Clay Court Season Underway
It is Mutua Madrid Open week as the clay court portion of the WTA schedule kicks into high gear.
Is this the year when world No. 1 Iga Swiatek adds a title in Madrid to her growing collection? Perhaps second-ranked Arnya Sabalenka can join Petra Kvitova, Serena Williams, and Simona Halep as multiple-time champions in Madrid. There are some decisions to be made when it comes to making Mutua Madrid Open picks.
Swiatek and Sabalenka just met in the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix final in Stuttgart with Swiatek winning in straight sets. Swiatek continues to dominate on the court and in the tennis news cycle.
Even the qualifying draw is interesting to watch with Sara Errani, a former French Open singles finalist, and 2014 Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard among those still in contention to secure spots in the main draw.
When looking at the Mutua Madrid Open predictions, Swiatek (-120) is the overwhelming favorite in the French Open outrights followed by Ons Jabeur at +900. American Coco Gauff is next at +1200 followed by Elena Rybakina at +1300. All four were in the Madrid field before Jabeur withdrew on Monday.
Americans Lauren Davis, Shelby Rogers, Claire Liu, Sofia Kenin, and Katie Volynets will all be in action when the main draw gets underway on Tuesday.
First Quarter: Business as Usual for Swiatek
Never say never, but it is hard to imagine any of the other three seeded players sending No. 1 seed Swiatek home early.
Swiatek is 20-4 so far in 2023 as she is building on an impressive 2022 campaign. She dropped just one set in winning at Stuttgart last week. Now she is the clear favorite according to the tennis lines.
A potential showdown with 2021 US Open singles champion Emma Raducanu could be waiting in the second round. They met last month in Indian Wells with Swiatek winning with ease.
In some years, Alize Cornet would be a dangerous floater. However, she is just 2-7 so far in 2023.
No. 16 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova did reach the quarterfinals in Miami and she was leading Qinwen Zheng, who is seeded 22nd in this draw, 5-2 in the third set when Zheng retired in the 2022 Charleston event.
The good news is that No. 11 seed Barbora Krejcikova won’t be seeing Sabalenka since the world No. 2 is responsible for knocking Krejcikova out of the last three tournaments.
Unseeded Bianca Andreescu did win the 2019 US Open. Since then, she hasn’t advanced past the second round at a Grand Slam tournament so she is pretty far back in the Las Vegas tennis odds when it comes to her title chances in Madrid.
No. 7 seed Elena Rybakina (+1800) is challenging Pegula and Krejcikova for the third-best odds in the field.
Rybakina, who won the Wimbledon title in 2022, retired during a match in Stuttgart so keep an eye on her status.
She is a dangerous player, as evidenced by her straight-set wins over Swiatek and Sabalenka to win the title at Indian Wells. She followed that up with a run to the final at the Miami Open before falling to Kvitova.
The biggest win of 2023 was an upset of Swiatek in the Round of 16 at the Australian Open. Her run in Melbourne ended with a three-set loss to Sabalenka in the title match.
- Quarterfinal Prediction: Swiatek vs Rybakina
Second Quarter: Tough Draw for No. 3 Pegula
The presence of former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, a two-time Australian Open champion and three-time finalist at the US Open, can’t be ignored. However, clay is not her best surface.
Elina Svitolina, who was given a wild card into the event, is a three-time quarterfinalist at the French Open and a winner of 16 titles. Still, the No. 3 seed might need to get past some veterans, including Azarenka, just to reach the quarterfinals.
There are three qualifiers in the portion of the draw that includes Azarenka and fellow-seeded player Martina Trevisan.
Pegula is looking for her first tournament title of 2023. However, she takes a 22-7 record into this tournament.
Daria Kasatkina does have some interesting unranked players in her path and that includes American Sloane Stephens and Lesia Tsurenko.
A Veronika Kudermetova-Kasatkina showdown would be a rematch of the 2022 French Open quarterfinals. Kasatkina won in two tough sets.
- Quarterfinal Prediction: Pegula vs Kasatkina
Third Quarter: Gauff has Some Work to Do
This could be one challenging draw for Coco Gauff, one of the two Americans seeded in the top 10 in Madrid.
Main draw @MutuaMadridOpen, where Iga Swiatek, Aryna Sabalenka, Jessica Pegula, and Ons Jabeur are the top seeds. pic.twitter.com/lwp6fWUdmm
— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) April 23, 2023
Gauff would meet either Kaia Kanepi or fellow American Shelby Rogers in the second round with a possible third-round matchup versus Paula Badosa.
No. 9 seed Maria Sakkari could be waiting after that. If she makes it through those matches, Jelena Ostapenko could be a possible quarterfinal opponent.
No. 4 seed Jabeur had to retire in the semifinal match with Swiatek in Stuttgart and her calf injury led to her withdrawal from the tournament so that could open up things for Gauff. It also gave fellow American Rogers a bye into the second round.
Jabeur won the title at Charleston, taking out No. 8 Kasatkina in the semifinals and 11th-ranked Belinda Bencic in the final.
That might have been the boost of confidence she needed after losing her second match in Indian Wells to a player outside the top 100 and then falling to qualifier Varvara Gracheva in her first match in Miami. Jabeur also had an early exit at the Australian Open.
- Quarterfinal Prediction: Gauff vs Ostapenko
Fourth Quarter: Collision Course for Former Champions?
Don’t forget about Kvitova, the only three-time champion at this event. That would be quite the quarterfinal showdown with Sabalenka. Kvitova is priced at +3300 in the sportsbook.
First, Kvitova might need to get past Elise Mertens. The last time the two met, it was Mertens winning at the 2022 event in Doha when Kvitova retired in the second set.
Sabalenka has had some mixed results since winning the Australian Open title. She reached the final at Indian Wells before falling to No. 74 Sorana Cirstea in the quarterfinals at the Miami Open.
If Cirstea gets by American Lauren Davis in the first round, she will have a rematch with the second-ranked Sabalenka.
Sabalenka is priced at +800 to win in Madrid.
- Quarterfinal Prediction: Kvitova vs Sabalenka
Way Too Early Predictions for Semifinals, Final
- Top Half Semifinal Prediction: Swiatek vs Pegula
- Bottom Half Semifinal Prediction: Gauff vs Sabalenka
- Final: Swiatek vs Sabalenka