Monday’s Set Points, Madrid 2019: Stephens edges Azarenka, Kvitova & Barty keep on winning

Monday’s order of play at the 2019 Mutua Madrid Open saw the first set of second round matches played. Sadly the bank holiday weekend is now over but i’ve loved these past three days getting to watch all the tennis. I’m really enjoying Madrid so far this year! Read on for the highlights from day 3 of main draw action at the second Premier Mandatory tournament of the year.

Match reviews 🎾

Kiki Bertens d. Jelena Ostapenko, 6-4 6-3

Bertens produced yet another solid and contained top 10-level performance to oust a dangerous but mostly erratic, Ostapenko. Bertens had her breakthrough season in 2018 and i’m just as impressed, perhaps more, with how she’s backing it up in 2019. Her serve is fast becoming one of the best on the WTA tour – Bertens dropped just six points behind her serve in the second set. She moved and defended well, and was mentally sound up against a rhythmless, Ostapenko.

There were patches of excellent hitting from Ostapenko but ultimately she couldn’t control her unforced errors. Key to her game is to keep the winners and unforced error count close and she didn’t do that in this match with 14 winners to 30 unforced errors. The commentator seemed higher on praise for Ostapenko than myself.

The shadow made this quite a challenging watch!

Sloane Stephens d. Victoria Azarenka, 6-4 2-6 6-2

Stephens took the lead in the head-to-head with her fourth consecutive win over Azarenka. I thought Azarenka had the momentum at the start of the third and would go onto win. The Belarusian missed a routine volley at break point at 1-1 in the decider – easy for me to say lying in bed 🀣.

Stephens rediscovered her first set level in the decider as she landed more meaningful first serves and was explosive off the forehand side, taking some chances on the big points. Azarenka’s level tailed off at the end with the serve letting her down. Stephens won the last four games of the match for a confidence-boosting win, one of her best of the year so far.

Petra Kvitova d. Kristina Mladenovic, 6-3 7-6(5)

Kvitova was forced to battle hard for a straight sets win over Mladenovic. The second set got a little dicey for Kvitova as Mladenovic cut out some errors and started to play with more height on the ball. Kvitova only won 58% of first serve points but she managed to find big first serves at key moments in both sets.

Kvitova finished a tight second set tiebreak with three brilliant points – forehand down-the-line winner, backhand down-the-line winner and a potent return at Mladenovic’s toes. This had the feelings of a P3tra match so she did well to get it done in straights. I thought it was a bit of a miserable match midway through the second set but it was more interesting towards the end with some fun points. A couple of them (see tweet below) demonstrated Kvitova’s improved movement. There were some balls that I just don’t think she would have got to years back.

Ash Barty d. Danielle Collins, 6-1 1-6 6-1

Barty said in her post-match interview that this was one of the bizarre matches she’s been a part of – you don’t say! In just one hour and 22 minutes, Barty prevailed in a very lopsided three setter. Barty was too good in the first set πŸ”₯. Collins was too good in the second set πŸ”₯. Barty reset in the decider, breaking serve with a gorgeous drop shot return winner (see below) and constructing more points with the backhand slice as Collins went out in a flame of errors.

Under the radar 🚨

Prior to 2019, Viktoria Kuzmova had never beaten a top 30 player. The Slovak player racked up her third top 30 win on Monday with an excellent 6-4 7-6(2) victory over Carla SuΓ‘rez Navarro. Beating CSN on clay and at home in Madrid where she’s reached the last 16 for the past five years is a noteworthy win.

Kuzmova has been steadily improving and consistently scoring wins at the WTA level this year. I have no doubt that she’s got the game to go much, much higher in the rankings with the big serve and clean, crunching groundstrokes. Kuzmova has still gone under the radar a tad. I feel a win on the big stage against a top ten player is coming soon….

Stat watch πŸ”’

Petra Kvitova and Ash Barty extended their winning streaks on Monday:

Kvitova has won 6 straight matches on tour and 8 straight matches in Madrid.

Barty has won 10 straight matches with her last singles loss coming nearly two months ago (!) in Indian Wells to Elina Svitolina.

Point of the day πŸ‘

Saving the best for last… Bencic-Kuznetsova was the match of the day with some stunning hitting from both players.

Hot shot of the day πŸ”₯

Kiki’s movement and defence on the clay is spectacular.

Super snap πŸ“Έ

Love this shot of Anett and Daria who teamed up in doubles this week.

Recommended reading πŸ“š

An interesting read on how the Mladenovic-Bajin partnership came about.

Tomorrow’s OOP ⭐

Simona Halep, Naomi Osaka, Angelique Kerber and Karolina Pliskova are all in action on Tuesday in the second set of second round matches. The line-up is definitely not as enticing as Monday. The match of the day IMO is up last on Manolo Santana with Martic’s six match winning streak going up against Kerber. Who you got?

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