Saturday’s Final Poll
Friday’s SF Match Thoughts
Caroline Garcia vs. Kiki Bertens: Bertens has won their two previous encounters in straight sets but they haven’t played for over two years. I couldn’t watch their matches on Thursday so again, not much of a valid opinion! My instinct is Garcia.
Karolina Pliskova vs. Petra Kvitova: Very much looking forward to this match to celebrate the start of the weekend! Both will be seeking to extend their current nine match winning streaks. I remember their last clash in the 2015 Sydney final, a high quality match which Kvitova won in two tiebreaks. As much as I want Kvitova to win this, i’m thinking Pliskova. This run from Karolina in Stuttgart and Madrid has been immense, and she must be buzzing after that breakthrough tour win over Halep.
Friday’s SF Polls
Thursday’s QF Match Thoughts
Simona Halep vs. Karolina Pliskova: Once again winning streaks collide – Halep’s up to 15 in Madrid, while Pliskova is at eight wins a row. It will be back-to-back Pliskovas for Halep, something i’m not sure has happened on tour before! From a pretty ordinary start to 2018, Pliskova has found her best tennis on the fast clay courts of Stuttgart and Madrid, and most notably her serve. Playing and beating Stephens, a player she hadn’t won a set against in two previous encounters, was no doubt a good warm-up for this clash for Pliskova.
Halep leads Pliskova, 6-1 in their head-to-head and the Czech player seems very aware of it, based on quotes in press (article via Reem Abulleil). While tempted to go for Pliskova, i’m finding it hard to shake off the H2H even with Pliskova’s excellent recent form. I hope for a classic, which based on their form so far this week, it should be. From experience, many of these matches fail to live up to expectation so i’m wary!
Caroline Garcia vs. Carla Suárez Navarro: Carla’s having a dream week in Madrid and showcasing so much emotion which has been nice to see. I do wonder if she can keep it up for another day. This match is first up Manolo Santana and I wonder if the atmosphere may be a little mute. I think the change in court and a top quality opponent may be a step too far. I’m going for CarGar in 2.
Petra Kvitova vs. Daria Kasatkina: I have been waitinggggg for this match-up to happen 😍😍😍. It’s a late night match which I think generally goes against Petra. Dasha has struggled before against the big hitters. Thrilled it’s the late night match so hoping to be back in time to watch.
Kiki Bertens vs. Maria Sharapova: Another first time match-up and therefore, no data points in the H2H. I actually fancy Bertens here? My only concern is if she gets overrawed playing Sharapova for the first time.
Thursday’s QF Polls
Wednesday’s R3 Match Thoughts
Karolina Pliskova vs. Sloane Stephens: Two of the biggest recent WTA tour champs go head-to-head in this intriguing clash – Miami champ, Sloane against Stuttgart champ, Karolina. Stephens leads the head-to-head, 2-0 with straight set wins at Wimbledon and Beijing in 2012 and 2015 respectively. This feels like a good match-up for Sloane, who was supremely solid against Stosur without doing anything spectacular. Pliskova has been striking the ball veryyy nicely and with more purpose. I’m going for Sloane.
Kristina Mladenovic vs. Maria Sharapova: The pair played a thrilling semi-final in Stuttgart last year where Mlads won, 3-6 7-5 6-4. In these heavily anticipated grudge matches in 2017, quite a few players managed to produce their A-game against Sharapova. I’m curious to see if Mlads can do it again as her form this year has been very inconsistent. I haven’t seen much of either this week so it’s hard to give a valid opinion. I kind of think Maria might take it but I thought the same last time in Stuttgart. I just hope we get drama 😂.
Caroline Wozniacki vs. Kiki Bertens: Bertens will be aiming for her first set, let alone win, against Woz on Wednesday with a 0-3 H2H records. If Bertens is going to change that then you’d have to think her best chance is on clay. A mild upset alert for sure. Tend to think Woz might be too solid after two good wins so far in Madrid.
