Kerber, Halep Dominate Sunday Play @MutuaMadridOpen, Sharapova Wins in 3
Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
Maria Sharapova made a winning return to the Mutua Madrid Open after battling from a set down to defeat Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. That and much more in our day two wrap up.
Maria Sharapova returns to Madrid with a win
Much has been made of the decision to give Sharapova a wildcard into the tournament after serving a year long doping ban, but despite the critics the Russian made a winning return to the Caja Magica.
The former world number one dropped her opening service game but immediately broke back in a topsy-turvy first set that saw five breaks of serve. Crucially, Lucic-Baroni scored the final one and was able to hold on to take the set 6-4.
Like many times in the past, Sharapova had to come from behind. The world number 262 wasted little time getting a break in the second set, but after failing to take any of the four set points on her opponent’s serve, Sharapova failed to serve the set out. She recovered quickly though and immediately broke again to level proceedings 4-6, 6-4.
From there, Sharapova would not go on to lose another game. Sensing the chance to strike, the five time grand slam champion raced through the third set and delivered a bagel to cap off her winning return in Madrid.
“I’m not quite sure how to describe the match because it feels like it happened so fast.” Sharapova said post match.
“I thought she played really well. I was playing against, like, a human slingshot for a while there. Balls were coming so fast and deep. I mean, for a couple of sets, I don’t believe we had too many rallies over three balls.
You know, I wasn’t really happy with my percentage of serve in the first couple of sets. I definitely improved that in the third. I think that really helped me. I got a better read on her serve, as well.
You know, she goes for it. You have to be patient. Sometimes there’s not much you can do. Those are great shots, on the line. I mean, the breakpoints, I missed a couple of second-serve returns. That was obviously an error from my side.
But she came up with some great winners. Just got to hand it to her.”
Sharapova moves on to face Eugenie Bouchard in the second round. The already intriguing affair has added spice due after the Canadian labelled the former world number one a ‘cheater’ and claims she should be ‘banned for life’, something that slightly motivates the Canadian to get the victory more.
“Once I step on the court, everything will be to the side.” Bouchard said after her win vs Alize Cornet.
“But, you know, inside myself, I think I’ll have a bit more motivation. But it’s very important, once I step on the court, no matter who is on the other side, to focus on the tennis. Or else I think it’s easy to lose concentration.”
Kerber cruises in opener
In the opening match of the day on Manolo Santana stadium, top seed Angelique Kerber cruised to a 6-4, 6-2 victory against Timea Babos.
The German made a quick start to the match, racing into a 3-0 lead with two breaks of serve. Babos was able to claw one break back, but after spending much of the opening set under pressure, she lost out 6-4 to the top seed.
The second set was plain sailing for Kerber. She did not face a single break point and in turn inflicted two breaks of serve on the over-matched Babos. The German successfully served the match out for a 6-4, 6-2 victory, and the perfect start to her Madrid Open campaign.
Kerber reflected on the performance post match: “Once I step on the court, everything will be to the side. But, you know, inside myself, I think I’ll have a bit more motivation. But it’s very important, once I step on the court, no matter who is on the other side, to focus on the tennis. Or else I think it’s easy to lose concentration.”
Halep in a hurry
Simona Halep began her Madrid Open title defence with a crushing 6-1, 6-2 win over Kristyna Pliskova on Manolo Santana court.
The third seed quickly raced into a 5-1 lead as she exposed the slow movement of her opponent. Haleo did not face a single break point in the entire set as she closed it out 6-1. The momentum rolled into set two where an early break of serve set the tone for the second set. Halep broke again later on in the set and almost a third time as Pliskova served to stay in the match. The Czech held however and forced Halep to serve the match out. The Romanian struggled to close the match out and faced two break points before finally converting on the fourth match point.
It was a convincing win for the defending champion against a tough in form opponent. To break the big serve of Pliskova four times in the match is quite an impressive feat, so is winning in under an hour.
“It was quick because I started aggressive.” Halep Said in her post match press conference.
“I had this in my mind, to play my style, to play aggressive, to take her fast. She did great in Prague. She came yesterday. Maybe she didn’t have time to get used to this court.
“But I wanted to do my job from the beginning. I think I did pretty well. I finished strong.”
