The first round of Madrid is officially in the books. It was a busy couple of days with 32 singles matches on the schedule. This post is not exhaustive and captures the matches that I watched including Sabalenka-Anisimova and Sakkari-Keys. I’m looking forward to a tennisy Bank Holiday Weekend! 😁. Read on for my notes from the first round in Madrid.
R1 Stories 📚
My first match of Madrid 2022 was the return of Simona Halep. It was Halep’s first match since Indian Wells and first match since appointing Patrick Mouratoglou as coach. Halep played an excellent match to beat Zhang Shuai, 6-2 6-2 in just 70 minutes.
Halep spoke in press about being more aggressive on court and I definitely got a sense of that in this match. There was a different energy about Halep. Zhang Shuai is a dangerous opponent and one of those players who can pull off a giant-killing upset without much warning. Zhang had some opportunities to make the scoreline much closer but was not able to capitalise, notably letting slip a *2-0 *40-0 lead in the second set.
Halep will play Paula Badosa in a BLOCKBUSTER second round match. Badosa navigated what looked like a dicey opener on paper against Veronika Kudermetova with surprising ease. From 3-3 in the first set, Badosa powered home to win the last nine games, 6-3 6-0. Like Zhang, Kudermetova had her chances but wasn’t able to capitalise. The second set was pretty tame. Badosa served brilliantly, especially on the important points down break point. I’m still in awe of how well Badosa is taking all these new things in her stride. World number two and really playing like she belongs.
The match of day one was an unsurprisingly huge hitting contest between Aryna Sabalenka and Amanda Anisimova which Anisimova won, 6-2 3-6 6-4. It was jarring to see the defending champion out on day one but it wasn’t a big surprise considering the head-to-head which Anisimova now leads 4-0. Anisimova just seems to be able to handle Sabalenka’s game. Everything is calmer and smoother on Anisimova’s side and she is able to redirect Sabalenka’s pace and takes the ball so early.
This match was pretty much the story of Sabalenka’s season. I think she’s generally playing OK but under any considerable pressure, Sabalenka buckles. At one point, I actually thought this match might be the turning point for Sabalenka. She rallied from 1-4 to 4-4 in the third set and Anisimova was becoming very negative with her body language. Out of nowhere, Anisimova reset and launched down some big first serves to hold to 15. Sabalenka was then broken serving to stay in the match with the same old story. A huge backhand error followed by a double fault down match point. I feel like Sabalenka needs to win a couple of tight matches deep in a third set to truly right the ship. Anisimova continues to show promise this year and returned sensationally in this match.
Another one of the blockbuster first rounders, Maria Sakkari against Madison Keys, went the distance on day two. I actually said that the match-up was uninspiring in my draw preview. Well, the first set was pretty terrific! A high quality duel which went with serve as both players found their best tennis to get out of some sticky situations. In a yo-yo first set tiebreak where both players had set points, Keys edged it with some cracking kickers on second serve.
Admittedly, the quality was mostly confined to that opening set as things became a little scrappy. Keys wasn’t able to maintain that first set level and was up and down. In the third set, Keys was twice broken from *40-15 up with a rush of errors. Sakkari, who didn’t look sure of herself at times, was the steadier player throughout the three sets and showed impressive resolve after losing that tight opening set. Sakkari played a superb final game with a couple of brave forehand winners to eventually close out with the match, 6-7(8) 6-3 6-4. After the disappointment of Stuttgart, I think this was a noteworthy win for Maria to kickstart her clay court swing.
Naomi Osaka and Emma Raducanu both had to work hard early doors but came through in straight sets to reach the second round. Osaka was down an early break to the in-form Anastasia Potapova but weathered the early storm and then cruised through the second set to win, 6-3 6-1. I’m really excited for for Osaka and this clay court season. A super start! Raducanu was down 2-5 in the first set against Tereza Martincova and saved a pair of set points before turning the match on its head to win very comfortably in the end, 7-6(3) 6-0. There’s been plenty of opinions floating around with Raducanu’s recent split with coach, Torben Beltz, so i’m relieved that she came through this match unscathed.
Marie Bouzkova d. (5) Karolina Pliskova, 6-4 7-5: A wonderful win for Bouzkova! She reminds me of Lucie so i’m always pleased to see Marie doing well. Pliskova, still on the comeback from injury, looks completely out-of-sorts.
Ekaterina Alexandrova d. (10) Jelena Ostapenko, 6-2 4-6 6-4: Oops. I didn’t have a clue who was going to win Madrid so I took a punt and… well it didn’t really work out 😂. Alexandrova is building some decent form but still makes me extremely nervous trying to close out matches.
Sara Sorribes Tormo d. (13) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 6-3 2-6 6-3: After failing to break serve in a lengthy opening game of the third set, Pavs ran out of gas in what was her first match since January. SST held off a late Pavs surge to set up a second round meeting with Osaka 👀.
Hot shot 🔥
Wow this was goood! I’m off to watch back the third set of Fernandez-Petkovic.
Press highlights 📰
Recommended media 📺
You can feel the emotion just watching these 12 seconds! Welcome back, Monica.
Recommended listening 🎧
The latest Racquet Magazine podcast with Jen Brady is well worth a listen. Lots of interesting bits including the US Open semi-final match against Naomi Osaka and her various injuries. Sounds brutal ☹. It sounds like with no further complications 🤞, Brady is aiming to return for the US Open series.
22/32 for the first round.
Lost my champ in Ostapenko (eek) but elsewhere not too bad. I had Bouzkova over Pliskova and Kalinina over Stephens in the first round.
R2 Previews 🤔
Paula Badosa vs. Simona Halep: Cancel all your plans for a ding ding ding first time meeting. It’s a brutal draw because you could make a reasonable claim that Badosa and Halep are the top two favourites in this draw without Swiatek. I’m picking Badosa who is just handling everything so admirably. Halep was superb in the first round but I always feel she needs a few matches to find her rhythm after a break.
Belinda Bencic vs. Karolina Muchova: Bencic really seems to have found her stride in the last few weeks. I think Muchova is probably a little early in her comeback to knock out Bencic but she rose to the occasion in Miami so i’m excited to see how this one goes.
Danielle Collins vs. Bianca Andreescu: I have no insights whatsoever. I just know that I will be watching this one.