Emma Raducanu breezed past Marta Kostyuk, 6-2 6-1, at the Mutua Madrid Open on Sunday to reach the Last 16, demonstrating that she is getting the hang of playing on continental clay, and she is now the highest seed left standing in the top half of the draw, as Maria Sakkari, Danielle Collins, Garbiñe Muguruza and Leylah Fernandez all headed for the exit door, together with unseeded Naomi Osaka.
It's my first clay-court season, and I'm really enjoying it. Madrid is such a cool city and it's got such a great vibe about it, so I definitely want to try and stay here for as long as possible. Emma Raducanu
“I’m definitely very happy with my performance today,” Raducanu said on court after her win.“Marta is a great opponent, we played several times in the juniors and then once last year.
“I knew it was always going to be a really tough battle, so I went out there trying to be really aggressive, and it definitely paid off.”
With just 5 months separating them in age, the two met for the first time as professionals in the quarter-finals of the Transylvania Open, where Kostyuk lost just 3 games, but Raducanu turned the tables for a second time in Madrid, having also beaten the Ukrainian at the recent Billie Jean King Cup tie in Prague.
Kostyuk, who has spoken out extensively about the war in her homeland, has been playing on the main tour since she was 15 and is the more experienced, while Raducanu prioritised her school work and has been a full-time pro for less than a year.
The British No 1, who is seeded 9th here in Madrid, broke Kostyuk in the opening game and controlled the match from the baseline, while rarely being troubled on her own serve.
It was a performance reminiscent of her form in winning the US Open last September, and a vindication of her decision to row her own boat after parting ways with her latest coach Torben Beltz earlier in the week.
Raducanu lost just 2 points on serve in the opening set, and won 7 straight games in the middle of the match to take full command.
In fact, everything was working well, particularly her forehand and serve, with Raducanu dropping just 6 points on her own delivery during the match, and introducing the drop-shot into her growing arsenal.
She miscued just 1 unforced error in the match’s first 12 games, racking up just 5 in all, and never faced break point while striking 14 winners.
Having only won back-to-back matches just once in the 6 months following her US Open triumph last summer, the 19-year-old has now done so twice in as many weeks in this clay-court season, helping to build her confidence.
A fortunate draw in Stuttgart also helped her produce a very creditable performance in defeat by World No 1 Iga Swiatek in the quarter-finals.
“It’s my first clay-court season, and I’m really enjoying it,” Raducanu continued. “Madrid is such a cool city and it’s got such a great vibe about it, so I definitely want to try and stay here for as long as possible.”
Another Ukrainian player awaits Raducanu next, in the form of Anhelina Kalinina, who lost just 3 games in upsetting Muguruza, the 7th-seeded Spaniard.
Muguruza, the reigning WTA Finals champion, had pain in her right calf but said this was not the reason for her 6-3 6-0 defeat.
“I was surprised with her game. I didn’t know her at all,” Muguruza admitted. “In those break moments, they didn’t work. I just let it go in [on] a couple of points.”
Kalinina, the World No 37, admitted she was surprised by the score, after the 25-year old delivered one of the best performances of her career.
The Ukrainian got off to a good start, claiming the first break of the match in the 4th game to take a 3-1 lead, and while the former World No 1 had her chances in the opener, Kalinina saved 4 break points in the 5th and 2 more in the 9th game to win the opener.
Muguruza never recovered from blowing those points, despite taking an off-court medical timeout and returning with her left calf taped, and Kalinina claimed 3 more breaks in the second set to complete a straight-set win.
“I didn’t expect the score was going to be like this,” the Ukrainian said. “I was just very focused, even during the match I was not thinking about the score.
“In the first set I felt a little bit of pressure – it was very tough with a few balls, but when I closed the set I felt much more confident.
“I’m getting much more matches than in previous years, so I’m getting a lot more experience.
“The more you play with these top players, the more you feel you are at home. Last year I was playing mostly ITF tournaments so for me, it was important to get to the Top 100.”
Kalinina now gets a crack at another big name as she takes on Raducanu for the first time, with a quarter-final spot at stake.
Meanwhile, Daria Kasatkina, who, as a Russian is allowed to compete as a neutral, stunned Sakkari, the 4th seed, 3-6 6-3 6-1.
