I loved the first match of the day between Naomi Osaka and Karolina Muchova, which is the focus of today’s post. The rest of the day was mostly meh with straight setters all the way and the last match of the day scheduled for the Manolo Santana court never happening. My expectations are stupidly high for Barty-Swiatek on Monday. Hope it’s a good one! Read on for Sunday’s diary from Madrid…
Day 4️⃣ Highlights
Karolina Muchova d. (2) Naomi Osaka, 6-4 3-6 6-1
Karolina Muchova. The 24-year-old Czech player has now beaten the top two players in the world this year, Ash Barty and Naomi Osaka. This was a goood match and the match-up has great potential for the future to be one that draws people in.
With Osaka’s dominance on hard courts, her relationship with clay and grass has become one of the most intriguing plotlines of the year. It was clear from this match that she still has a long way to go in terms of being comfortable in her movement on this surface. Osaka looked awkward moving out wide on the forehand wing and Muchova exploited this for much of the match. Muchova consolidated an early break in the first set with some serve and volley, and clincial forehand strikes behind the first serve. The serve down-the-tee was working wonders. Muchova served out the first set in style with a backhand winner, drop shot winner, backhand winner (with help from the net) and an unreturnable serve.
Muchova led by a set a break but lost her rhythm on the first serve. Osaka pounced without any hesitation as she began to take charge of the rallies and force Muchova to retreat. Osaka reeled off five straight games to force a decider. The third set witnessed another momentum change as Muchova became increasingly aggressive on return and went back to the first set gameplan of striking into the corners to open up the court. Osaka faded badly at the end, mainly because Muchova would not be shaken.
This wasn’t a bad match at all from Osaka. Muchova was tactically inspired and would have beaten most players with this performance. Still lots to work on on clay for Osaka. I tend to think she’s going to figure it out in the end but it’s unlikely to be this year. I’m so excited to see Muchova now pulling off these big wins. Just hope she stays healthy. She’s the real deal.
(5) Aryna Sabalenka d. Daria Kasatkina, 6-3 6-3
Sabalenka hit 40 winners against Kasatkina to go along with the 37 she produced in the first round against Zvonareva. The WTA even put up a video with all of the Sabalenka winners 😂. I really don’t know what more Kasatkina can do when Sabalenka manages to produce a positive ratio with the winners to unforced errors. I thought Kasatkina competed well, tried to throw in the slice and get the ball rearing up off the clay. Sabalenka had a few mini wobbles here and there but was generally devastating with her groundstrokes.
(13) Elise Mertens d. Elena Rybakina, 7-6(4) 7-5
The last match of the day was an absolute battle as Mertens got the better of Rybakina in a tight two setter that lasted two hours and 15 minutes. Mertens was mentally tougher in the important moments and in some cases, didn’t have to do much at all. In the first set, Rybakina played a rather tragic tiebreak with some inexplicable errors to gift Mertens the set.
Mertens backed off from a set and a break lead as Rybakina went on the attack. In a lung-busting seven deuce game, Rybakina failed to serve out the second set at *5-4 with four set points sailing off into the distance. There were some shocking misses from Rybakina at the net as Mertens produced quite remarkable defence to keep getting one more ball back in court. I liked Rybakina’s commitment to coming forward but the execution was wayyy off. Yet another gritty win for Mertens, her 19th of 2021. Next up is Simona Halep in the third round.
Best of the rest 🎾
Maria Sakkari beat Anett Kontaveit in convincing fashion, 6-3 6-1. In their nine previous meetings, eight of them have been decided in straight sets.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova knocked out the number six seed, Karolina Pliskova, 6-0 7-5. Pliskova won their first six encounters but Pavs has now won their last two. Pavs played one of her best matches of the year, while Pliskova continues to look completely out-of-sorts.
For the second straight match, Simona Halep was cruising to the finish line but encountered some late resistance. Halep beat Zheng Saisai, 6-0 6-4.
Jen Brady is one to watch on the clay as she needed just 67 minutes to topple Jelena Ostapenko, 6-1 6-2.
Press musings 📰
WTA Insider shared quotes from both Muchova and Osaka after their second round encounter. Muchova talked in press about the injury lay-off after the Australian Open. Interested to hear Osaka was feeling positive. She knowwws how good Karolina Muchova is.
Recommended media 📺
Gutted about this. I was really looking forward to Azarenka-Pegula. Get well soon, Vika.
Monday watchlist 📺
Thoughts about Monday’s third round matches can be found on the separate page here.
(1) Ash Barty vs. (14) Iga Swiatek
(9) Petra Kvitova vs. Veronika Kudermetova
(8) Belinda Bencic vs. Ons Jabeur
Paula Badosa vs. Anastasija Sevastova