The quarter-finals at the 2021 Mutua Madrid Open are in the books as Ash Barty, Paula Badosa, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Aryna Sabalenka advanced to the final four. Semi-finals are up on the schedule for Thursday before a day off on Friday ahead of Saturday’s showpiece. Read on for Thursday’s diary from Madrid.
(1) Ash Barty d. (9) Petra Kvitova, 6-1 3-6 6-3
Barty extended her winning streak on red clay to 15 matches with a tenth consecutive victory over a top 10 player. Running out of superlatives for the Bart. It was yet another smart, intelligent display with Barty’s court craft shining through in the decider. Kvitova started the match very flat and was overhitting as Barty cruised to the opening set without having to do anything spectacular. Kvitova managed to get off to a good start in the second set and maintained her early break with some big serving and coming forward to the net which was a mostly effective tactic.
Barty was always ahead in the third set. Kvitova pegged her back once but could never get back to neutral in the scoreline with Barty’s array of slices, lobs and awkward shot placements proving too much for Kvitova. I loved Barty’s use of the kicker serve out wide which saved her a couple of break points, notably an ace on a second serve break point. A solid tournament from Kvitova. Barty just goes from strength-to-strength…
Paula Badosa d. (8) Belinda Bencic, 6-4 7-5
Badosa is having a tremendous start to this clay court season as she advanced to her first ever WTA 1000 level semi-final. The support from the home crowd can affect players differently. Badosa really seems to drawing on the energy to produce some of her best tennis. Badosa has become the first Spanish woman to reach the semi-finals of this tournament. Shocked at that stat!
Hate to have a moan but… this match was almost unwatchable with the shadow on the court. I was also surprised this match was up so early on the schedule and it felt like it deserved an afternoon/evening billing. From what I saw, Badosa was the more secure player and held her nerve better in the critical moments. Badosa won 81% of points behind her first serve. Bencic’s serve has been hot and cold of late and this was definitely an off day.
(5) Aryna Sabalenka d. (13) Elise Mertens, 6-1 4-0 ret.
How impressive has Sabalenka been this week? Sabalenka has dropped 13 games in four matches. Just too good. Sadly Mertens was forced to retire towards the end with a leg injury. Mertens had another super tournament and ran herself into the ground in her past two matches. Sabalenka was devastating in every department and has been very controlled in terms of keeping her unforced errors in check.
Best of the rest 🎾
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova continued her excellent week with a 7-6(4) 7-6(2) victory over Karolina Muchova. Pavs saved three set points in the opener and came from a double break down in the second set. Disappointed to miss this one, sounded like the match of the day!
Best point 🎾
A great point with one of the strangest endings that I can remember! I like that Ash was laughing about it.
Recommended media 📺
Barbora Strycova officially announced her retirement from tennis yesterday. It sounds like she wants to come back for one farewell match. Bara will be missed, such a character!
Recommended listening 🎧
Another super podcast from the Racquet Magazine, this time with Vania King.
SF watchlist 📺
Thoughts on Thursday’s semi-finals can be found at the separate page here. Unsurprisingly, i’m going for a Barty-Sabalenka final.
(1) Ash Barty vs. Paula Badosa
(5) Aryna Sabalenka vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova