The stars are out in full force, as the best players in the world take part in the 2013 Madrid Open. Even as the event lacks an American presence, the world's elite have taken center stage in Madrid, Spain.
The question is, which players have the most to prove?
The upsets have already begun to transpire, as world No. 1 Novak Djokovic lost to Grigor Dmitrov of Bulgaria. This was nothing short of a stunning turn of events, which displays just how quickly the tables can be turned and a favorite can be knocked out.
With Djokovic out, however, it also is a sign of something else—countless players must now step up and seize a grand opportunity.
The clay event has produced some of the greatest champions in the world, as Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Djokovic and Andy Murray have won seven of the past eight events. That includes five consecutive titles and all four since the event was moved to outdoor clay courts.
The question is, who has the most to prove this time?
Andy Murray, Great Britain
As it was previously slated, Andy Murray appeared to be on a crash course to play Novak Djokovic in the semifinals of the Madrid Open. With the Serbian out of the tournament, however, Murray is the favorite to emerge from his bracket.
Seeing as he's won the Olympic Gold Medal and US Open, it's on Murray to avoid any letdowns—he's a member of the elite, now.
Murray escaped Florian Meyer in the second round, winning 7-6, 7-6. The victory gave him his 400th career win, but more importantly, it showed just competitive this field is.
Up next, Murray plays Giles Simon and a looming battle with Tomas Berdych.
Murray has reached the finals at three consecutive Grand Slam events, and also won the gold medal at the London Olympics. Coming off of a quarterfinals loss at the French Open, however, he has something to prove on clay.
Capitalizing on Djokovic's absence is a great way to send an early message.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, France
Few players benefit as much from Novak Djokovic's stunning second round loss as Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France. The athletic big was in Djokovic's side of the bracket and now has a significantly more manageable path to the finals.
It's now on Tsonga to come through when it matters most.
Coming off a quarterfinals appearance at the 2013 Australian Open, Tsonga's clearly established himself as one of the better players on the ATP World Tour. At 28, however, upside is no longer an applicable word and Tsonga must now win.
Creating momentum for the French Open begins now.
Tsonga made the quarterfinals of the 2012 French Open, which proves how far he's come as a clay court performer. With the tournament transpiring in his home country, the crowd will certainly be on his side.
He's already won the Open 13 tournament in 2013, but he's never made it out of the third round at the Madrid Open—it's time to change that.
Stanislas Wawrinka, Switzerland
Stanislas Wawrinka has long been known as a player on the cusp of breaking out into stardom. Unfortunately, when it's been this long and that success hasn't yet been discovered, fan perception becomes that the leap to elite will never transpire.
Mere days ago, however, Wawrinka stunned the world by defeating David Ferrer to win the Portugal Open.
Wawrinka, a player known for his tendency to lose in the fourth round of major tournaments, appears to have discovered the form necessary to win big. This was his first ATP Tournament title since January, 2011 and could be the launching pad for future success.
A strong performance at the Madrid Open would do wonders for both his confidence and reputation heading into the French Open.
Wawrinka has lost in the fourth round of the French Open in three consecutive years. Every time, he's come up just short of making the jump into stardom that his abilities suggest he's capable of doing.
Having never made it out of the third round at the Madrid Open, there is no better time than now for the Swiss powerhouse to turn over a new leaf. The circumstances surrounding his run certainly suggest so, as well.
Novak Djokovic's loss means that Wawrinka would draw a favorable clash with Grigor Dmitrov if he defeats 81st-ranked Santiago Giraldo in the second round.
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