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Road to Roland Garros, presented by ZipRecruiter: Opportunities abound for Sabalenka, Sakkari in Madrid. Who will capitalize?
With No. 1 Iga Swiatek absent, who can build some pre-Paris momentum of their own in Madrid? We preview a (nearly) loaded WTA draw.
Published Apr 27, 2022
ZipRecruiter Player Resume: Amanda Anisimova
When the WTA draw at the Mutua Madrid Open was released on Tuesday, it looked the way a mandatory-event draw should look: Everyone who could possibly make it, had made it.
By Wednesday, though, that was no longer the case: Iga Swiatek, the tour’s new No. 1 and winner of four straight titles, withdrew to rest her right arm for Rome and Roland Garros. So we won’t get to see her put her 23-match win streak on the line for another week.
Instead we’ll see who can build their own pre-Paris momentum, and possibly challenge Swiatek’s status as the pre-Slam favorite, in her absence.
With Swiatek out, 17th seed Leylah Fernandez moves to the top line of the draw, and No. 7 Garbiñe Muguruza becomes the highest seed in this section. Theoretically, Muguruza should like the quick conditions and the home fans in Madrid, but she has never reached a final there, she hasn’t won a match in two months, and she’s coming back from a shoulder injury. She’ll start against Ajla Tomljanovic.
All of which means this quarter is a land of opportunity for someone. The other three seeds here are Emma Raducanu, Elena Rybakina, and Fernandez.
Unseeded, but possibly looming: Petra Kvitova, who has won this tournament three times. She’ll start against Jil Teichmann. Kvitova is 0-2 on clay so far this year, but Madrid’s dirt is her kind of dirt.
When she reached the final in Indian Wells a little more than a month ago, Maria Sakkari’s trajectory seemed to be heading inexorably upwards. She was in the Top 5, she was making deep runs each week, and she was heading toward Roland Garros, a Slam where she reached the semifinals last year. But Sakkari is 0-2 since Indian Wells; did she peak there, or is she just gathering herself before the homestretch to Paris? We may find out quickly, because she plays a quality opponent in Madison Keys right off the bat; Sakkari has won both of their previous meetings.
Danielle Collins is the second-highest seed in this section, and an intriguing figure for the clay season. The Floridian’s flat-ball game doesn’t really seem suited to the stuff, but she has been to the quarterfinals in Paris, and she has obviously had a strong 2022 so far. For hard-courters looking to transition to dirt, Madrid is the place to do it. Collins will start against wild card Monica Puig, and could play Bianca Andreescu in the second round.
There’s one more question mark in this quarter, and it’s a big one: Naomi Osaka. The former No. 1 says she’s watching videos of Rafael Nadal to learn to play on clay, has already been to the quarterfinals in Madrid before, and showed some flashes of her old self earlier this month when she made the final in Miami. Osaka will start against a qualifier, and could play Sakkari after that.
First-round matches to watch:
- Maria Sakkari vs. Madison Keys
- Bianca Andreescu vs. Alison Riske
- Jessica Pegula vs. Camila Giorgi
The good news for Aryna Sabalenka is that (a) she’s returning to a tournament she won last year, and (b) the player she lost to last week in Stuttgart, Swiatek, has pulled out. The bad news is that she has to play Amanda Anisimova in the first round. Sabalenka is 0-3 against the American, and that includes two losses on clay, one of which was just three weeks ago in Charleston.
Whoever wins that opener will find themselves in a highly unpredictable environment. The other three seeds in this quarter are Karolina Pliskova, Jelena Ostapenko, and Victoria Azarenka, none of whom are a lock in any match they play.
Also here: Ludmilla Samsonova, who nearly ended Swiatek’s streak in the Stuttgart semifinals over the weekend.
When 2022 began, and Paula Badosa won Sydney, it seemed as if the Spaniard was heading for the top of the WTA charts. And with a No. 2 ranking, she isn’t far off. But with no titles or finals since, she has yet to make the most of her powerful game. The courts and the crowd should help her in Madrid, but the draw? Maybe not.
Badosa will start against Veronika Kudermetova, a player she has beaten just once in four meetings (granted, she won their most recent match, in Indian Wells, pretty routinely). After that, Badosa could face two-time Madrid champ Simona Halep, 14th-seeded Coco Gauff, and either Belinda Bencic (a semifinalist here in 2019) or Ons Jabeur in the quarters.
Also here: Karolina Muchova and Alizé Cornet