The Mutua Madrid Open has become a regular on the ATP and WTA schedule as it has cemented its status as one of the must win tournaments of the season.
And I am here to cover it all from the opening Monday, right through to Sunday’s final. So lets get to it.Embed from Getty Images
Svetlana Kuznetsova vs Garbine Muguruza
The day’s proceedings opened up with what promised to be a close encounter between Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova and Spain’s own Garbine Muguruza.
Muguruza came through her opening round match without much trouble, breezing past Maria Theresa Torro-Flor 6-1, 6-1. Kuznetsova knocked off number eight seed Ekaterina Makarova in her opener, so she was full of confidence herself.
It was interesting to see how Muguruza would deal with the pressure of playing in front of a home crowd for the first time since she announced that she will be representing Spain, and not Venezuela.
The Spaniard did not start well, spraying a lot of errors. Kuznetsova’s more consistent brand of tennis was paying off against the power of Muguruza. The 20 year old showed why she is considered one of the WTA’s brightest prospects on occasion, but it was clear that she was not on her A-game. Despite some resistance, Kuznetsova wrapped up the first set 6-3, and looked in control.
The Russian’s momentum carried in to the second set when she broke early, putting Muguruza in trouble. But as the seats in the Manolo Santana court filled, the crowd’s involvement in the match grew. Rallying behind their girl, the home support lifted Muguruza and with that the level of the Spaniard began to rise. Less unforced errors, and more winners came off the racket of the world number 20 and she broke back at 3-4 much to the delight of the Madrid crowd. The rise of Muguruza, put Kuznetsova under pressure and uncharacteristic errors started the spew from the Russian. The match quickly escalated into a mental battle towards the back end of the second set, and it was Muguruza who rose to the occasion. At 6-5, some good play from the Spaniard include some blistering returns set up set point, which she took the first time of asking.
With the match level, the result was finally balanced heading into the third set. The Madrid crowd were lifted by the rise of their home player, but their spirits were soon deflated. Kuznetsova began to show more of the tennis that we saw in the opening set, whilst Muguruza seemed to have gone back into error-mode. Kuznetsova led throughout the set, but the Spaniard never stopped fighting. Again Muguruza broke at 4-4, but the end result of this set would be a lot different. At 5-5, a poor game by Muguruza was summed up with a double fault on break point. Serving for the match, Kuznetsova only needed one match point to finish it off as Muguruza hit a return into the net.
In the end, Kuznetsova deserved the victory as she was the more solid of the two. Muguruza showed what she is capable of, but overall was too error prone which ultimately led to her downfall against the more consistent Kuznetsova.
“Well it’s not been a really good match” Muguruza said post match. “Both of us didn’t play really good tennis.”
“But I had my opportunities and I didn’t go for them. It’s Kuznetsova. She’s a good player.”
Kuznetsova def. Muguruza 6-3,5-7,7-5.Embed from Getty Images
Caroline Wozniacki vs Cristina McHale
Next on Manolo Santana was world number five Caroline Wozniacki taking on Cristina McHale of the USA.
It was the American that got out of the blocks the quickest, breaking to love in the opening game. The lead didn’t last long though, as Wozniacki broke back at 2-1 to level the score. It was in vein however, as McHale quickly re-established her lead the next game. The American’s serve would come under scrutiny at 4-3, where she valiantly saved five break points. The plucky Wozniacki was game as always, and on the sixth attempt, the Dane eventually broke back to make it 4-4. It was from this point that Wozniacki began to take control. The world number fives movement was spectacular as always, and the over-turn was soon completed as she wrapped up the first set 7-5.
From then on it was one way traffic, as McHale’s confidence from the first half of the opening set had evaporated. Wozniacki’s defence continued to be excellent, and she wasn’t without her winners too. In the end, what looked like a close match ended up being the exact opposite. A bagel finished the job for Wozniacki, who gets off to a good start in her Madrid campaign.
Wozniacki def. McHale 7-5,6-0
Strebotnik/Garcia vs Shvedova/Dellacqua
I left the Manolo Santana court to check out what was happening on the outside courts. One name caught my eye, and that was Yaroslava Shvedova. I have followed her career, and always thought she was very talented and big underachiever. I decided to see that talent in person, as this may be my only chance to see her in Madrid.
