Kuznetsova vs. Sharapova (photo credit: Niall Clarke)
2018 @MutuaMadridOpen @WTA Preview, Predictions
Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
We hit Madrid for one of the biggest tournaments of the season at the Caja Magica. It is an event I have covered a few times over the years and it rarely disappoints. Unfortunately, I can not make it this year, but there is still plenty to be excited about when it comes to the women’s draw, so let’s get to it.
The Mutua Madrid Open has been a kind tournament to Simona Halep who enters as the defending champion. The Romanian opens against dangerous lefty Ekaterina Makarova in the first round, who can be a tricky customer especially on the faster clay courts of Madrid. Young Belgian prospect Elise Mertens is a possible round two opponent with Madison Keys also in the mini section. The 13th seed has not done well here traditionally but her draw to the third round is very soft.
Karolina Pliskova has never been known as a traditional clay courter, but her win in Stuttgart may signal she is turning a corner on the surface. She is the sixth seed and will face Elena Vesnina in the first round. The big story in the section, however, is the return of Victoria Azarenka, Pliskova’s potential second round opponent. The Belarusian faces Alexsandra Krunic in her opener and there will be plenty of eyes on that one. This section is quite stacked and Sloane Stephens could be waiting either Pliskova or Azarenka in the third round.
That said, I am picking Halep to continue her good form in Madrid and win this section over Pliskova in the quarter finals.
Prediction: Halep def. Pliskova
Despite this being her home tournament, Garbine Muguruza has a mental block in Madrid. Despite being one of the best clay courters on the tour, the Spaniard has never made it past the second round here and has meekly gone out on several occasions. She will be hoping to change her fortunes this year starting with Shaui Peng then the winner of Vekic vs. Garcia Perez. Daria Kasatkina is the potential third round opponent, but she has a tough draw against Qiang Wang who did well here last year.
Clay has never been Venus Williams’ territory and given the lack of playing time, it will be difficult to expect much of the American in this draw. Annett Kontaveit is a tough opener even if she has not been at her best so far this season. This could open the door even more to former champion Petra Kvitova, who might be the favourite to make the semi finals out of this section. The 10th seed had a good week in Prague and the quicker Madrid clay courts suit her power focused style of play.
Petra Kvitova (Photo: Tony Callaio)
Muguruza vs Kvitova would be a hard-hitting quarterfinal battle and one to really get excited for, but I give the edge to the Czech here. She is a former champion and Muguruza’s Mental Madrid Block has to be taken into consideration.
Prediction: Kvitova def. Muguruza
Elina Svitolina enters Madrid as the fourth seed and one of the tournament favourites, but Madrid has not been a kind tournament for the Ukrainian in the past. Alize Cornet is the first round opponent with Barbora Strycova or Carla Suarez Navarro in the second round. There are no big hitters there but plenty of solid players with variety to open the tournament for Svitolina. Madgalena Rybarikova is the other seed in this section and she faces Johanna Konta in the first round. The Brit struggles on clay so this could be a good opportunity for the 16th seed, who faces a qualifier if she gets by Konta.
Caroline Garcia made her first semi final in Stuttgart before losing to Coco Vandeweghe, so she will be hoping to build on that result in Madrid after a so-so start to the season. She faces Dominika Cibulkova, a player she threw a 6-0, 3-0 lead away to two years ago here in the first round. The tough draw continues with Svetlana Kuznetsova or Petra Martic in the second round, but things could get really interesting with big hitting Julia Goerges in the third round.
I expect Svitolina to make it to the quarter finals, but Garcia–not so much. The Frenchwoman might be the favourite in her section but she can lose to anyone at any time, so I am picking Svitolina to make the semi finals.
Prediction: Svitolina def. Garcia
Caroline Wozniacki heads to Madrid with the World number one ranking in her sights. Clay has not been her best surface however, despite her more defensive style of play. Daria Gavrilova is a difficult opener with Ash Barty completing the Aussie double in round two. Anastasija Sevastova is not an easy third round draw either with her solid game, so it is a tough road for Wozniacki as she aims to top the rankings once more.
Jelena Ostapenko (Photo: Tony Callaio)
Jelena Ostapenko is back on the clay as she aims to build form ahead of her French Open title defence. The Latvian’s game should suit Madrid so she could have a decent run here if she plays well. That said, a big match against Maria Sharapova is on the cards for the second round. Coco Vandeweghe heads into Madrid In good form after a surprising final run in Stuttgart, but she has a potentially tough opener against last year’s finalist Kristina Mladenovic. Naomi Osaka is also in this section.
This is a tough quarter to predict but an in-form Ostapenko might have enough to make it past Wozniacki in the last eight.
Prediction: Ostapenko def. Wozniacki
Semi Finals/Finals Prediction:
Kvitova def. Halep
Svitolina def. Ostapenko
Kvitova def. Svitolina
Kvitova is a former champion here and of all the clay court tournaments, this will probably suit her the best. Add on top of that her good form, then you have the reason why I pick the Czech to win in Madrid