Novak Djokovic will once more look to kick-start his season on Tuesday, playing Nicolas Almagro in his opener in Madrid. The 2016 champion has just one title on the year, winning in the first week of the year at Doha.
Seeming a sure fire 2016 year end No. 1, Djokovic faltered in the latter half of the year and allowed a scorching hot Andy Murray to overtake him for the top spot. 2017 has been even less kind with multiple losses to Nick Kyrgios, his bizarre Australian Open loss to Denis Istomin and most recently failing to make the final in Monte Carlo. He suffered defeat there to David Goffin, losing in a final set tiebreak to the Belgian.
His relative struggles may be part of the reason for his split with long term coach Marian Vajda. “It was not an easy decision, neither for my team nor for me. But we all felt like we needed a change. We all felt like we needed to kind of enter a new chapter.” he said of the parting.
Meanwhile, former top 10er Almagro is still looking to establish himself back in the upper levels of the game but for now has to settle for a wildcard with his ranking outside the top 80 coming into this tournament with his failure to defend the Estoril title seeing him fall over 20 places in the rankings.
Djokovic should extend his record over Almagro to 5-1 even with his struggles against many a lesser opponent this year. How he proceeds with a new coach will be an interesting story to follow for the rest of the season.
Prediction: Novak Djokovic in straight sets