Plenty of champions, just one cup

Antonio Arenas Mutua News

“Winning in the Caja Mágica showed me that I can aim for the top in this sport”. Simona Halep, champion of the last two editions of the tournament summed up the importance of the Mutua Madrid Open to today’s tennis in one sentence. It is a vital event in the clay season that puts the tour’s best athletes to the test. In a warm climate, at notable altitude and with the possibility of competing both outdoors and under a roof, the Spanish capital represents a significant challenge to the best players the WTA has to offer.

The 2018 season includes a very special edition of the women’s Mutua Madrid Open. The Caja Mágica is hosting the best female players on the planet at a prestigious event for the 10th consecutive year. One of the four Premier Mandatory dates throughout the season, the highest category on the WTA tour, Madrid has established itself during the last decade as one of the biggest gems on the calendar. It is an unmissable event that all players aspire to add to their trophy cabinet.

A glance at the roll of honour is enough to understand the importance of the tournament. Star players from the women’s tour such as Petra Kvitova, Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams and Simona Halep have shared the last seven titles on the clay of Madrid, all of them players who have occupied the world number one spot. Victory in the Caja Mágica is always one of the most difficult of the season and 2018 promises to provide an event with first-class tennis that is just as demanding as in previous years.

With a variety of focal points to keep an eye on during the coming week, the women’s tournament offers a plethora of subplots to pique the interest. Great champions are returning to the tournament, there is a cup to defend and local heroes with a genuine chance of success in one of the most interesting editions in recent years. The women’s competition in Madrid always delivers and everybody wants a chance to leave their mark on the tournament.

Dreaming of Spanish victory

A tournament whose women’s competition is always passionate continues to harbour great expectations of seeing a home player crowned in front of an ovation from the Caja Mágica. Impossible? Spanish tennis has plenty of strong hopefuls to produce a first in the 2018 edition. The main candidates are well known.

Garbiñe Muguruza is back in Madrid and her career is looking stronger than ever, having reached number one in the world and lifted multiple Grand Slam trophies. Few players demand the respect Garbiñe does today. She is an aggressive player and is comfortable in the idiosyncratic conditions of Madrid. Now an international star, support from the stands is guaranteed and she is certainly not lacking in experience, Muguruza comes into the tournament as a clear candidate to mark her territory in the Spanish capital. It is the only opportunity on the calendar for her to play surrounded by her own fans. Has the time come for a home victory?

Carla Suárez’s experience means she is always a player to be wary of in Madrid. The Canary Islander’s ability on clay is unanimously recognised in the dressing room, where there is an awareness of her broad technical repertoire on the slowest surface on tour. Now at the pinnacle of maturity in her career, Carla is looking for a result to crown a history of perseverance, tenacity and sacrifice. To find it in Madrid would provide a huge boost in confidence for one of the fan favourites.

Figures such as Lara Arruabarrena and Sara Sorribes complete a cast of home players with a chance to steal the limelight. Playing alongside their compatriots is a unique chance to find their A-game and put in a performance to kick-start their season.

A historical treble?

Five years ago, Simona Halep received an invite to play in the Mutua Madrid Open. It was an opportunity that changed the course of her career. A turning point that the Romanian herself acknowledges, always grateful for the gesture from the Caja Mágica. Now, having become one of the leading players in the dressing room, she returns to the Spanish capital with a crystal clear goal: to become the first player to win three consecutive editions in the Manolo Santana Stadium.

The player from Constanta played in one of the best finals ever seen in the Caja Mágica in 2017. It was an electrifying clash with French player Kristina Mladenovic that still lives on in the memories of the fans. The strength she habitually shows in Madrid makes Simona one of the players most appreciated by the crowd and a chance to witness her prowess in the flesh is without parallel.

Defending the crown on the Spanish clay is one of the biggest spring challenges on the women’s tour. Nobody has managed to stop Halep in Madrid since the 2015 season. Her smile, her passion and her clenched fists are now synonymous with the Caja Mágica. Will history repeat itself?

The Serena factor

A two-time champion on the clay of the Mutua Madrid Open, the US player was the first to successfully defend the title in the Manolo Santana Stadium. The figure of Serena Williams occupies a very special place in the history of the tournament and her return in 2018 is a huge boost to the competition.

Motherhood has led to a new phase in the career of the American legend. The superstar will soon celebrate her 37th birthday. No other player has ever dominated in the way that the younger of the Williams sisters has for the last decade and any chance to glimpse her in action is a huge privilege.

With the clay as its red carpet, Madrid awaits the return of a legend of modern sport, but the question is clear; will Serena be able to maintain the strength of old? A passionate chapter could be just around in the corner in the annals of the Caja Mágica.

Sharapova always bounces back

2014’s queen comes to the Spanish capital ready for a return to greatness. An example of mental fortitude and a true challenge on clay awaits anyone wanting to prevent the Russian from getting her hands on the title. Her relationship with the Mutua Madrid Open is always intense, marrying her height (6’2″) with the unusual ball-flight conditions and attracting a hoard of fans in her wake.

In the 2017 tournament she lost her opener to the Canadian Eugenie Bouchard in an open battle that lasted almost three hours and turned out to be one of the most intense clashes of the tournament. That is what the Russian brings to the clay of the Caja Mágica. Complete determination just a few metres away and spectacular competitiveness in every match.

A good performance in Madrid could prove the trampoline that takes the Russian back to the tour’s elite. It is a clear opportunity in the calendar for a previous holder of the WTA throne.

In search of an heir

The competition is ferocious and there are plenty hoping to take the baton. In an event where glory is reserved for the strongest figures in the dressing room, the test normally allows the cream to rise to the top. The sharp end of the rankings is replete with players hungry to produce their first title in Madrid.

A finalist in the tournament’s first edition, Caroline Wozniacki comes into the 2018 tournament with renewed energy. The Dane returned to world number one this season, won her first Grand Slam title and her strength from the baseline makes her a rare breed on clay. Without a doubt she is a strong favourite in the Spanish capital.

The growing maturity of Elina Svitolina is also suited to the Caja Mágica. The player with the most singles titles in 2017 comes to the city having shown that she is capable of performing on any stage. One of the most-improved players on tour recently, the Ukrainian will be among the main attractions at the Mutua Madrid Open.

On a truly open WTA tour, the options appear to be infinite. The altitude of Madrid may favour the attacking games of players like the Czech Karolina Pliskova, Latvian player Jelena Ostapenko or the French Caroline Garcia, all of them with the weapons required to tolerate the swings of clay tennis. Without forgetting ex-world number one Angelique Kerber, one of the most physical players in the women’s game.

The Caja Mágica is preparing to welcome the cream of women’s tennis for the 10th consecutive year. A decade of spectacular moments in history experienced from just a few metres away. Among the best live spectacles year after year in the Spanish capital, the Mutua Madrid Open is putting the finishing touches on a tournament that is on a par with the best tennis events in the world. The ladies are ready to step up to the mark and take the clay challenge.