A must-see battle

Antonio Arenas Mutua News

The Caja Mágica is not for just anyone.

The clay in the Manolo Santana Stadium is ready to host the best tennis players in the world and the 2019 competition promises to be spectacular. On a women’s tour littered with stars at peak maturity and young talent that has earned itself a place among the elite, the Mutua Madrid Open is shaping up to be an unforgettable tournament. With the exceedingly high standard of recent seasons, the Caja Mágica is opening its doors to one of the most open editions ever. All that remains is to sit back and enjoy the tournament.

Its rollcall of champions is a clear indicator its difficulty. The last eight editions have been won by Grand Slam champions and these big names are ever-present at the Madrid tournament. Nobody wants to miss it and, above all, nobody wants to lose in Madrid. In the heart of the swing on the tour’s slowest surface, the Mutua Madrid Open hosts the world’s best athletes in peak form and ready to give their absolute all on court. Each season, the planet’s best make their mark on Spain’s capital and 2019 will be no different.

Madrid’s prize, one of the most important on the whole WTA calendar, is coveted by players world over. And the evidence is clear. The final clash in the 2018 campaign between Czech player Petra Kvitova and the Dutch Kiki Bertens, a relentless battle that lasted almost three hours, was recognised as one of the best matches of the entire season. Its intensity is still well remembered by those who were lucky enough to be in the Manolo Santana Stadium. And Madrid wants more.

New, hungry faces

Much of the interest in the 2019 Mutua Madrid Open is thanks to the depth of the women’s field. The possibility of finding a new champion is looking increasingly high with an inrush of talent into the WTA elite. You don’t have to look far to find a name that has every right to aspire to the Madrid throne.

US player Sloane Stephens, last year’s French Open runner-up, is one of the main attractions at the upcoming edition of the tournament. As a player who cut her teeth on clay, she has a score to settle with the Madrid Open. Now, as a Grand Slam champion and with significant experience among the world’s top 5, the American will be a player to avoid for anyone hoping to lift the cup.

Few will dare write off the chances of Naomi Osaka. The Japanese player, who became the world number 1 early in the season, is a special kind of athlete. A two-time Grand Slam champion at just 21 years of age, she has shown huge courage in her assault on the biggest tournaments on the calendar. Just one previous participation in Madrid makes it hard to guess what one of the biggest entertainers on the women’s tour is capable of in the Caja Mágica. However, at 1.8m tall and with bags of power, the Asian player looks sure to pack a punch in Madrid.

In a women’s game with an ever-increasing depth of talent, there is a significant group of players looking to breakthrough in the Spanish capital. Figures such as the Ukrainian Elina Svitolina, Dutch player Kiki Bertens, last year’s finalist, and the German Angelique Kerber, an ex-world no. 1, arrive in the Caja Mágica with everything required to take the baton.

Home favourites

Season after season, Spanish tennis yearns for something to celebrate. The Mutua Madrid Open is the most prestigious tournament to be held in the country and it is more than special to the home players. With long careers under their belts and driven by passion, the home favourites will again be under the microscope.

Garbiñe Muguruza is currently the most experienced representative of Spanish tennis. And the 2019 competition could be her big chance. With a smaller share of the spotlight than in previous seasons on the women’s tour, Muguruza comes to Madrid with an opportunity to produce a performance that is worthy of her talent. A mercurial athlete, who has never needed consistent results to demonstrate her quality, Garbiñe has everything it takes to produce in the Caja Mágica. She certainly will not be short of support.

Carla Suárez’s tenacity has always been applauded by the Madrid fans. The Canary Islander, one of the veterans of the women’s tour, has always had a special talent for taming the clay. With several ventures into the quarter-finals in the Caja Mágica, few players can boast such mastery of the tactical game as she, a key weapon on the tour’s slowest surface. With the perseverance required to wait for her moment, you can never write off the inspiration derived from talent combined with hard work.

Petra seeks four of a kind

The Czech is the only player to have three Mutua Madrid Open crowns. The power of her game, with a colossal serve and forehand, have found the perfect match in the Caja Mágica. In one of the most notable demonstrations of authority in the history of the tournament, the left-hander took the title in 2018 having lost just two sets in the whole tournament; a rarity in an era when the game is dominated by baseline tennis, ball-speed and open matches. But, of course, there is only one Petra.

The player from Bilovec will always have special memories of Madrid. It was on the clay of the Caja Mágica that she picked up her first title after being attacked by an armed intruder in her own home, demonstrating to the whole world an innate capacity to overcome adversity in life. Since taking the throne in the Spanish capital, Petra has managed to spectacularly relaunch her career, and in 2019 she is back and more than ready to try and defend her title. For a lover of fast courts, the Caja Mágica represents a unique opportunity on clay.

Two titles and a semi-final in her last three visits mean Petra demands considerable respect when she comes to the Mutua Madrid Open. Her consistency is well above that of any opponent she may face at the Madrid tournament. The 2019 season will be an opportunity for her to extend her legacy and, of course, a privilege for any fan. Lovers of direct tennis and unreserved competitiveness will be delighted again this year with a chance to enjoy Petra under the Madrid sun. History awaits Kvitova, along with the chance to fight for a fourth trophy in the Manolo Santana Stadium.

Old champions never die

While the new faces are fighting to establish themselves, there is nothing like coming back to a place where you have already enjoyed success. The list of past tournament champions includes legends of the game with enough power to reclaim their share of the pie. Far from being also-rans, the ex-queens of Madrid arrive fully prepared to take back the throne.

Simona Halep has in Madrid a second home. The Romanian, champion in 2016 and 2017, has a special bond within the Caja Mágica. The current French Open champion is one of the most respected players in the world on clay and she is aspiring to reach the top of the list of all-time champions in Madrid with a third title. At 27 years of age, the Constanta native is reaching her sporting peak and the Mutua Madrid Open is an ideal stage on which to demonstrate it. Very few players enjoy her mobility and competitiveness on clay.

A year with plenty of candidates to one crown.