Muguruza’s Madrid Woes Continue
Garbine Muguruza continues to struggle at her home tournament as once again she lost early, this time to Timea Bacsinszky in the opening round.
Despite getting off to the perfect start with a break, the Spaniard was unable to sustain a good level and struggled on serve as the Swiss rallied to win six straight games to take the opening set.
Muguruza started the second set better than the first, this time converting her break into a 3-0 lead. But once again the wheels came off and Bacsinszky won six straight games for the second time In the match to knock the fifth seed and home favourite out of the tournament.
Madrid has always been a difficult place for the Spanish number one. Despite having big success on clay, she has been unable to perform at her best in front of her home fans, and she has never made it past the third round of the tournament.
“Honestly, I have zero expectations here because I never really play well here.” Muguruza said post match.
“Maybe there’s circumstances or the conditions. I don’t know what it is exactly.
“But I wish I could perform better today because I’ve been training pretty hard. You know, when the match comes, it’s just not there, you kind of feel, like, sad.”
Carla Suarez Navarro came within a game of going out herself at the hands of Shuai Peng, but the Spaniard was able to win the last nine games to secure a 3-6, 7-5, 6-0 victory and at least send a section of the crowd home happy.
WTA round up
It was a positive day for the American women. Lauren Davis came out on top in a thrilling three set contest against Monica Puig 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(3). Cici Bellis scored a big three set win of her own against Daria Gavrilova 7-5, 5-7, 6-2. CoCo Vandeweghe had less trouble and defeated Ana Kontaveit 6-4,7-6(7).
Kristina Mladenovic progressed to the second round after her opponent Ana Konjuh was forced to retire after the second set. The Croatian won the first 7-5, but after dropping the second 6-3 the teenager decided she could not continue and thus Mladenovic advances. Her compatriot Caroline Garcia was not so fortunate. In her return from back injury, Garcia lost to Chinese qualifier Qiang Wang 6-4, 6-3 on court seven. It was a mixed day for the French as Oceane Dodin recorded a straight sets win over Andrea Petkovic, whilst Pauline Parmentier lost 6-1, 6-0 to Katerina Siniakova.
Svetlana Kuznetsova made a winning start to the tournament by overcoming Yaroslava Shvedova 6-4, 6-3. It was not a good day for the Kazakh hopefuls as Yulia Putintseva also suffered a straight sets loss to Donna Vekic. Sam Stosur had little problem in her match though as she destroyed Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-2, 6-0. Caroline Wozniacki also made it through 7-5, (3)6-7, 6-4 against Monica Niculescu.
There was an upset on court five as 11th seed Elina Svitolina exited the tournament at the hands of Shuai Zhang. It appeared to be plain sailing for the Ukrainian after she took the first set 6-2, but the Chinese player fought back to get a hard earned 2-6,7-6(4),6-2 win.
Francesca Schiavone waved goodbye to the Mutua Madrid Open for the last time as she crashed out to Jo Larsson 5-7, 6-3, 6-1. Mriana Duque-Marino was also victorious over Julia Goerges.
In the all-Czech affair between Barbora Strycova and Lucie Safarova, the seeded player came out on top from a set behind. Strycova emerged victorious 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 on court six. Sorana Cirstea capped off a good day for Romanians with a three set win over the in-form Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
The WTA took centre stage on the opening Sunday, but the ATP portion of the tournament also kicked off with two first round matches and the final qualifying matches taking place.
David Goffin kicked off his tournament with a 6-2 7-6 (8) win against Karen Khachanov. The Belgian impressively took the first set with a double break, but he was made to work harder for the second by his Russian opponent. Khachanov took an early lead in the second, but Goffin broke straight back and a tiebreak was needed to separate the two players. It was a long breaker, but the higher ranked Goffin came through 10-8 to book his place in the second round.
Fabio Fognini joined the Belgian in the round of 32 after a straight sets win over Joao Sousa. A break in the middle of both sets allowed for an unusually routine win for the every entertaining Italian who faces Rafael Nadal in the second round.
Adrian Mannarino, Denis Istomin, Thomaz Bellucci, Andrey Kuznetsov, Pierre-Hughes Herbert, Mikhail Kukushkin, and Ernesto Escubedo confirmed their entry into the main draw with qualifying wins.