Madrid | Preview: World’s best to compete in first WTA 1000 clay-court event of the season

The draw for the Mutua Madrid Open, the first WTA 1000 of the clay-court swing, was made on Sunday evening and sees Britain’s Emma Raducanu taking on former World No 1 Karolina Pliskova in the 1st-round, while British No 1 Katie Boulter receives a bye as the No 26 seed.

One-hundred weeks at No 1 is a huge achievement in any era. Congratulations to Iga. I’m so happy for her and have loved watching her hard work pay off. Ash Barty

In-form Raducanu, who has been given a wild-card, reached her first quarter-final since the autumn of 2022 at the recently-concluded Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, where she beat Angelique Kerber and Linda Noskova before falling in a high-quality two-set match to World No 1 Iga Swiatek.

Pliskova, meanwhile, had her own resurgence to start 2024, winning 11 straight matches at one stage including her first title in 4 years in Cluj-Napoca, Romania in February, but, since that streak ended against Coco Gauff in Dubai, the Czech is just 1-3.

The potential clash of wills by wild-cards Caroline Wozniacki and Simona Halep has been averted with the withdrawal of the latter, who is forced to skip Madrid because of knee pain and discomfort during a practice session.

“Unfortunately my body needs a little more time to be ready and I have made the tough decision not to play in Madrid,” the Romanian wrote on X. “Tough because I want to be back on tour asap (as soon as possible), but experience tells me not to rush. Thank you to @MutuaMadridOpen who offered me the wild card and to my fans.”

Halep won this title twice consecutively in 2016 and 2017, while Wozniacki was a finalist at the inaugural edition in 2009.

The Dane, who has been outspoken about the awarding of wild-cards to players who have been suspended for alleged doping offences, meets a qualifier in her opener.

Iga Świątek celebrates her 100th week as the World No 1 in Madrid this week

Top seed Swiatek arrives in Madrid with her 100th week as the World No 1 in her back pocket. Just 3 years ago she learned of Ash Barty’s immediate retirement and took over the mantle.

In the 50th year of the WTA Tour compiling the rankings, only 9 women have held the No 1 ranking for 100 weeks or more, with Steffi Graf, 377, leading the pack, followed by Martina Navratilova, with 332, Serena Williams, 319, Chris Evert, 260, Martina Hingis, 209, Monica Seles, 178, Ashleigh Barty, 121, and Justine Henin, at 117.

“It means you are not a flash in the pan, but consistent, focused, and hungry to maintain a high standard for a long period of time,” Evert reflected. “It means you don’t look back and settle for some high moments, but are determined and committed to be in the present and work even harder.”

Barty said. “One-hundred weeks at No 1 is a huge achievement in any era. Congratulations to Iga. I’m so happy for her and have loved watching her hard work pay off.”

The 22-year old Pole now is seeking the rare top-tier clay-court title she has yet to win, having lost the final here last year to Aryna Sabalenka.

After her 1st-round bye, Swiatek will meet either China’s Wang Xiyu or Ana Bogdan from Romania in the round 2.

Located in Swiatek’s section is Elina Svitolina, the No16 seed from Ukraine, and two-time Madrid finalist Victoria Azarenka, the No.23 seed from Belarus, and either of those former Top 10 players could be a 4th-round opponent for Swiatek, if the top seed makes it that far.

No 5 seed Maria Sakkari from Greece, a Madrid semi-finalist last year, is on the other side of this quarter, and could meet Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia, the 11th seed, in the Round of 16, if seedings hold.

A potential second-round hurdle for Haddad Maia could be Wozniacki, as the wild-card continues her return from maternity leave.

World No 3 Coco Gauff will be hoping for a long run in Madrid

© Alex Grimm/Getty Images

No 3 seed Coco Gauff from the USA heads up the second quarter, and the reigning US Open champion will face either Dutchwoman Arantxa Rus or 17-year-old Brenda Fruhvirtova from the Czech Republic in the 2nd-round.

Another returning mother and former World No 1 is Naomi Osaka from Japan, who is floating in Gauff’s section as a possible Round of 16 opponent, and she plays a qualifier in her opening match.

