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.
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 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
Rain delayed the start of Friday’s quarterfinals, but the action got underway just after noon and the opening matches weren’t particularly close. Jennifer Brady and Katerina Stewart both tortured each other with drop shots until Brady prevailed 6-3, 7-5. Brady faces 4 seed Mariana Duque-Marino in today’s semifinal as Duque-Marino won her third match in straight sets in 26 hours, a 6-4, 6-1 drubbing over the listless Grace Min, who played well yesterday.
The afternoon quarterfinals matches offered a little more action for the fans. Mari Osaka was a tiny giant awakened after losing the first set and down two breaks in the second set against Anhelina Kalinina. The Ukrainian, a former US Open Juniors finalist and an Australian Open Girls Doubles Champion, had a powerful forehand that started to stray, but she found her game long enough to get through the third set and the match, 6-2, 7-6(5), 7-5.
Sesil Karatantcheva raced to a 6-3 first set against Roland Garros Wild Card leader Taylor Townsend, then watched as the Houdini in Townsend made another appearance. Townsend took the second, 6-4, and then the two traded breaks in the third. By the time they were playing the third set tiebreak, the American crowd had little doubt as to who would win. Taylor won the tiebreak at 2.
—S. Fogleman, Tennus Atlantic
When the weather cooperates, the Boyd Tinsley Women’s Tennis Classic in Charlottesville, VA, is one of the best tennis experiences in the world. I’ve been through monsoons here and I’ve been through beautiful spring days. And Thursday was a beautiful day on the Har-Tru at the Boar’s Head Sports Resort. 16 first round matches and 8 second round matches were on order due to Wednesday’s rainout. It was perfect for the fans and for the dogs. I saw more dogs today at a tournament than I have ever seen before. It’s called “growing the sport.”
Conditions were a little doggy for the players in the early going. For the first players on the courts on Thursday, the surface played very slow. After Allie Kiick beat Louisa Chirico before 11 a.m., she told me that “we were both hitting” dropshots and that “for two whole games, we had nothing but dropshots.”
Jen Brady and Allie Kiick needed three sets to open the day, with both staging comeback wins over Irina Falconi and Louisa Chirico respectively. In the 2nd round, it was all Jen Brady from the start and she advanced to a quarterfinal match today against Katerina Stewart.
Camilla Rosatello needed little time to dispatch Olga Ianchuk, who immediately went behind the court and sobbed into a phone call after the match. Cheer up, Olga! Mariana Duque-Marino spoiled my debut of Iga Swiatek 7-6(3), 6-3, and in the nightcap, Duque-Marino proved the tougher competitor in a 6-2, 6-3 sweep of Rosatello. She’ll face the plucky Grace Min today for a spot in the semis.
As for Min, she beat an error-prone Jamie Loeb yesterday morning before taking out Sophie Chang in the nightcap. Chang continued to impress since Charleston with a 7-5, 7-5 win over Victoria Duval earlier in the day.
Top seed Madison Brengle looked out of form, in all of her talking to herself idiosyncratic ways and plaintively looking at her mother in the stands all day. She wasted little time taking out American Maria Sanchez in straights in the first round and then completely fell apart in the round of 16, losing 6-2, 6-1 to Mari Osaka. Osaka plays Anhelina Kalinina later today.
Speaking of dogs: Ashley Kratzer celebrated with her dog, Koa, after a win over Lizette Cabrera in the morning. In late afternoon, she faced Sesil Karatantcheva. That’s when Krasher’s real dog days began. Karantantcheva advanced to play Taylor Townsend, 6-2, 7-6(5).
And then there’s Taylor Townsend. Inching ever closer to the Roland Garros Wild Card, she made another big step forward yesterday to make the quarters at this $80,000.00 event. The window is closing on other Americans to step up and make it a race. With Brady, Stewart and Min the only other Americans still standing at Charlottesville, a semis showing here should nearly wrap it up for Townsend. She showed yesterday that she is heads above the talent field at this level and it’s good to see her succeed.
—S. Fogleman, Tennis Atlantic
Wins Today at Volvo Car Open Set Up Quarterfinal Match Between Friends Kasatkina and Goerges
Tony Callaio, Tennis Atlantic
CHARLESTON, S.C—Thursday started with the round of 16 ready to go including the 2017 defending Volvo Car Open champion and No. 3 seed, Daria Kasatkina.