Caroline Garcia vs. Julia Goerges: Great match-up between two of the most improved players in the last year. Both had wobbly patches in their second round wins but ultimately their forehands were magic. Garcia won their only previous match in Beijing in 2016 in three sets, 4-6 6-3 6-4. This is a coin toss and surely a three setter?! If I had to make a pick i’d go for Goerges but this is pretty close to 50-50.
Wednesday’s R3 Polls
Tuesday’s R2 Match Thoughts
Petra Kvitova vs. Monica Puig: Kvitova and Puig haven’t played each other since 2016 when they met twice in barely a month. Puig won both encounters in three sets including a semi-final win in Rio. Puig is actually having a respectable year and has won at least one match at every tournament she has played apart from Auckland in week 1.
Kvitova did so well during the St.Petersburg & Doha double this year so I’m not too concerned about her physically although I doubt the one day off will actually help. I’m 60-40 in favour of Kvitova. Puig winning wouldn’t be a major surprise to me. It doesn’t feel right going against Kvitova when she’s been playing such brilliant tennis in the last week.
Simona Halep vs. Elise Mertens: Two impressive winning streaks collide in this match-up – Halep has won her last 13 matches in Madrid having defended her title last year, while Mertens has won her last 13 matches on tour with two International titles in Lugano and Rabat, and two wins in Fed Cup. Mertens had an unsurprising dip after reaching the SFs of the Australian Open, but has quite quickly found her winning tennis again. Nothing beats winning matches but it is worth noting that Mertens hasn’t played a top 50 player in her two title runs. I’d go for Halep, who seems completely at ease in Madrid, to win in two tight sets.
Garbiñe Muguruza vs. Donna Vekic: Muguruza is bidding to win back-to-back matches in Madrid for the first time in her career. I’d actually tag this with a mild upset alert. Vekic has not had the best year but she has weapons to trouble Muguruza. I’m also generally unconvinced by Muguruza at non-Slam events and the crowd never seems to have taken to her in Madrid.
Elina Svitolina vs. Carla Suárez Navarro: One of the biggest upsets of the season so far, in my opinion, was when CSN beat Svitolina in Indian Wells earlier this year in straight sets. Svitolina, like Muguruza, has never managed to win back-to-back matches in Madrid, while CSN has made the last 16 for the last four years and has produced some superb displays at this tournament. For those reasons, I’m a little torn. I’ll go with Svitolina in a battle.
Jo Konta vs. Bernarda Pera: Another of the big upsets this year was Pera’s victory over Konta at the Australian Open earlier this year. For the third time already this year the pair will meet. Konta turned the tables in Doha and I’d be more inclined to go for the Brit this time round, as much as I like Pera’s game. Konta served well and was very aggressive against Rybarikova in the first round, showing belief in her game to take it on.
Anett Kontaveit vs. Aliaksandra Sasnovich: Sasnovich is 2-0 in 2018 vs. Kontaveit including a wild, 1-6 7-6(2) 6-3 win in the first week of the season. I’m going for Kontaveit this time to erase the memories of those previous clashes. Anett was fantastic against Venus on Saturday and it was a rare moment where she really seemed to back herself. Stuttgart seems to have been a big deal for her where she saved a match point to beat Kristina Mladenovic in the first round.
Kristyna Pliskova vs. Sara Sorribes Tormo: Kr. Pliskova is already up to eight match wins on clay in 2018. While her movement remains a concern, I was impressed with her ability to redirect pace in Charleston. This could be a slog although she’s played SST before so should know her game. I’ve never been that impressed by SST. Her game, counter-punching with heavy topspin, has proven effective and clearly disturbing to play on clay! Kr. Pliskova should win this one…
Daria Kasatkina vs. Sorana Cirstea: I actually picked Cirstea to win this one in my Draw Challenge – bad fan! The win over Wang Qiang was a confidence booster for Dasha so I’m more hopeful than I previously was of her chances. Cirstea is a decent player, especially on clay.
Tuesday’s R2 Polls
Monday’s R2 Selected Match Thoughts
Maria Sharapova vs. Irina-Camelia Begu: I was impressed with Begu on Saturday as she soaked up the attack from Ostapenko to score a straight sets upset win. The Romanian player has never won a set off Sharapova in three matches, in fact she has won no more than four games in any of the sets that they have played. Sharapova seems to be healthy again which is huge. I’m going for Maria.
