Aryna Sabalenka may have been upset to lose another final in Stuttgart but would have been encouraged by her week and level of play as well as the only player beating her last week being the world number one Iga Swiatek. Now with Swiatek out for the week, it’s a golden opportunity for the third seed to capitalise and send a big statement that she is here to contend throughout this clay court season. Having won Madrid last year, can the Belarusian repeat the feat and build momentum towards Roland Garros?
However Sabalenka has a big obstacle to overcome in round one as she takes on in-form Amanda Anisimova first. The American has had a storming start to the season and will look to continue that form on arguably her favourite surface. Having been a former Roland Garros semi-finalist, Anisimova will look to send a big statement over the clay court season that she can contend for a grand slam.
This should be a titanic clash with power set to dominate in this match and with a fast Madrid court it should be a match both players will feel confident about. Although Sabalenka has a lot of confidence, Anisimova has a dominant head-to-head record for a reason and her defensive qualities matched with aggression sees her neutralise the Sabalenka baseline power. It will be a tight match but the American is the slight favourite heading into this match.
Prediction: Anisimova in three sets.
Paula Badosa  v Veronika Kudermetova H2H & Match Fundamentals
New world number two Paula Badosa would have been satisfied with her work in Stuttgart and has now achieved a career high ranking as a result of her hard work. The Spaniard will be keen to make a final of a WTA 1000 though and what better place to achieve it than the scene of her big breakthrough last year. Badosa will now look to cement her place as ranking favourite for the title with a solid opening round performance and prove to people why she is so mentally tough.
Standing in Badosa’s way is Veronika Kudermetova, who enters Madrid in some form having reached the final in Istanbul last week losing to Anastasia Potapova in the final. The Russian has caused players problems on clay in the past and will look to bring her smart aggression to the big stages and look to cause an upset or two on her way to Roland Garros.
This should be a very tough match for Badosa with the Spaniard unable to deal with Kudermetova’s unique game style in the past. However Badosa will be highly motivated to bring a high level in front of her home fans and despite Kudermetova’s confidence, the new world number two should have the edge in this exciting opening round match.
Simona Halep knows Madrid very well having won twice before and dominated the courts in the Spanish capital. Now the Romanian enters the WTA 1000 with a new coach in Patrick Mouratoglou with Halep looking to recapture her clay-court dominance as she looks to build a sustained challenger for the Roland Garros title.
First for Halep is Shuai Zhangwho has caused the Romanian problems in the past and will look to spoil the party again. Zhang will look to bring her hard court form onto the red clay and can be an awkward opponent for any player with her variety and unpredictability mixed with tennis IQ. Can the Chinese player bring that and disrupt Halep’s clay-court rhythm.
This could be a tricky opener for Halep but she should get through the opening match although it will take a while to settle under a new coach. The Romanian will look to put on a clinical display and start her clay court season in convincing fashion.
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