Kasatkina took on 13th seed, Irina-Camilia Begu taking her out fairly easily 6-2, 6-1 in an afternoon match.
Next up for Kasatkina is WTA tour friend, 5th seed Julie Goerges. Goerges took out one of the tour’s rising stars in Naomi Osaka from Japan.
Regarding Kasatkina’s upcoming match with her friend Goerges, Kasatkina said, “Tough to say because she’s really aggressive, she’s serving well. She has a very aggressive forehand, very solid backhand. To beat her for sure, I have to show something special and to play not like go on court just to play. I think it’s going to be a good match.”
Goerges started out slow in the first set against Osaka eventually getting to a tiebreak. Goerges outscored Osaka 7 to 4 in the tiebreak, taking the first set, 7-6.
The second set was a bit easier time for Goerges before closing it out 6-3.
“I saw that her body language changed in the second set,” Goerges said. “She was, I think a little bit frustrated that she couldn’t take the opportunities she had in the first set and she really let me back in.”
In other action on the day:
No. 7 Madison Keys d. Camilia Giogi 6-4, 6-3
No. 12 Kiki Bertens d. Fanny Stollar 6-2, 6-4
No. 8 Anastasija Sevastova d. No. 9 Ashleigh Barty 6-3, 6-4
Bernarda Pera d. Sara Errani 6-3, 2-6, 6-4
Kristyna Pliskova d. No. 16 Elena Vesnini 6-3, 1-6, 6-2
Volvo Car Open Heats Up as Round 1 Winds Down
Steve Fogleman, Tennis Atlantic
The weather heated up in Charleston in yesterday and so did the level of play at the first round of the Volvo Car Open in Charleston. Alize Cornet was the first winner of the day, a quick 6-1, 6-2 victory over Kateryna Bondarenko. Polona Hercog looked strong in her debut match over Maryna Zanevska, 6-1, 6-4. The ugliest score of the day had to be Aleksandra Krunic’s 6-2, 6-2 whipping of Bethanie Mattek-Sands. I’d seen Mattek-Sands practice a couple of times this week and she looked tentative and way less than 100%.
Naomi Osaka looked very much like she still has a hot streak in her as she closed the door on Jen Brady, 6-4, 6-4 on Billie Jean King stadium court.
Caroline Dolehide proved her qualifying was no fluke as she advanced to the second round by way of a 5-7, 6-0, 6-4 upset over Johanna Larsson. Dolehide meets Anastasia Sevastova in round 2.
Laura Siegemund is back to her winning ways in Charleston and was pretty ecstatic about the whole affair. After finishing off Natalia Vikhlyantseva, 7-5, 6-2, she made a bee line for her coach and gave him a warm hug, the likes of which you’d expect if she’d won a final.
RESULTS – APRIL 2, 2018
Singles – First Round
 N. Osaka (JPN) d J. Brady (USA) 64 64
 D. Gavrilova (AUS) d O. Jabeur (TUN) 16 64 63
 K. Bertens (NED) d V. Cepede Royg (PAR) 64 61
 A. Cornet (FRA) d K. Bondarenko (UKR) 61 62
 M. Buzarnescu (ROU) d [Q] V. Lapko (BLR) 64 00 Retired
V. Lepchenko (USA) d A. Petkovic (GER) 64 75
P. Hercog (SLO) d [Q] M. Zanevska (BEL) 61 64
A. Krunic (SRB) d [WC] B. Mattek-Sands (USA) 62 62
[Q] F. Stollar (HUN) d [Q] F. di Lorenzo (USA) 75 61
B. Pera (USA) d J. Cepelova (SVK) 62 62
C. Giorgi (ITA) d [Q] S. Soler-Espinosa (ESP) 61 64
L. Siegemund (GER) d N. Vikhlyantseva (RUS) 75 62
C. Mchale (USA) d Z. Diyas (KAZ) 64 62
[Q] C. Dolehide (USA) d J. Larsson (SWE) 57 60 64
Doubles – First Round
 A. Klepac (SLO) / M. Martínez Sánchez (ESP) d A. Rosolska (POL) / A. Spears (USA) 61 63
