Thursday will be quarter-finals day at the 2017 Mutua Madrid Open with just three seeds remaining in what has been another wild week on the WTA tour. This post features two snap previews for quarter-final matches including Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. Eugenie Bouchard and Kristina Mladenovic vs. Sorana Cirstea. A Set Points post to round up Wednesday’s action will follow soon…
1. Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. Eugenie Bouchard (Madrid, QF)
The late night match in Madrid on Thursday will pit the number eight seed, Svetlana Kuznetsova against Eugenie Bouchard. After producing a stunning performance to beat Maria Sharapova in the second round, Bouchard backed it up with a decent display to take out the soon-to-be world number one, Angelique Kerber.
The match had an unfortunate ending as Kerber was forced to retire with a worrying looking lower back/leg injury with Bouchard about to serve for the match at 6-3 *5-0. Bouchard went to town on Kerber’s serve – the German player didn’t hold serve once and won just 11 points in seven service games. Bouchard swallowed up short balls and was reasonably precise in attack.
Kuznetsova continues to be one of the most consistent performers of the season and is into her fourth quarter-final of 2017. Kuznetsova beat Wang Qiang in the third round, 6-4 7-5, raising her level when it counted at the ends of both sets. Wang Qiang had made an aggressive start to the match and was up a break in both sets before the Russian player fought back into contention. Kuznetsova, unsurprisingly, is looking a real threat on the clay.
Head-to-head record: Kuznetsova leads the head-to-head with Bouchard, 2-0 with wins in Oeiras (6-4 6-1, 2014) and Cincy (6-4 3-6 6-2, 2014)
Interesting stat: Bouchard had a 0-3 W-L record in Madrid before this week – she now finds herself in a first ever Premier Mandatory quarter-final having won three matches in a row for the first time since Sydney.
Final thoughts: Bouchard reacted well to the win over Sharapova even though Kerber was below her best and clearly vulnerable. Kuznetsova offers a new challenge and has plenty of tricks up her sleeve on clay. I’m a little on the fence as Bouchard is clearly a contender this week based on her level through the last two matches – however i’m a still tad wary as to whether she can maintain her focus and form having struggled to string wins together all year. I’d give the edge to Kuznetsova’s consistency and versatility on this surface.
2. Kristina Mladenovic vs. Sorana Cirstea (Madrid, QF)
In a first career match-up, the number 14 seed, Kristina Mladenovic will play Sorana Cirstea in Madrid on Thursday. After being pushed to a third set tiebreak in her second round match against Lauren Davis, Mladenovic had a stroll in the park on Wednesday, producing a clean and calm performance to defeat an erratic, Oceane Dodin, 6-2 6-1. Mladenovic’s power and variety was impressive, and she showed no lapses in concentration as Dodin offered up few solutions with an increasingly negative body language in the second set.
Cirstea produced a committed display to see off Misaki Doi in three sets, 7-5 3-6 6-1. Cirstea came back from 0-3 down to win the opener. In a second set with opportunities on both sides, Doi claimed the crucial break with a slice of net luck. The Japanese player wasted a trio of set points before eventually serving out the set. Cirstea finished with a commanding third set performance, dropping just five (!) points behind her serve and forcing more and more errors off the racquet of Doi.
Interesting stat: As a wild card in the 2016 and 2017 editions of the tournament, Cirstea has reached back-to-back quarter-finals in Madrid. Mladenovic had lost her last four matches in Madrid but now finds herself in the quarter-finals after winning her 25th singles match of the year against Dodin.
Final thoughts: All four quarters have a surprise element and this is my favourite of the four. Mladenovic is having a superb year and going it alone has proved to be a fruitful decision. Her talent is off-the-chart and finally, she seems to be blending it with some sound tactics. There have been some off days but the improvement has been immense. While Cirstea doesn’t have the variety that Mladenovic possesses, she has shown a lot of heart this week and is very comfortable on the clay. I’m expecting a very competitive match between the pair… Mladenovic just.