Karolina Pliskova vs. Victoria Azarenka: Really looking forward to this one. Azarenka won quite comfortably earlier this year in Miami, 7-5 6-3. I think winning Stuttgart was a big result for Pliskova and her serve will likely do more damage in Madrid. I’m still leaning towards Vika – her dynamicity around the court is so refreshing to watch and the recent news that she will be able to play a full schedule up to Wimby must be settling for her.
Caroline Garcia vs. Petra Martic: Nice match-up! The pair played two years ago in Monterrey where Garcia won, 6-3 6-4. I certainly wouldn’t rule out the upset as Martic is a very competent clay courter. I feel that Garcia is rounding into some better form and she’s accomplished on the clay. Garcia looked very good in what I saw of her R1 match against Cibulkova will always be a tricky player to put away. I’ll go for CarGar in two tight.
Caroline Wozniacki vs. Ash Barty: A bit bummed that I will miss this one live. Clay is not Barty’s surface, but her tactical awareness is seeing her pick up decent wins along the way. She was aggressive and dictated her first round match against Sara Errani in style. Wozniacki played a decent match to get past Daria Gavrilova. Barty has struggled against counter punchers (Svits springs to mind) but I think the speed of the court can work in her favour. Oh what the hell, i’m going for Ash!
Sloane Stephens vs. Sam Stosur: This could be an interesting one with SS vs. SS. Sloane managed to extinguish that horror showing against CoCo with a solid R1 win over Soler-Espinosa, while Stosur served really well to beat Pavs in three (should have been in two!). I still think Sam can do big things on the clay although her focus and consistency remain a concern. Sam capable of the win. Sloane feels like a safer pick between the two.
Anastasija Sevastova vs. Kiki Bertens: Two of the under-the-radar best players on clay. Bertens looked fab in Charleston and Sevastova has been picking up solid wins all year without a stand-out result. Sevastova won their only previous match in Madrid last year at the quarter-final stage, 6-3 6-3. I do NOT remember that match at all! Could be a battle, more inclined to pick Sevastova for her craft.
Monday’s R2 Polls
Sunday R1 Selected Match Thoughts
Caroline Wozniacki vs. Daria Gavrilova: I was thinking about this match-up recently! I remember when they played in Doha and Dasha was favoured by most. Wozniacki won, 6-3 6-3. My main memory was Dasha missing an absolute sitter. I’m a little surprised to see Dasha lining up to play this one as she looked in a lot of pain in Prague with an achilles injury. Wozniacki retired hurt from her last match on tour in Istanbul due to a abdominal injury.
Not entirely convinced by Wozniacki on clay and particularly on these faster courts. I’d go for Woz in this match-up though as not sure Gavrilova will be able to hurt the Dane.
Simona Halep vs. Ekaterina Makarova: In some ways i’m surprised that this clay in Madrid suits Halep who is the two-time defending champ. I think she has spoken before about the altitude helping her generate pace. Makarova has had some tricky draws this year and she can be dangerous. On this occasion I think Halep will win in straights.
Barbora Strycova vs. Carla Suárez Navarro: Interesting head-to-head this one. CSN has won their last five encounters and all in straight sets. Strycova hasn’t won since Doha and has lost her last six matches on tour. All things point to a CSN win with the surface also favouring her. I’d go CSN but I am naturally wary…
Magdalena Rybarikova vs. Jo Konta: A bit of a surprise to see Rybarikova as the seed in this clash. Konta has won their two previous clashes in straight sets on the grass courts of Nottingham. I’m fascinated by this one. Initial instinct was for Konta but the more I have pondered it, the more i’m edging back towards Rybarikova. Rybarikova’s funkiness can disrupt rhythm and i’m kind of wondering how Konta will cope with it. I’m not sure where Konta’s mindset will be back on the clay.
