2017 @MutuaMadridOpen Women’s Preview, Predictions
Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
Clay season is in full effect now as the tour stops off in the Spanish capital of Madrid for the Mutua Madrid Open. It is one of the biggest clay court events in the season, and Tennis Atlantic has on-site coverage of the Premier event. For now, here is a run down of the draw.
With Serena Williams out of action with pregnancy, Angelique Kerber enters the Madrid Open as the top seed. The German is not In the best form this year, but with the tour is wide open and she could go all the way in Madrid. Kerber opens up against big serving Timea Babos in the first round with Katerina Siniakova likely for the second. It is the third round where things could get very interesting though as a potential Maria Sharapova clash is on the cards. The Russian, who has recently returned from a doping ban, faces Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in round one then the winner of Eugenie Bouchard vs Alize Cornet in the second round. A Sharapova vs Kerber round three is very much on the cards, and it could be fireworks. I think Kerber progresses as Sharapova will not be back to her best form quite yet, but the way this season has gone so far, anything can happen.
Svetlana Kuznetsova could be seen as an outside favourite here as the courts suit her game. She is a former Roland Garros champion and is well adapted to clay. The Russian opens against the ever unpredictable Yaroslava Shvedova then possibly Alison Riske in the second round. Elina Svitolina is the projected round three opponent, but the Ukrainian could have trouble with Caroline Garcia in the second round. It could well be youth vs experience in the third round, and on clay I think Kuznetsova has the advantage.
The quarter final will no doubt be a great match, but with Kerber’s struggles this year I can see Kuznetsova grabbing the upset on clay.
Prediction: Kuznetsova def. Kerber
Dominika Cibulkova enjoyed a big run to the final in Madrid last year, and the Slovak will look to at least replicate that form in 2017. The fourth seed faces Jelena Jankovic first then a qualifier in round two- a good draw for the Slovak. The first seeded opponent is projected to be Kristina Mladenovic who has been in good form this season. The Frenchwoman has a tough opener against Ana Konjuh however, and then she could face Monica Puig in round two. With Cibulkova having the easier path to the third round and being a former finalist here, I can see the fourth seed getting through this section to the quarter finals despite what should be a difficult third round.
Madison Keys has spent a lot of her year injured thus far, but if any clay court tournament suits her big hitting game it is Madrid. The American opens against Misaki Doi before a potential meeting with Yulia Putintseva in the second round. Anastasia Pavlyuchkova has been in good form as evident by her run in Rabat, and the Russian will see this as a good quarter final chance. Sorana Cirstea is first up for the 13th seed, followed by CiCi Bellis or Daria Gavrilova. It will be an upset to see any of the seeded players lose before the third round, and I see Pavlyuchenkova advancing to the quarter finals.
Pavlyuchenkova and Cibulkova could meet once again in Madrid. Last year it was a close match in which the Slovak won in three sets. I can see something similar happening here.
Prediction: Cibulkova def. Pavlyuchenkova
Simona Halep returns to Madrid as the defending champion and potential tournament favourite. Can the Romanian defend her crown? She has a tough opening match against Prague finalist Kristyna Pliskova in the first round. Then she meets the winner of Roberta Vinci vs Daria Kastakina. If she can avoid an early exit, Halep could face Sam Stosur in the round of 16, a repeat of the semi final from last year in which Halep won comfortably. That is providing the Aussie gets past Sara Sorbes-Tormo and Julia Goerges.
Johanna Konta has not had the greatest of success on clay, but the Brit aims to change that this year. She is under no pressure to defend points in Madrid, but she still has a tough draw ahead starting with Stuttgart champion Laura Siegemund. The winner could face big serving Coco Vandeweghe in the second round with Caroline Wozniacki likely waiting in the third. The Dane faces Monica Niculescu in the first round, then Shuai Peng or Carla Suarez-Navarro. I believe that Wozniacki will make it pout of this section to set up a quarter final with Halep as Konta is not strong on clay, and the 10th seed is the superior player to anyone else in the section.
However, I see Halep being a little too strong in the quarter finals. As the defending champion, the Romanian will be keen to repeat her success. She played well here last year and I see no reason why that would change.
Prediction: Halep def. Wozniacki
Karolina Pliskova is another player who often struggles to adapt her game to clay, but the quicker courts of Madrid might suit her more than most clay court tournaments. As the second seed there will be a lot of pressure on the Czech to go deep, but she has some tough tests in her draw starting with Lesia Tsurenko then potentially Anastasija Sevastova. It could be an all Czech third round with Strycova or Lucie Safarova who face each other in round one. The winner of that faces either Christina McHale or Laura Arruabarrena.
Garbine Muguruza will be the home crowd favourite in Madrid, but she has traditionally struggled in at this tournament. Add to that the poor form of this year, this could be a tough tournament for the fifth seed. If she can harness the energy of the crowd then she could get through her a tough section which starts with Timea Bacsinszky. The winner will face either Kiki Bertens or Ekaterina Makarova, with Elena Vesnina potentially awaiting in the third round.
This section is very unpredictable as all players could go out at any time. It is a tough call, but I will go out on a limb and say Elena Vesnina makes it to the quarter finals over Pliskova
Prediction: Vesnina def. Pliskova
Kuznetsova def. Cibulkova
Halep def. Vesnina
Halep def. Kuznetsova
This is a difficult call, but Halep is the only player I can be sure of here because she is the defending champion. My predictions could go completely wrong because it is exceptionally difficult to call, but Halep is my pick to go all the way.