WTA Madrid 2018 Draw Preview and Analysis

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 Simona Halep

Part of a joint tournament, the women’s Madrid Open tournament is in it’s 10th year. Two-time winner Serena Williams has withdrawn from the tournament, not feeling she is ready for the event just yet. However, the other two-time winners Petra Kvitova and Simona Halep will be competing. World No.1 Halep will be hoping to claim the title for the third year running having won in 2016 and 2017.

Halep must make the final to ensure that she retains her spot at the top, although Caroline Wozniacki’s far from stellar clay performances may mean it might not matter. Her quarter is not the most straight forward although she should still fancy her chances of advancing. She is 4-1 against opening opponent Ekaterina Makarova with 1 win coming this year, 3 & 0 in Doha. Madison Keys did little to establish herself as a contender with a first round loss in Stuttgart but the same cannot be said for Karolina Pliskova. The Czech won her 10th WTA title in the event, beating CoCo Vandeweghe in the final at the indoor clay event.

A stellar North American swing from Sloane Stephens seems to suggest her US Open title was not a fluke but she will need to prove herself away from home with the differences in results staggering. Making the third round at least and beating Victoria Azarenka, playing in Europe for the first time since Wimbledon 2016, for the third time in short succession would go some way to proving that.

There will be question marks over third seed and home favourite Garbine Muguruza after she retired injured in Stuttgart late last month. If fit, the Spaniard looks the most likely to advance from the second quarter of the draw. Daria Kasatkina could test her in round three – the pair have played on clay once but a 2015 matchup in Marrakech is likely to provide little insight into the matchup.

Petra Kvitova is generally more suited to faster hard and grass courts but has always gone well in Madrid, winning two titles and picking up some statement wins along the way. Until winning the Prague Open this weekend, she had not won a title on clay outside of Madrid. Eighth seed Venus Williams will be incredibly vulnerable and seems the most likely first round exit for a top player – she begins against Anett Kontaveit.

With play beginning on Saturday rather than the traditional Sunday/Monday starts, much of the third quarter second round matchups have already been decided. Petra Martic defeated a former finalist in Svetlana Kuznetsova to make it through, with Caroline Garcia next up. The Frenchwoman will hope to confirm her place in the third round where Julia Goerges likely awaits. She was a surprise first round loser in Stuttgart but bounced back with a comfortable win against Timea Babos to begin this tournament. Goerges has had a lot of success this year and will hope that can continue in a fairly open quarter. Elina Svitolina will be expected to make the semi finals as fourth seed, a run that would be far better than her current best of the second round so far.

CoCo Vandweghe was spiralling downwards this year before finding form in Stuttgart, making the final with some impressive wins. Despite Kristina Mladenovic not being great this year, it is a tough opener for her given the Frenchwoman’s ability on clay. Maria Sharapova‘s struggles make the matchup slightly less enticing than it would have been but a battle of French Open champions in round two between her and Jelena Ostapenko could be a cracker if both bring their A-game. The big run that Wozniacki needs to have a chance of reclaiming her No.1 ranking looks unlikely although Anastasija Sevastova in round three seems to be the first choice for someone having a chance of beating her. Although neither was on clay, she has struggled in their two meetings to date with just 9 games won in title.

Prediction – Simona Halep over Elina Svitolina in the final

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