellar 2020 clay season when he reached the final in Rome, complete with a quarter-final win over Rafael Nadal, and the semi-finals of Roland Garros. 

[8] Matteo Berrettini vs. Fabio Fognini
Fognini will take on a qualifier in the first round and awaiting him if he prevails will be his compatriot Berrettini. The level of play and intensity will be high with both Italians inside of the Top 20 of the Fedex ATP Race to Turin. They’ll be eager to pick up points in Madrid and appear on court at home in Turin when the Italian city hosts the Nitto ATP Finals in November. Berrettini, with a Fedex ATP Ranking of No. 10, just won the ATP 250 in Belgrade (d Karatsev).

[15] Felix Auger-Aliassime vs. Casper Ruud
#NextGenATP star Auger-Aliassime is the higher ranked player in this first-round bout but Ruud has been playing the best tennis of his career in recent weeks. The 22-year-old Norwegian just reached the semi-finals in Monte-Carlo with wins over Schwartzman, Pablo Carreno Busta and Fognini. Auger-Aliassime will be looking to have a deep run with new coach Toni Nadal in his corner. In his most recent event in Barcelona, the Canadian picked up wins over Lorenzo Musetti and Denis Shapovalov to reach the quarter-finals.

[2] Daniil Medvedev vs. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina
Assuming Davidovich Fokina wins his first round against a qualifier, he’ll be up for a big challenge against Medvedev. Davidovich Fokina is continuing his upward trajectory in the rankings, cracking the Top 50 for the first time this week. He’s into the semi-finals in Estoril and will have four clay tournaments under his belt while Medvedev hasn’t played since Miami. The 25-year-old missed Monte-Carlo after testing positive for COVID-19 and will be eager to get back on court. The next few weeks will prove crucial for the Russian: He has very few points to defend and could turn up the heat on Djokovic for the prized World No. 1 mantle. 

[1] Rafael Nadal vs. Carlos Alcaraz
Alcaraz first has a big task against Adrian Mannarino but if he were to win, awaiting him in the second round is five-time Madrid champion Nadal. It’s huge incentive for the 17-year-old Spaniard as he would be facing the World No. 2 for the first time. Nadal will be well-rested after taking a week off following his 12th Barcelona title triumph.