Candidates for a first title in Madrid

Antonio Arenas Mutua News

Only one player among the surviving 24 at the 20th edition of the Mutua Madrid Open has previously won the tournament; none other than Simona Halep, the ex-world number one and two-time champion in the Caja Mágica in 2016 and 2017. If she fails to make it three, there will be a new queen on the Madrid clay. Besides the Romanian, these are the players best positioned to claim the crown.

MUGURUZA

Garbiñe Muguruza has never made it through the last sixteen at the Mutua Madrid Open. However, having recovered from an injury and with the maturity that comes with many seasons of experience, it could be her year to lift the title at home. A solid first-round outing against the Australian Ajla Tomljanovic, in which both she and the fans in the Manolo Santana Stadium enjoyed her game, and a draw that looks favourable until the semi-finals, make Garbiñe one of the hot favourites. It is worth remembering that she won the French Open in 2016, so the Spaniard is more than comfortable on clay.

AZARENKA

32 years and two finals at the Mutua Madrid Open are the best arguments for Victoria Azarenka’s candidacy. Petra Kvitova in 2011 and Serena Williams in 2012 were all that stood between the Belarusian and the throne. She has two wins from two so far this year, defeating Golubic two sets to love in the first round and digging deep to come back against Zidansek in the second. A pretty favourable draw (which Pliskova and Ostapenko have already bowed out from) until the semi-finals make a good case for this finally being the year that Azarenka is crowned queen of the Madrid clay.

SAKKARI

The Mutua Madrid Open has never been a tournament that Greek player Maria Sakkari has performed particularly well at. Her best result, which came last year, ended in the last sixteen. However, a few weeks later, she was a French Open semi-finalist in a clash where she had a match point against a Barbora Krejcikova who went on to claim the title. She came through a very tough test in the first round here against Madison Keys, having to come back from a set down and a break down in the third set. However, en route to the final, Naomi Osaka and Garbiñe Muguruza may prove tough mountains to climb.

JABEUR

Ons Jabeur broke through in 2021 as one of the best players on the women’s tour with a stunning year on all surfaces. She produced a convincing win in the first round over Paolini and then in the second against Gracheva. The Tunisian arrived in Madrid as the number 10 in the world and looking for redemption after her finish last season, when she had to withdraw from her last-sixteen clash against Belinda Bencic.

OSAKA

This is not her favourite surface, or her favourite tournament, because Naomi Osaka has never gone further than the quarter-finals in either case, but she is one of the most talented players on tour. She reached a final (in Miami against world number 1 Iga Swiatek) a few weeks ago for the first time in 13 months, having overcome some off-court difficulties. In her first match on clay of 2022, she won resoundingly over a Potapova who was on a roll on the surface, with nine straight wins, including in Istanbul where she came through qualifying.