The rise of Mirra Andreeva has been the story of Madrid so far with the 16 year-old making it this far as a qualifier. She will face her toughest test so far in round four with World No.2 Aryna Sabalenka next up for the Russian. Assuming Sabalenka does not slip up here, another final rematch between her and Iga Swiatek does look the most likely option again.
Sabalenka saw off a spirited Camila Osorio in her third round match, needing nearly two hours to close out the match 6-4 7-5. It was a different type of test for the Belarussian, who had to remain consistent in longer rallies against a highly athletic opponent. The result may have looked better had she not given up break leads in both sets but she will be delighted to get through such a physically tough match. “She can return, she can play long rallies, and she can come back to the match. I just kept telling myself I have to keep going for my shots and I just have to make her move because she’s not going to move all day long. Once I will get this approach shot and I will be able to finish the point.” she said.
Andreeva’s run here has still come as a shock despite the clear promise she has shown this year already. An Australian Open Junior final was followed by a successful transition to the tour level, where she earned a wildcard thanks to her promising form. She won back-to-back $60k ITF tournaments in Chiasso and Bellinzona, looking very impressive in the process. She hasn’t looked out of place at all here with three superb wins. She did not drop a set again Leylah Fernandez, Beatriz Haddad Maia and Magda Linette with the last win coming on her sixteenth birthday. “I’m not really surprised with my level, because I know the way I can play on the court.. but of course, I didn’t expect to be here and go this far.” she said.
There should at least be no sign of nerves from Andreeva coming into this one, having shown she belongs at tour level already with three big performances. This does seem like the kind of match where a rising star comes back down to earth though and the reality of the very top level hits. Sabalenka should have far too much power for her at this stage and no longer looks the fragile opponent who may break down against defensive players.
Prediction – Aryna Sabalenka in straight sets