Simona Halep will be hoping to make it three titles in the past four years at Madrid, with the event being one of the standouts for the 2018 French Open champion. Halep will play Russia’s Margarita Gasparyan, who qualified for the event. The winner will face either Alison Riske or Johanna Konta in the second round, with the latter coming off a final in Rabat.
Gasparyan was once a top 50 player but has been out of the picture for a long while having had numerous injuries. It looks like she is finally getting back to her best, having qualified thanks to wins over Mona Barthel and Jennifer Brady. She was noted in her initial run for her strong one handed backhand and also was a solid doubles player, once making the French Open semi final. It feels like it shouldn’t be long before she gets close to or surpasses her current high of 41, with an Istanbul semi final previously putting her in a confident mood.
Madrid will be Halep’s first clay tournament of the season, having withdrawn from Stuttgart after initially being set to play there. With her competing in both singles and doubles in Madrid, any worries that the hip injury she cited for those withdrawals is still troubling her should be erased. “I think the level of play in those matches was really, really high and I’m confident. So it’s not going to put me down that I had to retire from this tournament. I’m just looking forward to the next ones.” Halep said in Stuttgart, referring to the Fed Cup victories in which she suffered that injury.
Halep has been vulnerable to a shock loss from time to time but these are much rarer on clay, where she is likely the tour’s best player. Only injury can hinder her chances of making a deep run here, something that will be vital for her confidence going into Paris at the end of the month.
Prediction – Simona Halep in straight sets