Sunday at the Mutua Madrid Open has to be one the most hectic days of WTA action all year. There were 26 first round matches across seven courts and impressively, six of them had streams! On the whole, the seeds didn’t do too badly with four of them going out… however, that did include the top two. Read on for Sunday’s Set Points with my best attempt to recap what was a frenetic day in Madrid. Warning… it’s a long one.
Angelique Kerber had never lost a set to Barbora Strycova in four previous matches… that all changed on Sunday! While I thought Kerber might struggle in this tournament with fatigue, I didn’t anticipate her having issues with this first round match based on the head-to-head. Strycova won her first AND second sets against Kerber, coming through for a shock 6-4 6-2 victory against the number two seed. Kerber didn’t look at the races but Strycova played some neat tennis including this gorgeous pick-up on set point in the first set.
I’m not concerned in the slightest about Kerber… she needs a break (Miami, Charleston, Fed Cup and Stuttgart will have taken its toll) and she should be well rested for Rome next week.
And following the number two seed out of the tournament was the number one seed! Agnieszka Radwanska faced a dicey draw against one of the most dangerous unseeded players in Dominika Cibulkova. Radwanska rallied from 4-6 3-5 down to win the second set on the tiebreak with a couple of wizard-like moments. Despite launching into an early 2-0 lead in the third set, Cibulkova was the more tuned in and Radwanska, while showing tremendous shotmaking at times, was a little in-and-out, particularly on serve. Cibulkova deservedly won, 6-4 6-7(3) 6-3 in two hours and 37 minutes.
Victoria Azarenka fended off a very encouraging performance from Laura Robson to win, 6-4 6-2. The difference between this and Robson’s last match against Timea Babos in Rabat was rather incredible. As she often does, Robson managed to elevate her game for the calibre of opponent and showed flashes of the form (particularly on the forehand) pre-wrist surgery. It was probably the highest quality match I watched on Sunday. A good early test for Azarenka who will play Alizé Cornet in the second round on Monday.
Simona Halep got her season back on track with a straightforward, 6-0 6-3 victory over Misaki Doi. The former Madrid finalist had won just three games in her most recent match on the WTA tour against Laura Siegemund in Stuttgart. Thankfully it seems that she is over the ankle injury picked up in Fed Cup action against Andrea Petkovic. Halep will play Karin Knapp in the second round after the Italian player rallied from a set down to beat Margarita Gasparyan to win her first match since the 2015 US Open.
Karolina Pliskova was the first winner of the day, flying through her match against Lourdes Dominguez Lino, 6-2 6-1 in just 43 (!) minutes. Pliskova was all over the second set with big serving and some solid play up at the net. Pliskova will play Christina McHale in the second round on Monday.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova snapped a five match losing streak with a first win since Acapulco, comfortably defeating Lesia Tsurenko, 6-2 6-1. It was a clean display from Pavs who was the more dynamic player throughout the 68 minute contest. Tsurenko, who retired in her second round match in Rabat last week, had heavy strapping on her thigh. In a big-hitting second rounder set for Tuesday, Pavlyuchenkova will play Camila Giorgi.
Danka Kovinic claimed her first top ten win, defeating the number seven seed, Roberta Vinci, 6-4 6-2. It was a shame that TennisTV weren’t able to show this match as it looked to be the most compelling of the first matches up on the schedule. A great win for Danka!
Daria Gavrilova enjoyed a very solid win over Heather Watson, 7-5 6-4, in exactly two hours of play. Gavrilova saved two set points in the first set… Loved the net exchange!
Some of the up-and-comers have had nightmares against Monica Niculescu… the qualifier, Louisa Chirico showed her quality, recovering from a break down on three occasions in the first set en route to a straight sets victory, 7-5 6-1. Chirico was out injured at the start of the year with an ankle sprain but is now finding her form and has won eight matches at Charleston, Stuttgart and Madrid combined.
Elena Vesnina is on an absolute roll at the moment and has won a whopping 19 matches at her last five tournaments, successfully qualifying for the main draws of Doha, Miami, Charleston and Madrid. In the first round of Madrid, she won the last ten games of her match against Jelena Ostapenko to prevail, 7-5 6-0.
Vesnina plays the Madrid defending champion, Petra Kvitova in the second round who enjoyed a straight sets win over Lara Arruabarrena in the first round, 6-3 6-2.
