One of the most anticipated first round encounters takes place on Tuesday afternoon between Latvian No. 1 Ernests Gulbis and hotheaded Polish youngster Jerzy Janowicz at the Mutua Madrid Open. This marks the fourth time these two athletes will meet on the ATP World Tour, with Gulbis leading the head-to-head series 2-1.
World No. 23 Ernests Gulbis has had a successful 2014 season, as he extended his perfect record in ATP World Tour finals to 5-0 with a victory over Tsonga in Marseille. The following month, he reach his fourth ATP World Tour Masters 1000 quarter-final (or better), where he lost to Isner in a tight match-up. He would follow up with a second round loss to Benneteau in Miami and an opening round loss to Dolgopolov in his first clay court appearance of the season at Monte Carlo.
Last week saw a better performance, as Gulbis would reach the quarter-final round of the Barcelona Open before losing to eventual champion Kei Nishikori. He will now be looking for a deep run in Madrid, where he has not played since 2010.
World No. 21 Jerzy Janowicz has had a poor start to his 2014 season, after breaking into the public eye last year with his impressive Wimbledon performance. The Polish No. 1 has been unable to string together more than two consecutive wins on the tour, with his best performance being a semi-final appearance at the ATP 250 event in Montpellier. He is currently riding a seven-match losing streak dating back to his second round victory over Tommy Haas in Rotterdam. He is 0-1 so far this season on clay, and 8-10 overall. He has also dropped out of the Top 20, where he currently sits at No. 21.
This marks the fourth time these two competitors will meet on the professional circuit. They actually met on two other occasions as well, but neither took place on the ATP World Tour main draw. Their only clay court encounter is not counted in the official h2h, as it was on the Challengers circuit in 2012, which Janowicz won in three sets. Their second encounter on the red dirt will likely be a vastly different one, as Gulbis is currently in form, while Janowicz is currently in a drought for wins on the tour.
Prediction: Ernests Gulbis in Straight Sets