Madrid | Swiatek and Gauff speed out of the blocks

World No 1 Iga Swiatek sailed into the 3rd-round at the Mutua Madrid Open on Thursday with an easy win over Wang Xiyu, while Coco Gauff earned herself 2 bagels against Arantxa Rus, and there were wins also for  Maria Sakkari, Ons Jabeur and Jelena Ostapenko, but Elina Svitolina, Veronika Kudermetova and Elise Mertens were Day 3 casualties, and followed Naomi Osaka to the exit gates.

I played really well today. She's a great, tough opponent [Arantxa Rus], especially on clay, but it was just one of those days for me. Oh-and-oh, I've never done that before, I'll probably never do it again. I knew how she was going to play. I know she grinds, puts a lot of balls in court, and likes to play heavy -- but I just felt like those are things that I can do well too. I felt like I could step in more, and having that match against Brenda [Fruhvirtova, Rus' first-round opponent] to scout her, kind of, helped. Coco Gauff

Swiatek swept past the tall, left-handed Wang, 6-1 6-4, to open her campaign for a first WTA 1000 Madrid title, in a clinical display against the No 52 from China.

Runner-up last year, the 22-year old Pole bounced back from her semi-final defeat by Elena Rybakina in Stuttgart with a comfortable straight sets win, although there was a brief wobble in the second set when Wang won 3 games in a row, but Swiatek recovered well enough to win in 76 minutes.

“I love this place,” she said. “I got to know the city a little better last year. So this time I feel more comfortable around.”

Swiatek coasted through the first set, breaking twice for a 4-0 lead, and wrapped up it up with another, leaving Wang no chance of reaching her red-hot backhand return.

The top seed won 10 of the first 12 games to build a 6-1, 4-1 lead before Wang levelled the second at 4-4, but the Pole broke for a 5th time to close out the match.

“In the second set, I’m not happy with these two games where my intensity got a little bit down, but, overall, I knew what I had to do,” she said. “I’m happy that I came back on the nice track and I finished with a nice score.”

Madrid is the only major European clay tournament that the 3-time French Open champion has yet to win, and it presents a unique challenge, having come from playing on indoor clay in Stuttgart to an outdoor, high altitude environment in Spain, where the balls are tougher to control.

The weather has been unseasonably cool in Europe this year, too, which adds an additional variable, plus the scheduling presents a further hurdle as players are being slotted across day and night sessions.

“Obviously [winning Madrid would mean] a lot,” Swiatek said. “Winning any tournament like that, a big one, is a big thing. It’s not something you get used to. You always want to fight for it.”

Swiatek dismisses any suggestion that completing her set of clay-court titles is weighing on her mind in Madrid.

“I don’t think that way,” she said. “Basically, I don’t think about winning at the beginning anyway.

“Obviously, every tournament has different atmosphere and is special in its own way. But, on the other hand, it’s a WTA 1000, and it doesn’t really matter, at the end, which one I’m going to win.

“Every big tournament I win is going to give me confidence, no matter where it is, or what it looks like. So I don’t really mind. I’m going to try to win every tournament I play at, and that’s all.”.

Swiatek’s next step is to face 27th seed Sorana Cirstea from Romania on Saturday, who battled past wild-card Alexandra Eala from the Philippines, 6-3 6-7(6) 6-4.


Coco Gauff delivered a rare double bagel to Arantxa Rus after 51 minutes of play on Day 2 in Madrid

© Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Earlier on Thursday, Gauff sailed through to the 3rd-round with a 6-0 6-0 drubbing of Rus, a 33-year old Dutchwoman, who has now lost her last 10 matches against Top 10 opponents.

The 20-year old American No 3 seed needed just 51 minutes to accomplish her task.

“I played really well today,” Gauff said afterwards. “She’s a great, tough opponent, especially on clay, but it was just one of those days for me. Oh-and-oh, I’ve never done that before, I’ll probably never do it again.

“I knew how she was going to play. I know she grinds, puts a lot of balls in court, and likes to play heavy — but I just felt like those are things that I can do well too. I felt like I could step in more, and having that match against Brenda [Fruhvirtova, Rus’ first-round opponent] to scout her, kind of, helped.”

In the 12 games, Gauff hit 14 winners to 10 unforced errors, while Rus managed just 2 winners to go along with her 15 miscues, and although the Dutchwoman landed 72% of her first serves in the match, the American won 75% of the points played in Rus’ service games. .

Gauff next takes on Dayana Yastremska after the Ukrainian No 31 seed found her way past Colombian qualifier, Emiliana Arango, 0-6 7-5 6-4.


Maria Sakkari is enjoying a return to form with her straight sets win over Donna Vekic on Thursday

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Maria Sakkari, the World No 6 is back in Europe after a revitalising US swing alongside new coach David Witt, and she eased through her opening round against Donna Vekic from Croatia, 6-3 6-2, her first match of the European clay-court swing.

