Defending champion Serena Williams will open up her campaign for a third consecutive title in Madrid on Sunday afternoon, as she begins her week with an intriguing first-time match-up against Swiss teenager Belinda Bencic. This marks the first time these two competitors will meet on the professional tour, and will likely be a solid encounter. Both competitors are coming off a loss to Jana Cepelova in Charleston and will be looking to get back on the winning track this week in Spain.
World No. 1 Serena Williams had a fantastic fortnight in Miami, where she defeated the likes of Angelique Kerber, Maria Sharapova and finalist Li Na to win the title. It was the American’s seventh title at that event, which is two more than previous record holder Steffi Graf. She would have her momentum halted in the following tournament, as she would lose in her opening match in Charleston to Jana Cepelova. The Slovak was ranked 77 spot below her in the WTA rankings, and managed to stop the American from wining her third consecutive title at that event.
After the event, Williams opted to take the rest of the month off from tennis, after explaining at a post-match press conference that she was “really just dead,” and needed “some weeks off” to not think about tennis.
With Victoria Azarenka being forced to withdraw due to a foot injury, Serena Williams, Li Na, Agnieszka Radwanska and Simona Halep are the Top 4 seeds at the event this year. Williams’ quarter features Petra Kvitova, Flavia Pennetta, Kaia Kanepi and Lucie Safarova, and while that would be a tough group for most competitors, the American holds an 18-0 record against the normally dangerous quartet.
Unlike her top ranked opponent, Belinda Bencic’s best week on the tour this season took place at the Family Circle Cup, where she reached the semi-final round of the event, defeating the likes of Maria Kirilenko, Marina Erakovic, Elina Svitolina and Sara Errani before losing to Williams’ vanquisher Jana Cepelova. It was a remarkable week for a player who was ranked outside of the Top 100 and had to work her way through the qualifying rounds. It will be interesting to see how she holds up this week in the faster conditions in Madrid.
This marks the first time these two competitors meet on the professional tour. While these is no denying that Bencic has the potential to become a future star, she is thoroughly outmatched against a rested and motivated Serena Williams. While the American has been far from invulnerable on the tour this season, she is the clear favourite in this encounter, and is a better athlete in all areas of the game, which will ultimately lead her to a straight sets victory.
Prediction: Serena Williams in Straight Sets