[WC] L. Arruabarrena (ESP) / S. Errani (ITA) d T. Maria (GER) / K. Pliskova (CZE) 64 75
VOLVO CAR OPEN – CHARLESTON, USA
APRIL 2 – 8, 2018
ORDER OF PLAY – TUESDAY, APRIL 3, 2018
VOLVO CAR STADIUM start 10:00 am
S. Kenin (USA) vs  A. Barty (AUS)
K. Ahn (USA) vs S. Stosur (AUS)
E. Bouchard (CAN) vs [WC] S. Errani (ITA)
 C. Garcia (FRA) vs V. Lepchenko (USA)
Not Before 7:00 pm
C. Mchale (USA) vs  D. Kasatkina (RUS)
 G. Dabrowski (CAN) / Y. Xu (CHN) vs R. Atawo (USA) / A. Groenefeld (GER)
ALTHEA GIBSON CLUB COURT start 10:00 am
H. Watson (GBR) vs T. Townsend (USA)
 E. Vesnina (RUS) vs M. Brengle (USA)
L. Davis (USA) vs T. Maria (GER)
K. Siniakova (CZE) vs K. Pliskova (CZE)
COURT 3 start 10:00 am
[Q] C. Liu (USA) vs M. Linette (POL)
 I. Begu (ROU) vs [Q] G. Garcia Perez (ESP)
N. Melichar (USA) / K. Peschke (CZE) vs A. Kudryavtseva (RUS) / K. Srebotnik (SLO)
S. Aoyama (JPN) / Z. Yang (CHN) vs  B. Mattek-Sands (USA) / A. Sestini Hlavackova (CZE)
COURT 4 start 11:00 am
B. Haddad Maia (BRA) vs L. Arruabarrena (ESP)
M. Adamczak (AUS) / L. Kichenok (UKR) vs N. Kichenok (UKR) / An. Rodionova (AUS)
As the rest of Charleston went to church on Easter Sunday, some chose to go to the Church of Tennis Island. We heard eight rousing sermons of triumph and perseverance in the face of adversity on that sunny Sunday in the outdoor chapels of the Family Circle Cup Tennis Center as eight women advanced to the main draw of the Volvo Car Open.
Fanny Stollar was back. In fact, Fanny is a perfect name in an Easter story. Stollar flew through the first set against Ulrikke Eikeri and the crowd started thinking this was going to be a short service. Then, Eikeri roared back in the second, jumping out to a 3-0 lead before Stollar ended the service 6-1, 6-4. After the match, in which she played much better tennis than Saturday, she wasn’t answering my questions, stopping only to sign a tiny fraction of the autographs requested by fans. I’m not sure if she wasn’t well or if she is just in her own little zone, but most players in Charleston are friendlier to the fans.
Francesca Di Lorenzo was workmanlike in her 4-6, 6-1, 6-1 victory over Alla Kudryavtseva on Althea Gibson stadium court. The young American and former Ohio State standout (thanks Colette Lewis!) also played a better match than she did in the opening qualifying round. After dropping the first set, she kicked her game into high gear and the match was never in doubt thereafter. Her next opponent is none other than Fanny Stollar.
Maryland’s Sophie Chang went up 5-0 in the first set of her match against Silvia Soler-Espinosa and then the Spaniard also turned on the afterburners and took the match 3-6, 6-1, 6-0. All in all, it was a good weekend for the 20-year-old Chang, who was playing her first ever qualifying for a premier event.
Caroline Dolehide has the USTA clay in Orlando to thank for her winning ways over the weekend. She beat Misaki Doi of Japan in straight sets and will play Johanna Larsson this afternoon.
Kayla Day and Georgina Garcia Perez put on a marathon match and it was the Spaniard who prevailed in 3 tight sets. Today, Garcia Perez meets Camila Giorgi.
Yes, the sermons were long, but they were never boring. And the best part about this religion is that it’s not reserved for Sundays. The revival tent will be here all week.
