WTA Mutua Madrid Open: Plenty Of Star Power

Garbiñe Muguruza (photo: @MutuaMadridOpen/Twitter)

MADRID/WASHINGTON, April 27, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

The WTA 1000 Mutua Madrid Open draw was revealed Tuesday afternoon at La Caja Mágica in Madrid and – top to bottom – it’s en fuego.

With seven of the Top 10 players entered – missing just No. 4 Sofia Kenin, No. 6 Bianca Andreescu and No. 8 Serena Williams – all 16 seeds belong to players who are currently ranked in the Top 20. Top seeded is World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, who two days ago won the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart for her third WTA singles title this year. She will open against No. 43 Shelby Rogers and could face reigning French Open champion Iga Swiatek, seeded 14th, for the first time in the third round. Two years ago, the last time the Mutua Madrid Open was played, Barty reached the quarterfinals.

Other first-round blockbusters in the WTA’s third 1000-series tournament of the season include: No. 26 Angelique Kerber versus No. 21 Marketa Vondrousova, No. 30 Yulia Putintseva takes on No. 18 Johanna Konta, No. 13 Garbiñe Muguruza plays No. 51 Sloane Stephens, and No. 15 Victoria Azarenka opposes No. 32 Ekaterina Alexandrova. Also, World No. 3 Simona Halep begins against No. 46 Sara Sorribes Tormo, No. 9 Karolina Pliskova plays No. 35 Coco Gauff, No. 36 Svetlana Kuznetsova takes on No. 50 Jelena Ostapenko in a matchup of former French Open champions, No. 14 Jennifer Brady faces No. 91 Venus Williams in an all-American battle, and No. 38 Amanda Anisimova plays No. 19 Maria Sakkari.

Looming on the horizon, possible round of 16 clashes include: three-time Madrid champion Petra Kvitova, ranked 12th, versus reigning Madrid titlist Kiki Bertens, ranked 10th; Azarenka against World No. 7 Aryna Sabalenka in an all-Belarus matchup, and World No. 2 Naomi Osaka opposing Sakkari in a rematch of their Miami Open battle, which the rising Greek star won.

Study the draw for a few minutes and it’s easy to see why Kvitova, who won Madrid titles in 2011, 2015 and 2018, calls it “a huge tournament with the greatest players playing. You finish one day playing a great opponent and the next you play another one. …

“Everybody’s playing here. Any match can be interesting,” added Kvitova, who opens against 56th-ranked fellow Czech Marie Bouzkova.

For Barty, who was won two of her 11 career titles on clay – the other being the 2019 French Open – she will attempt to extend her 11-match winning streak on red clay when she meets Rogers of the United States for the fourth time this season – all of them won by the Aussie. During her final virtual press conference in Stuttgart on Sunday, Barty described her title run in Stuttgart for Tennis TourTalk as “a really positive week in the way that we went about tennis. It’s a problem solved, it just a bonus that we’ve come out at the end with a title.”

Meanwhile, for the No. 2 seed Osaka, she will try to start a new winning streak after the 16th seed Sakkari ended her 23-match winning streak in the quarterfinals of last month’s Miami Open.

“I do better when I don’t stress myself out and tell myself that I have to win a tournament,” Osaka said during her virtual Media Day press conference Tuesday. “But it’s really hard to fight that feeling when you really want something.

“At the end of the day, I haven’t played a clay tournament in two years. I haven’t touched clay in two years, either, so … I’m just going in here just trying to have fun.”

No. 3 seed Halep, twice a Madrid champion in 2016 and 2017, is three days removed from losing in the semifinal round against Sabalenka at Stuttgart. She seems to have compartmentalized the defeat and moved on.

“I have experience in getting over a tough loss,” Halep told Tennis TourTalk. “Now, I’m okay. Sure, you’re disappointed about the game, the result. For me, tomorrow is a new day. I feel good and feel happy to be here. My game looks good. I have nothing more to ask.”

Halep has one of the most challenging first-round opponents in Sorribes Tormo, who received a wild card into Madrid after winning her first WTA title last month in Guadalajara on hard courts. The Spanish No. 2 loves to play long, drawn-out rallies, something which is not lost on Halep.

“It’s going to be a tough match,” said Halep, who beat Sorribes Tormo, 6-4, 6-0, in the opening round of Roland Garros last year. “I know that she loves clay. I know it’s going to be a tough battle. If I’ve won once, it means I have a chance. I’ll fight to win the match.”

Sorribes Tormo called her wild card into the Madrid main draw selection “a really good feeling,” when asked by Tennis TourTalk. “I’m really happy to be able to play here another year. I’m ready to play, to compete, to fight. I hope I can play many matches.”

Asked about the daunting task of facing World No. 3 Halep in the opening round, Sorribes Tormo said: “Of course, Simona is a really good player. It will be a very difficult match for me, but I think I’m ready to fight. I’ll try my best for sure.”

Finally, Madrid is kind of a homecoming for Spanish No. 1 Muguruza, who is looking to go past the third round of the Mutua Madrid Open for the first time. The No. 10 seed Muguruza’s first-round match against Stephens will be her first since she retired against Putintseva with a left leg injury three weeks ago at the Volvo Car Open in Charleston, S.C. She arrives with a 21-6 win-loss record. Her 21 wins is most in the WTA. Muguruza and Stephens, who was a Charleston quarterfinalist earlier this month, have split four career meetings.

“I’m feeling better,” Muguruza said, when asked by Tennis TourTalk about her physical condition. “I’ve been working in a smart way to be ready. …

“There are so many big tournaments coming. They’re all packed back-to-back, especially with two Grand Slams. I’m trying to get as many relaxed hours and time to disconnect. With a lot of travel, plus the bubble, I’m more aware of [the importance] of free time.”

Perhaps, Kvitova summed it up best when she said:”I’m glad we can be playing, again, after missing last year.”

The women’s 64-player main draw begins Thursday and continues through May 8.