Entering the Mutua Madrid Open as the defending champion, Novak Djokovic has a lot in front of him lately. Having his lowest start in years, the Serb recently caused another wave of debate as a result of his dramatic decision to part ways with his coach, Marian Vajda, as well as other members of his staff. As the second seed in Madrid, Djokovic received a bye for the opening round and saw Nicolas Almagro (76 ATP) as his opponent for the second stage. One of the veterans of the ATP Tour, Almagro pushed the defending champion to the edge.

Not an easy match for Djokovic

The Serb sealed the first set 6-1, putting the prospect of another defeat in Almagro's mind.

But the former world no. 9 bounced back and delivered a shock to Djokovic's system by winning the second set 6-4. The third set saw the Spaniard racing to a 3-0 lead with a break ahead. It was Djokovic's turn to assert himself. Eventually, the defending champion capped the set 7-5, keeping the flame alive at least for one more match. Today's match saw a Djokovic still far from his peak, and making too many errors. Moving forward in this tournament, and for the rest of the year as well, this level of tennis won't suffice when everything is on the line and the Serb is facing even tougher competition.

Djokovic will have the chance to test himself in the coming rounds

Leading the pack on the bottom half of the draw, Djokovic's trajectory is ripe with obstacles. In the next round, he will play either Gilles Simon (32 ATP) or Feliciano Lopez (38 ATP), while later stages could see the likes of Kei Nishikori.

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Regarding the semifinals, there are a variety of opponents that might show up in the draw, including Milos Raonic, Rafael Nadal, David Goffin or Nick Kyrgios. For Novak Djokovic, it is essential to advance as much as possible in Madrid, as well as the next events in Rome, and then at the French Open. The stakes are high, as he still has to defend last year's result, and his ranking could plummet if he does not right the ship soon.