An intriguing first-time encounter between world No. 2 Li Na and Belgium’s Kirsten Flipkens is scheduled to take place in the opening round of the Mutua Madrid Open on Monday afternoon.
Li Na produced one of her most spectacular performances early in the season to take the first Grand Slam of the season in Melbourne. Her most recent tournament was the Sony Open in Miami, where she played her first match in the third round, defeating Madison Keys, Carla Suarez Navarro, Caroline Wozniacki and Dominika Cibulkova before surrendering the title to top ranked Serena Williams. She later withdrew from the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix with a left knee injury and will be taking part in her first match since Miami.
Flipklens currently has a win-loss of 11-9 this year. Her best reults so far has been the 4th round at Indian Wells and the semi finals at the WTA Auckland event back at the start of the year. She will next face a tough first round match against Li Na. It should also be noted that Flipkens has joined forces with coach Xavier Malisse during Madrid, Rome, Roland Garros and Wimbledon, so it will be interesting to see how that impacts her game.
While the clay court portion of the season is not the most vital for Flipkens, she is looking to find her peak form ahead of the grass court season, where she is defending a significant amount of points, after finishing runner-up in Hertongenbosch and the semi-final of the Wimbledon Championships.
This marks the first time these two competitors will meet on the professional tour, and it will likely be a match-up that favours the higher-ranked Li. It will depend on the Chinese No. 1’s recovery from her knee injury, as she will need her full form to defeat the resilient Flipkens.
Prediction: Li Na in Three Sets