Both halves of the draw now come together as all four quarter-finals will be played on Wednesday at the 2021 Mutua Madrid Open. A shorter post today as the matches all seemed to fall at awkward times and two of them, the ones discussed in this post, went past the two hour 30 minute mark. Read on for Tuesday’s post from Madrid…
Day 6️⃣ Highlights
(13) Elise Mertens d. (3) Simona Halep, 4-6 7-5 7-5
From a set and a break down, and then a break down in the third set, Mertens rallied superbly to score arguably the best win of her career so far. Mertens has become increasingly reliable in the past year, beating the players you’d expect her to beat. Against the best players on tour, while competing well, Mertens has all too often come up short. I think this emphasied what a monumental win this was for Mertens, beating Halep on her favourite surface and at a tournament she has had great success at.
The most impressive aspect of Mertens’s game for me was just her commitment and never backing down, even when the scoreline was against her. Halep led *4-3 with a break in both the second and third sets. In the third set, Mertens had a horrible miss at 3-3 30-30. It was a mark of Mertens’s resilience that she didn’t let it define her. A few too many errors from Halep at the ends of the final two sets. Not too worried, I think Halep is still finding her groove and has time with Rome up next week.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova d. (11) Jen Brady, 7-5 6-7(8) 6-3
This is the first time since the 2020 Australian Open that Pavlyuchenkova has won three matches at a tournament and reached a quarter-final. While the second round win over Karolina Pliskova was the best by ranking, this was definitely the best of the lot because of how it played out. To set the scene, Pavlyuchenkova has endured some tough losses of late. In St. Petersburg, Pavlyuchenkova missed three match points in a 6-1 6-7(8) 6-7(4) loss to Anastasia Gasanova. In her most recent tournament in Istanbul, Pavs lost ANOTHER three hour plus match to Anastasia Potapova, 6-7(2) 7-6(8) 4-6.
In this third rounder, Pavlyuchenkova had a match point in the second set tiebreak. She went long on an extended rally and then double faulted down set point. I expected Brady to carry the momentum into the third set. Didn’t happen. While twice failing to consolidate breaks, Pavlyuchenkova kept knocking on the door and it was a case of third time lucky. Pavlyuchenkova demonstrated some of the clean ball striking that i’ve gone on about over the past few years and she returned Brady’s serve better than most. Brady won only 33% of points behind her second serve during the entire match and won only 17% (!) of points in the third set.
Heartwarming to see Pavs manage to reset after that second set wobble and deservedly get the W after what has been a pretty disappointing start to the season.
Best of the rest 🎾
Aryna Sabalenka is in devastating form this week as she added another 25 winners to her tally for the week to blast past Jessica Pegula, 6-1 6-2 in just 52 (!) minutes.
In the last match of the day, Karolina Muchova beat Maria Sakkari, 6-0 6-7(9) 7-5 in two hours and 38 minutes. Sakkari saved a couple of match points in the second set tiebreak and Muchova rallied from 3-5 down in the third set. A real rollercoaster! I was concerned to see Muchova appear to feel her ab in the second set. I really hope that’s nothing.
Recommended media 📺
Quarter-final watchlist 📺
Thoughts on Wednesday’s quarter-finals can be found on the separate page here.
(1) Ash Barty vs. (9) Petra Kvitova
(5) Aryna Sabalenka vs. (13) Elise Mertens
(8) Belinda Bencic vs. Paula Badosa
Karolina Muchova vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
4 thoughts on “2021 WTA Madrid, Tuesday R3 Highlights: Mertens upsets Halep, Pavs’s best result in a while”
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Is it just my imagination that Sakkari often has problems getting over the finishing line in tight matches ?
I nearly did not watch the Simona Halep vs. Elise Mertens match because I thought that it might be a bit too one sided but I am glad that I did. Mertens is so good with her defensive play and it amazes me how she keeps the ball in play sometimes ! I thought that she deserved her win overall.
I will watch Ash Barty vs Petra Kvitova but I am very much looking forward to Paula Badosa v Belinda Bencic and the atmosphere that will be created by the spectators. I think that Paula will win assuming that she has recovered properly from her thigh injury and the exertions from her last match. She beat Belinda in 3 sets in Charleston as James explains. However Belinda seems to be playing better now and serving better and I think that she prefers the clay more in Madrid than Charleston. She will be fresher as she did not have a hard match in the last round and is slimmer and fitter than she used to be so she might have a chance especially if Paula gets tired and the match goes to 3 sets but I consider Paula to be the better clay court player so she should win imho.
I think that both Mertens and Muchova will be very tired after their hard matches today and could struggle in their QF matches tomorrow.
Sakkari has had a few matches where she’s come up short in tight three setters (Andreescu in Miami, Kvitova in Stuttgart spring to mind). Then again, she’s also come through in flying colours in some tight matches like saving 6 MPs vs. Pegula in Miami. Went to bed after the 2nd set of Muchova-Sakkari, my that was a rollercoaster! I kind of thought of Sakkari would come through in the third. Really tough turnaround for Muchova to play her QF today.
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