Sorana Cirstea vs. Katerina Siniakova: I watched their only previous encounter in Eastbourne where Cirstea produced a superb performance to win in straights, 6-3 6-2. On clay and in Madrid where she has played well before, i’d go for Cirstea as the winner.
Aryna Sabalenka vs. Bernarda Pera: Two players who i’ve grown fond of watching in 2018. I’ve always admired Sabalenka’s positivity on court, while I was mega impressed with Pera’s overall game in Charleston. A first time H2H and a bit of a coin toss. Sabalenka in three.
Sara Errani vs. Ash Barty: I’m looking forward to this one! Errani’s the much more comfortable of the two on clay. I think the altitude will give Barty a helping hand. I’ve always thought Barty is one of the best tacticians on court so i’m interested to see how she plays this one. It will be a tricky match as Barty has often come unstuck against counter punchers. Instinct is Ash works her way through the match.
Sunday R1 Polls
Saturday R1 Selected Match Thoughts
Elina Svitolina vs. Alizé Cornet: I actually considered going for Cornet with the upset here. Cornet has always played Svitolina well (H2H 2-2) and Svitolina has never won back-to-back matches in Madrid. As stated two weeks ago for Stuttgart, Svitolina hasn’t lost her first match at a regular WTA tournament since… Madrid! Probably a bit too out there to go for Cornet.
Caroline Garcia vs. Dominika Cibulkova: It totally escaped my memory that Garcia and Cibulkova played each other earlier this year in Doha. Garcia failed to serve out the match in the second set before winning in three, 6-3 6-7(3) 6-0. Cibulkova has cut down her schedule this season and was forced out of Miami due to illness. Based on a three set loss in Rabat to Polona Hercog, Cibulkova still seemed to be missing that spark, that intensity, which made her one of the best competitors on tour a few years ago.
Garcia had been mostly disappointing this year, failing to build on her sensational end to 2017. That was accurate up to Stuttgart where the Frenchwoman produced a series of gutsy displays to reach the semi-finals. Cibulkova thrives as the underdog and has reached the final in Madrid (2016) but i’m not convinced she’s got the match fitness and confidence to spring an upset against Garcia.
Venus Williams vs. Anett Kontaveit: This is probably my favourite of all the first round match. Kontaveit looked more confident in Stuttgart and did well on clay last year. Venus hasn’t played since Miami where she reached the quarter-finals. I’ve wondered before if Venus may skip the clay to prepare for the grass. I’d definitely give Kontaveit a shot at the upset but it will take a big mental effort. Venus is one of the best at coming in cold to a tournament and playing her way into form. Venus in three for me.
Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. Petra Martic: This is a niceee match-up and surprisingly, they’ve never played each other before. I think that clay is both of their favoured surfaces. Kuznetsova is on the comeback from wrist surgery and won her first matches of the year in Istanbul where she reached the quarter-finals. Martic lost her first match in clay in an erratic display, going down in three sets to Kirsten Flipkens in Rabat. This is a coin toss for me. I’ve gone for Kuznetsova in my Draw Challenge.
Karolina Pliskova vs. Elena Vesnina: Not sensing an upset alert here. I think Pliskova does most things better than Vesnina, who has never seemed that comfortable on clay. Pliskova in 2.
Kristina Mladenovic vs. CoCo Vandeweghe: A Fed Cup rematch and another coin toss for me. Mladenovic won two weekends ago on indoor clay, 1-6 6-3 6-2. I’d go for CoCo this time as I think Kiki may feel some pressure defending finals points from last year.
Kiki Bertens vs. Maria Sakkari: Very interesting match between two players at home on the clay. I’ve been impressed with Sakkari in the matches I’ve watched her play in 2018 and she reached the semi-finals in Istanbul last week. Three sets for me and struggling to pick out a winner. I’ll go for Kiki… just.
Daria Kasatkina vs. Wang Qiang: All three of their previous matches have gone the distance and have been a battle. Kasatkina has lost her last three matches all in straight sets and picked up a leg injury in Prague. Worried about this one for Dasha but really hope she can get the win! Not sure if these clay court conditions will suit her game to be honest.
Saturday R1 Polls