“I’ve actually been struggling with my serve the last few days in practice,” she revealed told Tennis Channel Live Desk. “Today it felt, like, I wasn’t. I was happy with the way I served because I was mixing it up really well.

“I’m sad that it’s not hot out here, but, when it eventually gets warmer, my serve is going to bounce more and feel better.”

Sakkari is feeling better on court after reaching the BNP Paribas Open final, the Miami Open quarter-finals, and the semi-finals of the Credit One Charleston Open on green clay.

“I’ve been a little bit, not unlucky, but I didn’t have a clear mind the last few years on the clay,” she explained after booking a 3rd-round meeting with 2018 Roland Garros runner-up Sloane Stephens. “I didn’t know how I had to play, or what I had to do.

“Obviously, I had a good run last year here, making the semis but overall, I didn’t really feel good or comfortable ever since making the semis at the French back in 2021.

“I do believe I can play really good on clay again. I think my game this year is getting better after the US tour. I don’t see a reason not to play good on clay this year.”

Her next opponent, Stephens, continued her winning streak with an upset of No 28 seed Elise Mertens from Belgium, 3-6 6-3 6-1.

Former champion Jabeur, the No 8 seed from Tunisia, also advanced after defeating Slovak Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, 6-4 5-7 6-3, at the Caja Magica on Thursday evening.

Jabeur, ranked No 9, will play Canadian Leylah Fernandez, the No 32 seed, next, who dispatched Russia’s Anastasia Potapova, 7-5 6-3.

Also making round 3 was Ostapenko, the 9th seed from Latvia, who saw off Spanish qualifier Jessica Bouzas Maneiro, 6-3 6-1, in the afternoon.

Ostapenko faces Argentine qualifier Maria Lourdes Carle, who thumped Britain’s Emma Raducanu in round 1 and added Russian Veronika Kudermetova, the No 17 seed, to her growing list after a 6-4 6-4 upset win.


Liudmila Samsonova (R) needed 3 sets to get past former World No 1 Naomi Osaka at La Caja Magica on Thursday

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Former World No 1 Osaka, though, met her match in the form of 15th-seed Liudmila Samsonova, who pulled off a gritty 6-2 4-6 7-5 win, posting her first match-win since February.

The 4-time Grand Slam champion twice battled back from a break down in the second set to force a decider but Samsonova, the World No 17, eventually ground out the win after 2 hours and 22 minutes.

Osaka returned to tennis in January after a long maternity break, and earned her first win on clay for 2 years on Wednesday against Greet Minnen.

The 26-year old Japanese is a hard-court specialist and not overly keen on the clay, having not won back-to-back matches on the surface since 2019.

“I felt — I don’t want to say happy — I felt good that I was able to fight back,” said Osaka. “I think it’s a big difference from my match in France [losing to Martina Trevisan in Rouen], so I was happy that I learned from that match, but obviously really sad that I lost.”

Samsonova raced into a 4-0 first set lead, breaking in the 1st and 3rd games as Osaka struggled.

After controlling the first set, Samsonova held off a surging Osaka in the 3-set contest to collect the 2-hour and 22-minute victory.

“I’m incredibly happy,” Samsonova said, after her win. “I cannot believe that I won this match. I’m coming from not an easy period where I’ve lost some matches. And boy, it was crazy today, because I was 6-2, 4-2 up. And then, of course, [Osaka] played amazing.”

Samsonova clinches a spot in the Madrid 3rd-round for the second straight year, and is a win away from matching her Round-of-16 run in 2023.

To defend all of her ranking points from last year’s edition, Samsonova will need to beat her fellow Top 20 player, Madison Keys, after the No 18 seeded American battled on with a 7-6(3) 7-6(6) win over 3-time Madrid quarter-finalist Irina-Camelia Begu from Romania.


Sara Sorribes Tormo upset Elina Svitolina, the 16th seed, and will face two-time Madrid champion Victoria Azarenka in round 3.

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Two-time Madrid champion Victoria Azarenka, now ranked No 26 and from Belarus, won against German Tatjana Maria, 6-3 6-1, and will face Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo, who upset Elina Svitolina, the 16th seed from Ukraine, 6-3 7-5.

This was the former World No 1’s 200th career match win at the WTA 1000 Series level, Azarenka becoming the first to achieve the feat, with Simona Halep following with 186 wins, and Caroline Wozniacki with 182 wins.

Finally, No 11 seed Beatriz Haddad Maia from Brazil notched up her 2nd win in 5 meetings with Sara Errani with a straight-sets win over the Italian qualifier, 6-3 6-2, and she will play Emma Navarro, the 19th-seeded American, who was an easy 6-2 6-1 winner over Nadia Podoroska, an Argentine Alternate, on Thursday.


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