Two Top 10 players are on the other side of this quarter, with No 8 seed Ons Jabeur from Tunisia, who won the Madrid title in 2022, and 9th seed Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia possibly headed for a Round-of-16 clash.

Raducanu, the 2021 US Open champion, is in this particular portion as well.

The projected top-half quarter-finals would seed Swiatek face Sakkari in a rematch of March’s final from the BNP Paribas Open, won by Swiatek 6-4, 6-0, while Gauff could face Jabeur.

Elena Rybakina, who beat Iga Swiatek in Stuttgart, is the tour leader in aces, title and matches won this season so far

© Alex Grimm/Getty Images

World No 4 Elena Rybakina is the top player in the third quarter, and arrives fresh off her title win in Stuttgart on Sunday.

The Kazakh comes into Madrid as this year’s leader in titles, with 3, and 26 match-wins.

Rybakina will play either Italy’s Lucia Bronzetti or a qualifier in the 2nd-round, and, if the seeds hold, she might meet No 25 seed Marta Kostyuk from Ukraine in the 3rd round, which would be a rematch of Sunday’s Stuttgart final.

Kostyuk was unseeded in Stuttgart, but beat 3 Top 10 players to reach the final, and is the 25th seed in Madrid.

The other side of the quarter boasts No 6 seed Zheng Qinwen from China and No 10 seed Daria Kasatkina from Russia, who could square off in the Round of 16.

Aryna Sabalenka's hopes of winning the Porsche in Stuttgart were nixed by Marketa Vondrousova in the Last 8

© Alex Grimm/Getty Images

Defending champion Sabalenka sits at the bottom of the draw as the 2nd seed, and the defending champion plays either Elisabetta Cocciaretto from Italy or last week’s Rouen runner-up, Magda Linette from Poland.

Sabalenka might play one of the spring’s hottest players, No 13 seed Danielle Collins from the USA, in the 4th round, who is on a 13-match winning streak after taking the titles in Miami and Charleston.

Former Roland Garros champion Barbora Krejcikova, seeded No 22 and from the Czech Republic, is a possible spoiler in this section.

Another Czech, 7th seed Marketa Vondrousova, and No 12 seed Jasmine Paolini from Italy reside on the other side of the quarter.

Paolini is the only player other than Swiatek and Collins to have won a WTA 1000 title this year, triumphing in Dubai in February.

The projected bottom-half quarter-finals, could see Sabalenka face a rematch Vondrousova, who beat her in 3 sets this week in Stuttgart, while Rybakina could meet Zheng, and, if seeds hold, a round later the Belarusian World No 2 could take on Collins.

Notable 1st-round encounters include 16-year-old Mirra Andreeva from Russia against American Taylor Townsend; former Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin from the USA against Anna Karolina Schmiedlova from Slovakia; and former Roland Garros semi-final Martina Trevisan from Italy against 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens, who won 5 clay-court matches in Rouen, France this week to win her 8th career WTA singles title.

Absent form the field, however, is World No 5 Jessica Pegula from the USA, who planned to return to WTA Tour action in Madrid but has been delayed again as she has suffered an injury setback.

Having missed the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart due to poor scheduling, the American was expected to return to action at the Madrid Open, but confirmed on social media that she won’t be travelling to the Spanish capital.

“Hi guys! Not a great update but I got hurt this past week before Madrid and, unfortunately, not ready to play. Thankful for some extra time at home and hope to be back ASAP,” the American wrote on Instagram.

Nineteen of the world’s Top 20 players are expected to participate in the outdoor red-clay event, which is celebrating its 15th edition as a WTA 1000 tournament.

Main-draw play begins on Tuesday, 23 April, and continues through Sunday, 5 May at the iconic Caja Magica, while qualifying rounds are taking place from Monday, 22 April and Tuesday, 23 April.

The singles main draw contains 96 players, with 32 seeded, all of whom will receive 1st-round byes, leaving 76 players with direct entry into the main draw, who are joined by 8 wild cards and 12 qualifiers.

The doubles main draw will have 32 teams, including 3 wild-card pairs.



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