Kvitova, Osaka and Halep reach the quarters

Antonio Arenas Mutua News

Petra Kvitova continues to march through the women’s main draw and completed a clean sweep for the favourites in today’s matches. The Czech won the match that opened the night session in the Manolo Santana Stadium against French player Caroline Garcia, 6-3, 6-3. It was the first time the two had crossed paths on clay.

In the first set, both players were solid on their service, the first break point not coming until the eighth game on Garcia’s serve. The second seed pounced on the opportunity to take a 5-3 lead and serve for the set. Garcia had a chance to break back at 30-40, but Kvitova held her nerve and took the first set after thirty-five minutes.

In the second, the Czech player did not waste her chances. Kvitova broke serve twice and relied on her solid serving to reach the quarters in Madrid. In tomorrow’s quarter-finals, in the last match of the day in the Manolo Santana Stadium, Kvitova and Bertens will play a repeat of last year’s final, one of the most exciting matches of the 2018 season.

Naomi Osaka continues to negotiate her route through main draw at the Mutua Madrid Open and is now in the quarter-finals. In the second match of the day in the Manolo Santana Stadium, the world number one saw off Belarusian player Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-2, 6-3 after eighty-four minutes of play.

Osaka is growing in confidence in the Caja Mágica. “I think I played well today. I knew I had to do that and be as focused as possible because I’d never played her on clay and I didn’t know what might happen” commented the Japanese player after the tie. What happened is that Sasnovich approached the match with direct tennis and sought to stand up to the tournament favourite. But the Japanese, armed with a big serve (delivering 9 aces), was able to withstand her opponent’s efforts and take the match.

Osaka’s opponent in the quarter-finals will be the Swiss Belinda Bencic, who cruised past Ukrainian player Katerina Kozlova to a 6-0, 6-2 victory. Their only previous meeting on clay was won by Osaka, although their most recent clash came on hard court, where the Swiss was victorious. Well aware of Bencic’s strengths, the world number one is glad to be meeting her opponent on the brick dust: “I think playing her on clay is good for me. Belinda hits the ball very hard and I think that playing on a slower surface takes away some of her advantage in that sense”.

For her part, Simona Halep stormed through her last-sixteen tie against Viktoria Kuzmova with a resounding 6-0, 6-0 victory in just forty-four minutes of play. Light rain in the Caja Mágica early in the day meant the roof of the Manolo Santana Stadium had to be closed. Halep seemed much more comfortable on an indoor court, as the Slovakian can attest after only winning twelve points in the whole match.

The Romanian dominated from start to finish and Kuzmova had little to defend herself against the barrage from the world number 3. Despite today’s result, the Slovakian can be pleased with her first appearance in Madrid, having reached a commendable last sixteen.

Halep’s opponent in the quarters will be Australian player Ashleigh Barty who justified her status as ninth seed to see off the Kazakhstani Yulia Putintseva, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2. It will be the fourth time the two players have met and the world number 3 leads their head-to-head 2-1. However, what promises to be one of tomorrow’s most entertaining matches will be the first time they have squared off on clay.

Dutch player Kiki Bertens was equally impressive in her last-sixteen tie, in which she saw off twelfth seed Anastasija Sevastova in Stadium 3, 6-1, 6-2. The 2018 finalist and seventh seed did not give the Belarusian a chance in a tie that is starting to become a tradition in the Caja Mágica; it is the third consecutive year that the two players have crossed paths in Madrid.

The final match in the quarters will pit US player Sloane Stephens against the Croatian Petra Martic. Stephens had to dig deep in her match against the Chinese Zheng Saisai, who she eventually beat 3-6, 6-3, 6-2. Zheng put up a strong defence against the eighth favourite for the Madrid title, but Stephens did not fall into her trap and progressed to the next round.

Petra Martic, who got through the previous round without stepping on court due to the absence of the German Angelique Kerber, again benefitted from the withdrawal of her opponent today, the Croatian Donna Vekic. Martic was winning the tie 4-6, 6-3, 3-0 when Vekic was unable to continue the match, opening the door for her compatriot to walk into the quarter-finals of the Mutua Madrid Open.