The hunt for glory, more open than ever

Antonio Arenas Mutua News, Sin categoría

In 2022, the Mutua Madrid Open is back with a truly spectacular event. The number contenders for the ATP and WTA thrones has grown considerably in recent times, making the competition in the Caja Mágica one of the standout events on the clay swing. The trophy from the Spanish capital is one of the most coveted on tour and an intense battle for glory is guaranteed.

On a stage that is reserved for only the strongest of competitors, the men’s title is normally only within grasp of a select few. Since the event moved to the Caja Mágica in 2009, only five players have managed to lift the trophy and it will take a supreme effort to change that statistic.

New hopefuls

Five-time champion Rafael Nadal will once again be the hot favourite on the Spanish clay. Having enjoyed his best ever start to the season, winning his first 20 matches of the year, the arrival of the Mallorcan is hotly anticipated. The Spanish public are desperate for a glimpse of their great champion, who has now, for the first time, won more Grand Slams than any other man in history. With his last title here coming in 2017, Rafa will be bidding to reclaim the throne in Madrid five years on.

However, he will face fierce competition along the way. A certain Carlos Alcaraz has emerged from the pack at an astonishing pace. While he celebrated his 18th birthday with a match against Nadal one year ago in the Manolo Santana Stadium, this time the man from Murcia has earned himself the right to arrive as a genuine contender to go all the way in Madrid. Having claimed his first Masters 1000 title in Miami to become the third youngest champion in the history of the ATP Tour’s most prestigious category, Alcaraz will now be one of the tournament’s main attractions.

If anyone left his mark on clay in 2021, it was Novak Djokovic. The Serb will arrive in Madrid with his head held high having won last year’s French Open. The 2011, 2016 and 2019 champion is the only man other than Nadal to have triumphed more than twice in the Caja Mágica. At this critical point in the season, getting past Djokovic’s baseline defences will be one of the biggest challenges of the tournament.

Defending champion Alexander Zverev will be hoping to continue his love affair with the Spanish capital. The German took the spoils in 2018 and 2021, demonstrating that the conditions in Madrid perfectly suit his game and, once again, he will be one of the favourites for the crown. Alongside him, Greek player Stefano Tsitsipas will be looking to recover his best form on clay, where last season he enjoyed considerable success, winning his first Masters 1000 in Monte Carlo and reaching his first Grand Slam final at Roland Garros.

Two dominant hard court players, Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev will be looking to translate their expertise to the clay of Madrid. With games built around all-out attack, the fast conditions in the Spanish capital might just play into their hands on the red stuff.

Home players such as Roberto Bautista, Pablo Carreño, Albert Ramos, Alejandro Davidovich and Pedro Martínez will ensure there will be plenty of red and yellow in the Caja Mágica stands.

On a tour with plenty of strength in depth, the likes of Casper Ruud, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Jannik Sinner and Diego Schwartzman will ensure plenty of classic tussles, even in the early rounds.

WTA greats

In the women’s competition we could be looking at one of the most enticing editions in recent seasons. The level on the WTA tour continues to rise, meaning there is a wide range of stars preparing an assault on the Caja Mágica.

Polish player Iga Swiatek has consolidated herself as the world No. 1 with an exceptional spell of form, starting her realm at the pinnacle of the tour at just 20 years of age. After winning the first three WTA 1000s of the season (Doha, Indian Wells, Miami) the player from Warsaw arrives in Madrid riding the crest of a wave. A previous French Open champion, she will be ready to make her mark on the clay of the Spanish capital.

Paula Badosa is returning to the scene of a truly special moment. At last year’s event, she reached the semi-finals, the best result for a Spanish lady in the history of the tournament. The past twelve months have seen her consolidate herself as one of the most consistent players on tour. Paula is back in Madrid as one of the best five players in the world, having peaked at No. 3 this year. The sheer power of her shots make her a genuine candidate for the throne in the Caja Mágica.

Spectators in the stadium will once again look to buoy Garbiñe Muguruza, one of the fan favourites. The two-time Grand Slam champion is itching to add one of the tour’s most prestigious trophies to her cabinet, and doing so at home only adds to the motivation. After missing the 2021 edition through injury, Madrid will welcome the last decade’s biggest home player with open arms. Months after becoming the first ‘Master’ in the history of Spanish women’s tennis, her hunger to break down barriers is sure to extend to the Caja Mágica.

Defending champion Aryna Sabalenka will be looking for a repeat performance in the Manolo Santana Stadium one year on. One of the biggest hitters on tour, the Belarusian will always strike fear into her opponents in Madrid. However, only Serena Williams and Simona Halep, two ex-world number ones and multiple Grand Slam winners, have managed a successful title defence in the Spanish capital.

They will be joined by a number of players who have started to prove their worth on the women’s tour. Greek player Maria Sakkari, the Estonian Anett Kontaveit and Tunisian Ons Jabeur made huge progress in 2021 to consolidate themselves among the best players in the world, introducing some new nationalities to the elite along the way. Their campaigns to stand out in Madrid will enrich an already-tantalising competition.

Home fans will also be getting behind Castellon native Sara Sorribes, who will be putting her heart and soul into Madrid once again. The Spanish number three always incites plenty of emotion in the Caja Mágica.

Former champions like Simona Halep and Petra Kvitova no longer occupy the top spots but have enough experience at this kind of tournament to ensure they will not hold back in their fight for the title. Belarusian player Victoria Azarenka, a two-time runner-up in the Madrid, is yet another star name to adorn the entry list.

The Mutua Madrid Open is up for grabs again and there is one thing we can be sure of; the battle for glory will be more open than ever.

Double take

The doubles competition promises to be no less competitive. Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos took the spoils last year with a performance that will be difficult to better, but they are back and ready to extend their legacy. The Spaniard and Argentine have consolidated themselves as one of the most iconic duos of recent times and the Caja Mágica represents an opportunity to prove themselves once again. Marcel was the first home champion in the history of the doubles tournament.

They will be faced with various teams who are more than ready to wrestle the baton from their hands. Australians Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis won the first Grand Slam of the year in Melbourne, proving they have what it takes to compete for the biggest of titles. The Dutch Wesley Koolhof and Briton Neal Skupski have found a spark in 2022 that has earned them three titles, and they will be bidding for their biggest crown to date in Madrid. Italian pair Simona Bolelli and Fabio Fognini and Croatians Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic, last year’s runners-up, will also be staking their claim to the throne.

In the women’s competition, defending champions Barbora Krejcikova and Ekaterina Siniakova will be hoping to maintain their authority on the clay of Madrid. The Czech pair started 2022 by winning the Australian Open and underlining their dominance of the tournament’s biggest events. Nobody has successfully defended this title in the history of the tournament, so they face a momentous challenge.

With the likes of Elise Mertens and Veronika Kudermetova in the draw, they will face some stiff competition. The Belgian and Russian have enjoyed more success than any other pair early this season, claiming the title in Dubai and reaching the finals in Miami and Doha. Australian Open runners-up Beatriz Haddad Maia and Anna Danilina will be looking to battle it out in another prestigious tournament.

After their victory at the Miami WTA 1000, the veteran partnership formed by the German Laura Siegemund and Russian player Vera Zvonareva cannot be written off. The Canadian Gabriela Dabrowski, having played in the finals of the last two editions with different partners, will be joining forces this time with Giuliana Olmos as they launch their assault on Madrid.