The Greek took the first set, but was made to pay for squandering her break chances, converting just 1 of 6 of them.
Kasatkina took just under 2 hours to reach the Round of 16 here for only the second time.
“The beginning was a bit shaky,” she said afterwards. “In the end of the first set, I found my game and the ways to turn this match around.
“The score is not showing exactly how the match was going, but I’m happy that I could close the match and not spend a lot of time on the court.”
The former Top 10 player came into the match having won her 3 previous meetings with Sakkari, but they had not faced off since 2018, and it looked like the World No 5 might score her maiden win over Kasatkina after powering through the first set.
Kasatkina, ranked 23, though, held firm in the second, and she made her move at 4-3, earning the only break of that set with well-timed forehands.
After levelling the match, Kasatkina was untroubled as she romped through the decider, improving to 4-0 against Sakkari.
Kasatkina’s next opponent is Sara Sorribes Tormo, the last Spaniard standing, who swept aside former World No 1 Osaka, 6-3 6-1.
An early flurry of 3 consecutive breaks left Sorribes Tormo holding a 3-2 lead in the opening set, after which the Spaniard triumphed in numerous tricky points to retain her momentum through the rest of the opener and grasp the one-set lead.
The 4-times major champion struggled for rhythm and was dominated by Sorribes Tormo, who mixed her game up with devastating effect to notch up a second career victory over the Japanese.
Osaka also appeared to be struggling with a leg complaint, and was broken 5 times en route to defeat.
“I felt something in my Achilles after my last match and, like, I wasn’t really able to hit yesterday because I wanted it to go away,” she said about her left leg, which was heavily taped. “Honestly, I probably should have been a bit smarter about the whole way that I went through everything.
“I feel, like, I couldn’t play the way that I wanted to play, like I was limited. … I don’t even really know what I did to my Achilles, so I’m probably going to get an ultrasound and see what happened, and then me and my team will, kind of, move forward from there.”
A brief visit from the trainer at 3-0 in the second set was unable to help Osaka prevail over the fleety and gritty play of Sorribes Tormo, despite some signature rally winners by the former World No 1 down the stretch.
All told, Sorribes Tormo’s consistency and foot-speed won out at key moments, as the Spaniard forced errors to convert 5 of her 9 break points and sweep to victory.
Unseeded Bianca Andreescu crushed Australian Open finalist and 6th seed Danielle Collins, 6-1 6-1, in just over an hour. to set up a meeting with Jessica Pegula after the American overcame Kaia Kanepi from Estonia, 6-3 6-3.
“I did not expect for it to go like that at all, but I stuck to my game plan and it worked, so I’m very happy,” said the Canadian, who won the 2019 US Open but is now ranked 111 in the world.
Andreescu, who returned to action in Stuttgart only last month following a long-term injury, and won 58% of her first-serve points to Collins’ 48%, and 63% of her second-serve points to the latter’s 28%. Collins lost her serve 6 times and coughed up 6 double-faults.
The Canadian saved 5 of the 6 break points she faced, while converting 6 of the 10 break points she had on Collins’ serve.
“I knew I had to put on a very good performance because she’s been doing very well recently,” said Andreescu. “I did not expect for it to go like that at all. But I stuck to my game-plan and it worked.
“What I did well today is, I stayed in the present moment and told myself it’s not over til it’s over, even at 6-1, 4-1.
“She started hitting the ball harder and sometimes it would go in, sometimes it wouldn’t, but what she did was very smart because that, in turn, put pressure on me.
“If I didn’t hold my ground she probably would’ve gotten back into the match. It’s quite a big court, so it’s easy to step back. But I had that mentality of staying in the court.”
Elsewhere, 2 left-handers took 90 minutes to determine that Jil Teichman from Switzerland would advance against another Canadian, Fernandez, the 17th seed, to reach Round 3.
The 6-4 6-4 win was Teichmann’s 3rd over a Top 20 player this season, and her first on clay since she beat then-World No 5 Elina Svitolina in the first round of Madrid a year ago.
She will next face No 16 seed Elena Rybakina from Kazakstan, who moved through to the last 16 after Katerina Siniakova from Czech Republic retired from their match after playing 7 games.
Rybakina was leading 6-0, 1-0 when Siniakova proved unable to continue due to an abdominal injury.