VOLVO CAR OPEN – CHARLESTON, USA
APRIL 2 – 8, 2018
RESULTS – APRIL 1, 2018
Qualifying Singles – Second Round
Qualifying –  V. Lapko (BLR) d [WC] J. Pegula (USA) 75 64
Qualifying –  C. Dolehide (USA) d  M. Doi (JPN) 76(7) 63
Qualifying –  G. Garcia Perez (ESP) d  K. Day (USA) 62 67(3) 64
Qualifying –  M. Zanevska (BEL) d  D. Yastremska (UKR) 76(4) 26 63
Qualifying – C. Liu (USA) d  I. Bara (ROU) 76(5) 36 62
Qualifying –  S. Soler-Espinosa (ESP) d S. Chang (USA) 36 61 61
Qualifying – F. Stollar (HUN) d  U. Eikeri (NOR) 61 64
Qualifying – F. di Lorenzo (USA) d A. Kudryavtseva (RUS) 46 61 61
ORDER OF PLAY – MONDAY, APRIL 2, 2018
VOLVO CAR STADIUM start 10:00 am
K. Bondarenko (UKR) vs  A. Cornet (FRA)
V. Lepchenko (USA) vs A. Petkovic (GER)
J. Brady (USA) vs  N. Osaka (JPN)
A. Krunic (SRB) vs [WC] B. Mattek-Sands (USA)
ALTHEA GIBSON CLUB COURT start 10:00 am
C. Mchale (USA) vs Z. Diyas (KAZ)
 D. Gavrilova (AUS) vs O. Jabeur (TUN)
[Q] S. Soler-Espinosa (ESP) vs C. Giorgi (ITA)
J. Larsson (SWE) vs [Q] C. Dolehide (USA)
COURT 3 start 10:00 am
B. Pera (USA) vs J. Cepelova (SVK)
 K. Bertens (NED) vs V. Cepede Royg (PAR)
[Q] V. Lapko (BLR) vs  M. Buzarnescu (ROU)
 A. Klepac (SLO) / M. Martínez Sánchez (ESP) vs A. Rosolska (POL) / A. Spears (USA)
COURT 4 start 10:00 am
L. Siegemund (GER) vs N. Vikhlyantseva (RUS)
[Q] F. Stollar (HUN) vs [Q] F. di Lorenzo (USA)
Not Before 2:00 pm
P. Hercog (SLO) vs [Q] M. Zanevska (BEL)
T. Maria (GER) / K. Pliskova (CZE) vs [WC] L. Arruabarrena (ESP) / S. Errani (ITA)
VOLVO CAR OPEN – CHARLESTON, USA
April 2 – 8, 2018
 C. Garcia (FRA) – Bye
V. Lepchenko (USA) vs. A. Petkovic (GER)
P. Hercog (SLO) vs. [Q] M. Zanevska (BEL)
K. Bondarenko (UKR) vs.  A. Cornet (FRA)
 K. Bertens (NED) vs. V. Cepede Royg (PAR)
A. Krunic (SRB) vs. [WC] B. Mattek-Sands (USA)
[Q] F. Stollar (HUN) vs. [Q] F. di Lorenzo (USA)
 J. Konta (GBR) – Bye
 S. Stephens (USA) – Bye
B. Pera (USA) vs. J. Cepelova (SVK)
E. Bouchard (CAN) vs. [WC] S. Errani (ITA)
[Q] V. Lapko (BLR) vs.  M. Buzarnescu (ROU)
 D. Gavrilova (AUS) vs. O. Jabeur (TUN)
[Q] S. Soler-Espinosa (ESP) vs. C. Giorgi (ITA)
B. Haddad Maia (BRA) vs. L. Arruabarrena (ESP)
 M. Keys (USA) – Bye
 J. Goerges (GER) – Bye
K. Ahn (USA) vs. S. Stosur (AUS)
L. Siegemund (GER) vs. N. Vikhlyantseva (RUS)
J. Brady (USA) vs.  N. Osaka (JPN)
 I. Begu (ROU) vs. [Q] G. Garcia Perez (ESP)
[Q] C. Liu (USA) vs. M. Linette (POL)
C. Mchale (USA) vs. Z. Diyas (KAZ)
 D. Kasatkina (RUS) – Bye
 A. Sevastova (LAT) – Bye
J. Larsson (SWE) vs. [Q] C. Dolehide (USA)
L. Davis (USA) vs. T. Maria (GER)
S. Kenin (USA) vs.  A. Barty (AUS)
 E. Vesnina (RUS) vs. M. Brengle (USA)
H. Watson (GBR) vs. T. Townsend (USA)
K. Siniakova (CZE) vs. K. Pliskova (CZE)
 P. Kvitova (CZE) – Bye