It’s great to see Sorana Cirstea back and playing well! The Romanian player has been plagued by a shoulder injury for some years but is building a solid season of results. She started with some decent wins on the ITF circuit including a title in Bertioga and that has translated well on the WTA tour with a semi-final showing in Rio, second round in Istanbul (having come through qualifying) and now second round of Madrid.
Cirstea has sneaked into the lead to 4-3 in her head-to-head against Jelena Jankovic, winning a straight sets opener in Madrid, 6-4 6-3. JJ was playing her first match since Miami following a neck/shoulder issue.
The two Spaniards scheduled on Manolo Santana court both advanced to the second round. Carla Suárez Navarro needed three sets to get past Timea Babos, 3-6 6-2 6-3. Babos produced two sensational backhand winners on break points to help her claim the first set, but CSN continues to demonstrate some impressive mental resilience, fighting back against an in-form opponent.
Muguruza got the job done in straight sets against Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, 6-2 7-5, but it was pretty dicey in places. Credit to Schmiedlova who competed well in the second set. The Slovak player has won just one match on the WTA tour this year (vs. Bacsinszky in Sydney) and has lost her last ten matches all in straight sets. The serve has taken a battering this year.
Suárez Navarro plays Sabine Lisicki in the second round who had one of her best wins of the year against Monica Puig, 6-1 6-3. It’s worth noting that Puig had reached the quarter-finals in Prague (lost to Kuznetsova in a 2h 15 three setter) and come straight to Madrid where she had no rest days and managed to come through two rounds of qualifying. Puig’s match against Lisicki was her sixth consecutive day of playing. Still, a good win for Sabine!
The qualifier, Patricia Maria Tig had an excellent win over Daria Kasatkina, 6-3 4-6 6-2. Aside from a retirement to Lara Arruabarrena in Sydney, it was the first time this year that Kasatkina had lost to a player ranked below her. It was a disappointingly passive performance as she allowed Tig to dictate, but this may have had something to do a with a right forearm injury, which she had a medical time-out for in the first set.
Huge kudos to both Lucie Safarova and Sam Stosur who competed in the Prague final on Saturday and won their Madrid openers on Sunday in straight sets. Lucie defeated CoCo Vandeweghe, 7-6(4) 6-1, coming from a break down in the first set, while Sam overcame Sara Sorribes Tormo, 6-1 6-3. And guess what, Lucie and Sam will play each other again in the second round… thankfully on Tuesday!
And add to Lucie and Sam, yesterday’s Rabat champion, Timea Bacsinszky came through a gruelling and highly entertaining first round clash against Andrea Petkovic, 6-4 2-6 6-3. Poor Petko was in tears during a medical time-out in the first set for yet another knee injury, but she battled on valiantly. In the end, Bacsinszky had a touch more aggression from the baseline. Seriously though, kudos to Lucie, Sam and Timea!
In another dramatic late-night three setter, Irina-Camelia Begu defeated Eugenie Bouchard, 6-4 3-6 6-4. There were some good points in this match and plenty of drama. Begu led *2-0 *40-40 in the third set before randomly calling a medical time-out during play to have treatment for a blister on her foot. The Romanian player showed signs of collapsing but hung on as Bouchard threw in a tame final game.
In other results… Madison Keys won her fourth consecutive match against Alison Riske, edging a match of blistering baseline rallies, 1-6 6-3 6-4. In another three setter, Ana Ivanovic held on for the victory against Katerina Siniakova, 6-3 3-6 6-4 in a match that disappointingly, had no streams. And in annnnother three setter, Laura Siegemund continued her wonderful year by knocking out last year’s Madrid finalist, Svetlana Kuznetsova, 6-0 3-6 6-3.
Mirjana Lucic-Baroni comfortably saw off Kristina Mladenovic, 6-2 6-3, a much more straightforward match compared to the third set tiebreak 4-6 6-4 7-6(13) victory in Charleston earlier this year. And finally (still with me?!) Caroline Garcia benefited from a retirement by Johanna Konta, up 6-4 2-1 to set up a second round tie with Dominika Cibulkova.
Today was absolutely manic. If you’ve got to end of this post, thank you and well done haha, I hope it was informative! Thankfully, there are just eight WTA matches tomorrow with the second round roster split between Monday and Tuesday. To be honest, none of the matches really take my fancy tomorrow but hopefully there will be a hidden gem or two within the line-up.