If early losses during this specific week of the tennis season are profound mysteries, so are the instances in which players go all the way and win just before Madrid and Rome. Ask Alexander Zverev and Petra Kvitova.
Last year, Zverev and Kvitova won in Munich and Prague, respectively. Going the full distance in these tournaments might have seemed like a turn of events which would obliterate their chances of doing something in Madrid. Kvitova, in her case, had zero days off between the Prague final win on Saturday and her round-of-64 Madrid match on Sunday, the next day. Kvitova did not care. She mowed down the field and won Madrid on the heels of Prague.
Zverev didn’t have zero days off between his Munich final and his first match in Madrid. Nevertheless, he did play through the final round in Germany; quickly moved to Spain; and won Madrid by sweeping through the field and outplaying Dominic Thiem in the final.
If losing early might benefit some players before the huge Madrid-Rome fortnight on the two tours, Zverev and Kvitova showed that doing really well this week — the Munich-Prague-Estoril-Rabat week on the calendar — does not have to impede or harm one’s progress at the bigger clay tournaments which lie ahead.
Yet, while Zverev and Kvitova were able to endure two straight weeks of near-constant tennis, Estoril champion Joao Sousa and Rabat champion Elise Mertens didn’t do much of anything in Madrid; Sousa didn’t even play, while Mertens lost early. Sousa then went to Rome and lost in his second match. Mertens did not play Rome.
When Zverev and Kvitova won in Munich and Prague during this week a year ago, I expressed skepticism that they would have good weeks in Madrid.
I was wrong.
I suspect I will probably be wrong this year about the connections between this week and next week in Madrid. That point aside, it will be interesting to see how the champions of the first week of May carry their tennis into and through the rest of this very important month, which begins today.