WTA Tour: Mutua Madrid Open Selected Round of 32 Fixtures Preview

Tennis player stands with racquet in hand

We take a look a several Round of 32 fixtures coming your way from the Mutua Madrid Open taking place at Park Manzanares.

Elise Mertens 18/10 | Simona Halep 1/4
This is set up to be quite the spectacle, with World Number One and reigning Madrid champion taking on perhaps the hottest property in the female game: Elise Mertens. Mertens has had a terrific year, winning three titles thus far. However it was her semi-final run in the Aussie Open that really catapulted the Belgian to the forefront of the game. She then experienced a pronounced dip in form- perhaps to be expected- before bursting back to prominence with two consecutive clay-court titles; she won the Samsung Open and Morocco Open in recent weeks. She beat fellow Belgian Van Uytvanck in straight sets in her first match and has the all-court game that could trouble the Romanian World Number One.

Halep has been consistent this season without really capitalizing on her opportunities. That heart-breaking loss to Wozniacki in Melbourne was followed by back to back semi-final appearances. Her annihilation at the hands of Coco Vandeweghe in Stuttgart was slightly disturbing for perhaps the best clay court player on the tour. She didn’t seem to carry any residual effects from that match into this event, with a serene 6-1, 6-0 victory over Makarova just the start that the Romanian must have been hoping for.

The two have never met, which makes historical reference points null and void. But I have a feeling that Elise Mertens could pull off a massive surprise here, especially looking at Halep’s recent dip in quality. Yes, the events that Mertens has won have hardly been elite competitions, but she has a powerful all-round game that reminds me very much of her compatriot and idol Kim Clijsters. 

Carla Suarez Navarro 9/20 | Elina Svitoliva 16/10
This one is just begging for an underdog victory. Svitolina started the year with a solid victory in Brisbane, followed by a quarterfinal run in Melbourne. Her form disappeared for some time before that victory in Dubai. She then had a solid quarterfinal showing in Miami and reached the same stage in Stuttgart- losing to Garcia on the clay. Svitolina is clearly a player who prefers the comforts of hard, fast courts that shorten the points and reward her visceral power. She overcame Alize Cornet in her opening match here and faces a familiar foe in Suarez Navarro.

Suarez Navarro is the archetypal clay-court specialist, able to offset her limitations in firepower with crafty footwork and pure hutzpah. The veteran Spaniard started the year with a bang, reaching the quarterfinals in Melbourne and losing to eventual champion Caroline Wozniacki. She also had a decent run at Indian Wells, losing in the quarterfinals to Venus Williams. Other than that her season has been fairly middling, though her opening round victory over Barbora Strycova was extremely impressive. But as I said, Navarro loves the clay, as emphasized by a 2014 French Open semi-final appearance.

You have to like Suarez Navarro for this one, especially when you look at the head-to-head. They share the spoils at 3-3, but the two have never met on clay. Additionally, Navarro won their last match in Indian Wells earlier this year. 

Garbine Muguruza 2/9 | Donna Vekic 11/4
This is an interesting one, with multiple Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza the heavy favourite to progress against the glamorous Donna Vekic. Muguruza underwent a turbulent start to the season that saw her rightly reinstate Conchita Martinez in her coaching staff. She recovered from a poor Aussie Open with a strong desert showing, reaching the final in Qatar as well as the semi-finals in Dubai. She then picked up that title in Monterrey, before injury forced her to withdraw from her opening match in Stuttgart. So as is ever the case with the affable Spanish star, lingering doubts over injury could present an opportunity to her opponent.

Donna Vekic is one of those frustrating young players who has perhaps not quite achieved as much as her ability dictates. Vekic has also been embroiled in some personal shenanigans on the WTA Tour that are more akin to an episode of Beverly Hills 90210, which only adds to that sense of frustration. But she did recently play well on clay in Istanbul, beating the resurgent Tomljanovic. She also reached the quarterfinal stage in Hobart, while the Round of 32 in Miami was about as good as it’s got aside from that. But she is a dangerous player and Muguruza has been prone to injury concerns of late.

Muguruza is clearly the favourite here, but perhaps there’s some value in backing Vekic, who does hold a 1-0 head-to-head record lead against Muguruza. I’m just looking at that early withdrawal from Stuttgart and thinking there may be some play in Vekic.

Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets.net

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