The extraordinary decade

Antonio Arenas Mutua News

It was a world-class decade. The Mutua Madrid Open is celebrating its 10th year as a venue for the best of women’s tennis, having established itself as one of the great venues on the WTA tour. Since the restructuring of the calendar in the 2009 season, the Caja Mágica has proved a huge pull to sports fans in the Spanish capital.

After hosting the 2006 and 2007 editions of the WTA Finals, the tournament that brings together the top eight players of the year, the Mutua Madrid Open took the baton to make the most of the arrival en masse of the elite female players in the city. It broadened the tennis experience available to fans and meant sporting progress during one of the most prolific periods of Spanish tennis.

Having renowned international athletes within arms’ reach brings with it the ability to capitalise on a passion for the sport and generate benefits at a grass-roots level. Each year many tennis schools and academies organise visits to the Caja Mágica facilities, bringing the dreams of the youngest fans closer to reality. Now, instead of watching their heroes from a distance, they can be alongside them for a few days and the kids can dream even bigger. This is the great human legacy of an event of this scale.

The 2018 tournament will be the 10th chance to enjoy the magic of tennis WTA-style. In an era of increasing maturity of female sports on a national level, the importance of the Mutua Madrid Open is growing year upon year. The presence of Garbiñe Muguruza and Carla Suárez, huge national icons in the game, feeds local interest in an event that pushes itself each year to offer a user experience par excellence.

Madrid can move forward in the knowledge that it is on a par with Indian Wells and Miami, two giants on the women’s tour. The Spanish capital is once again at the epicentre of world sport and history continues to be etched in gold in the heart of the Caja Mágica. The Manolo Santana Stadium, the main court in this temple of clay, will crown its newest queen on Sunday 13 May. It is a passionate journey that has only just begun.

2009 – The beginnings | The Caja Mágica opened its doors to world-class tennis and the stars of the WTA had a leading event in the Spanish capital. The inaugural edition of the tournament set the standard for the quest for excellence the competition on the Madrid clay would embark on through the years. It was clear from the start that not just anyone could win in Madrid. The champion’s crown would adorn the head of Russian player Dinara Safina, who came to the tournament as the world number one. The player from Moscow, who has been the player liaison at the event since 2015, maintains strong ties with the tournament after her most prestigious win in a stunning career. 

2010 – The upset | A date circled in red on every calendar, Madrid has traditionally been conquered by the hot favourites. The biggest exception to the rule came when unseeded French player Aravane Rezai showed impressive strength of character against Venus Williams. The American came into the tournament with a 12-1 record on clay, but she was unable to prevent a result that silenced the crowd. The characteristic conditions of the Caja Mágica proved to be a huge challenge for the players, providing one of the biggest stories of the 2010 WTA season.

2011 – Crossfire | Madrid’s altitude marries perfection with aggressive play; an idea that started to become clear in the third edition of the tournament. At just 21 years of age and with a significant dose of self-confidence, Petra Kvitova achieved the first big win of her career in the Caja Mágica. On her way to winning the title in the Manolo Santana Stadium, the Czech player gave away just one set in the whole tournament, unleashing a barrage of serves and winners in the Spanish capital. The momentum would carry her through to her first Grand Slam title a few weeks later at Wimbledon. Coincidence?

2012 – Hello, Serena | The 2012 season would establish the foundations for Serena Williams’ return to the pinnacle of world tennis, and her time at the Mutua Madrid Open would be a key chapter in her recapturing of the WTA throne. The US player stormed to her first title on the Madrid clay, imposing her now-renowned dominance on court. Serena saw off the top two players in the world (Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka) to get both hands firmly on the trophy in the Caja Mágica, leaving behind some of the greatest images in the tournament’s history. The surname Williams was on the venue’s winners’ list for the first time, and it wouldn’t be the last…

2013 – The defence | The tournament was still young and no player had yet managed to defend their title in the Caja Mágica and nobody had ever managed to take the spoils for two seasons on the trot in the Spanish capital. But Serena Williams was at the beginning of her 186-week reign of the women’s tour, the longest of her career, and she backed it up with performances like that of 2013 in Madrid. The American only lost one set on her way to the crown (0-6 to Anabel Medina), underlining her return to the tour and setting her on the road to history. The Mutua Madrid Open is a reliable thermometer of the temperature on tour and in few years was the evidence as clear as this.

2014 – Temple of clay | Playing quality tennis in Madrid tends to set the pace for the clay season. Despite the idiosyncratic conditions in the Spanish capital, very different to the events in Rome and Paris, which are practically at sea level, the Caja Mágica provides a huge source of momentum to the players. The 2014 tournament added weight to that theory. In search of dominance on clay, Maria Sharapova dug in hard to win her first title in the Manolo Santana stadium. The Russian mounted a comeback in an intense to-and-fro final against the Romanian Simona Halep, who she would face weeks later in Paris to take the French Open title. 

2015 – Courage rewarded | The prestige of Madrid grows with every edition of the tournament. Upsets in the Caja Mágica are becoming few and far between and the favourites practically always rise to the top. Petra Kvitova reminded everyone that in fast conditions, be they indoors or at altitude, she is one of the tour’s hardest players to beat. The Czech player stopped Serena Williams in the semi-finals, ending a run of 28 victories and succeeding the American as the second player to win two titles in the Manolo Santana Stadium. 67 minutes were all it took to see off Svetlana Kuznetsova in the final, confirming the left-hander as one of the most successful players in the history of the tournament.

2016 – Halep’s awakening| Romanian players are quickly becoming synonymous with ability on clay. The growth of Simona Halep on the tour has come in parallel with her record in the Caja Mágica. An invitation in 2013 proved to be a turning point for the player from Constanta, who has since become one of the tour’s leading players. Her big break came on the courts of the Mutua Madrid Open in 2016, winning her biggest title on clay. By beating a hugely intense player in Dominika Cibulkova in the final, Halep validated her dazzling pace of play and established herself among the women’s elite. Simona was champion of Madrid and ready for anything.

2017 – An established star | Victory in the Caja Mágica is possible for very few, a theory confirmed by last year’s tournament. Simona Halep defended her crown, meaning that only she and Serena Williams have achieved the feat. In perhaps the best final ever seen at the Mutua Madrid Open, the Romanian edged past Kristina Mladenovic in an open clash that lasted almost three hours. Adding to her impressive record, Halep again used Madrid to grow her legend and again the capital proved the prelude to a dazzling performance in Paris, where weeks later she would come within just three games of the title at the French Open. The Caja Mágica was defended by its reigning queen, who now has 12 consecutive victories in the capital. Can anyone stop Simona?