I joined the action as Shvedova and Dellacqua took the opening set 7-5. At the start of the second, it was Garcia/Strebotnik who came out brightest, holding to love then breaking the following game. However, Shvedova and Dellacqua soon re-focused and broke back to love the following game. There were some absorbing rallies and excellent shot-making from all four players, particularly Shvedova, whose net play was on point for the duration. That play was rewarded with a break at 2-2, and the pair held on to take the match in straight sets 7-5, 6-4.
It was nice to see Shvedova show off her talent in person, and on top of that she stayed and signed every autograph for kids, and took photos with her fans in attendance. That was good to see.
Shvedova/Dellacqua def. Strebotnik/Garcia 7-5, 6-4Embed from Getty Images
Feliciano Lopez vs Benjamin Becker
I arrived back on Manolo Santana for the conclusion of a fascinating battle between home crowd favourite Feliciano Lopez and Germany’s Benjamin Becker (No relation to Boris). The stadium was now a lot fuller, and the atmosphere was up a few notches as Becker levelled proceedings by taking the second set 6-3. Lopez had previously won the opening set 7-5.
Momentum was firmly with the German at this point, and much to the disappointment of the crowd, Becker broke early in the decider. The match stayed with serve until 4-3, but it didn’t pass without controversy. The Spaniard was given a point penalty for shouting profanities at his box, which as expected was met by jeers from the crowd. The moment, if anything seemed to spur the crowd on, as a chant of Feliciano rang around the stadium. With the crowd now more invested than ever, Lopez used that energy positively, and broke at 4-3 to level the score. The wheels soon began to come off Becker, and the German’s level sank lower and lower.
With momentum and the crowd firmly behind the Spaniard, Lopez broke to love at 5-4 to cap off his incredible come back.
Lopez spoke afterwards about the point deduction: “Well I think sincerely my behaviour was not the correct one for a tennis player. I think I committed errors. I said the big F many times. The first warning I didn’t realise he gave me a warning, and that’s why I was so surprised when he told me I had to go to the other side and I have a point penalty.”
Lopez def. Becker 7-5, 3-6, 6-4.
Santiago Giraldo vs Fabio Fognini
As the sun disappeared into the clouds over La Caja Magica, it was time for the fourth match on Manolo Santana and another case of which Fognini will show up? Will we see the motivated Fabio, or the lackadaisical Italian?
From the get go, it became clear that Fognini was hungry for the victory. The first break of serve came at 2-2, and it was the Italian that got it. From then, it was looking like it would be all Fabio Fognini, as he was in the ascendency. A second break of serve took the set beyond the reach of Giraldo, and Fognini served it out for 6-2.
The second started in the same vein with Fognini breaking early, and securing a double break for 4-0. It was looking bleak for Giraldo, who at this point was looking like he’d be on the receiving end of a one sided beat down. Fortunately for the Colombian, his level raised and Fognini’s dropped, allowing Giraldo a way back into the match. The world number 49 recovered one break back and came close to levelling the score in the second set, but Fognini recovered from 0-40 down to keep his break advantage. Giraldo was under pressure at this point, and had to serve to stay in the match, but on the second match point, Fognini claimed victory.
Fognini def. Giraldo 6-2,6-3.Embed from Getty Images
Serena Williams vs Sloane Stephens
An all-American clash finished my day at La Caja Magica. World number one Serena Williams faced Sloane Stephens, who had recently given Serena a tough match in Indian Wells.
Serena was a woman on a mission though, and soon raced into the lead. After 35 minutes, the first set was wrapped up 6-4 in favour of the world number one.
Stephens hit some good shots, but her play was not rewarded with Serena’s power being too much for the world number 38. Despite some clean winners off the racket of Stephens, she could even win another game as Serena’s supremacy was firmly asserted.
Williams def. Stephens 6-4,6-0
There were also wins for Agnieszka Radwanska, Lucie Safarova, Roberta Vinci and Sam Stosur in the women’.
Meanwhile in the men’s, the USTA had a good day with victories for Sam Querrey, John Isner and Steve Johnson. Luca Vanni upset Bernard Tomic, whilst there were also victories for Sousa and Bellucci.