Agnieszka Radwanska will be in a race against time to be fit for the French Open after she was forced to pull out of both Madrid and Rome to try and recover from a lingering foot injury.
The Polish world No8 has not missed a grand slam since making her main draw debut at Wimbledon in 2006, competing in 43 consecutive majors, and she shudders at the thought of potentially missing Roland Garros – which starts in three weeks – because of her injury.
Radwanska was unspecific regarding the nature of her injury but says she can feel it even when she’s just walking.
“I’ve been struggling with my foot already for a couple of weeks – actually months, but now it’s getting worse again and clay is not helping,” the 28-year-old told reporters in Madrid on Friday following the announcement of her withdrawal from the tournament.
“Of course I did everything I could to come here and play but unfortunately I’d rather take care of that 100 per cent to try and come back in Paris with all form.
“It’s pretty much overuse, there’s a big inflammation going on. I just need a rest and I didn’t have that rest.
“It started last year but then it was off and then it came back again. It’s not getting any better, so I just want to make sure I can have a chance to be really 100 per cent prepared for the French Open.”
Radwanska took part in the Tie Break Tens charity exhibition event at the Caja Magica on Thursday in the Spanish capital, where she won her first tiebreak against Garbine Muguruza before losing to Svetlana Kuznetsova.
Asked if her participation in the event aggravated her injury, Radwanska said: “It was just seven minutes maybe on court, twice, so that’s not a big deal, it’s worse when you play a little bit longer.”
Radwanska will now skip Rome as well as she works on recovering back home in Krakow, with the goal to be healthy by the French Open in three weeks’ time.
“Hopefully it’s going to be fine. For me, I haven’t missed a slam for the last 10 years, so for me it’s even hard to think that I’m going to miss that, so at the moment I’m really preparing that I’m going to play and I’m going to be able to play but of course you cannot predict anything,” said Radwanska, who has never made it past the quarter-finals at Roland Garros.
So I’ve made it to the Caja Magica for the first time in seven years and the venue is as bizarre as I remember it to be.
The venue, which literally translates to “Magic Box”, is more mysterious than magical, with its confusing design and excessive use of steel, but the tournament itself is a great one to cover, with all the top players of the WTA and ATP united just three weeks before Roland Garros.
I’ve had my first sighting of Novak Djokovic here on Friday after the bombshell he dropped on everyone. The Serb has parted ways with his long-time coaching staff of Marian Vajda (head coach), Gebhard Gritsch (fitness trainer) and Miljan Amanovic (physio).
He isn’t flying completely solo here however, the 12-time Grand Slam champion has his brother, Marko with him.
Aga says she hasn't missed a slam in 10 years. She's out of Madrid & Rome and is hoping she'll be okay for the French Open pic.twitter.com/c2xfvi9Kfv— Reem Abulleil (@ReemAbulleil) May 5, 2017
The practice courts were loaded all day, with Rafael Nadal taking to the court in cold, windy and drizzling conditions, in front of a packed grand stand.
The set up for the outside courts here is actually one of the nicest things about this tournament. You can talk a stroll at the top of a platform with courts scattered to your left and right and move seamlessly from one piece of the action to another.
I’ll be here all week so stay tuned for some behind-the-scenes coverage of the Mutua Madrid Open.
*Note: Here’s the Madrid Open runner-up trophy. As one friend said: “It might be better to lose in the semi-finals.” Joking. Kind of!
Madrid — World No3 Karolina Pliskova giggles when she is asked to describe her relationship with clay.
The 186m Czech, who is the second seed in Madrid this week and starts her campaign against Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko on Saturday, has yet to master the art of moving smoothly on the surface and her power game does not yield her the same success on the red dirt compared to hard courts.
Even though one of her eight WTA titles has come on clay – at her home tournament in Prague in 2015 – Pliskova admits she struggles with the surface and hopes to turnaround her poor record in Madrid, where she has won just two out of the five matches she ever contested at the Caja Magica.
“It’s complicated, yes,” Pliskova says with a laugh, describing her relationship with clay.
“So far it’s tough to say because – maybe it can change with some results – but so far I don’t like it.
“But hopefully it can change because there are two, quite big tournaments, let’s say three, one is in my hometown – so far not really good, but we’re working on some things with David (Kotyza, her coach) to change this.”
Pliskova, a runner-up at the US Open in 2016, has never made it past the second round in the Spanish capital, and is not looking past her opener against Tsurenko.
She is drawn to potentially face fifth-seeded home favourite Garbine Muguruza in the quarter-finals and is in the same half as sixth-seeded Johanna Konta.
Pliskova acknowledges her shortcomings on clay but still has faith she can learn to compete well on it.
“Obviously I’ve been trying to improve the movement a little bit, which I think it’s not really great anywhere, but on clay it’s even worse than on hard courts,” said the 25-year-old.
“With matches I think it can improve so I need two or three matches in a row to get better on clay.
“So far I have played three matches and I don’t think any of them were that great. Hopefully I can change it this tournament.
“We all know clay is tough for me, not the best surface, but I believe that one day I can even play good tennis here.”
In the absence of Serena Williams and Petra Kvitova, who together won four of the last six titles in Madrid, the draw feels fairly open this week. Asked who she considers the strongest contenders on the surface, Pliskova said: “I think definitely one of my favourites for clay would be Svetlana Kuznetsova (2015 Madrid runner-up).
“She’s been playing very well on hard courts as well and I think she played the final here two years ago in Madrid, so definitely she’s going to be tough.
“Obviously Simona (Halep), she’s defending champion here and then I think Garbine, even though she didn’t have a really good year so far I think she can be also dangerous on clay because obviously she won the French Open last year she’s going to be confident on clay.”
Someone who hasn’t made Pliskova’s short list is Konta, who like the Czech, has not enjoyed much success on clay, but does not share her dislike for the surface.
“I do enjoy the clay, I really do. It’s obviously a surface I haven’t played as many matches on in the last number of years but I’m really hoping I can play as many matches this year as possible on the clay,” Konta told reporters in Madrid.
“Yeah, really looking to improve on the surface because I feel it also transfers onto the other surfaces as well, it doesn’t just stay here.”
Konta has a tricky opener at the Caja Magica on Saturday against Germany’s Laura Siegemund, who claimed the title in Stuttgart last week.
While some may find a first round like that daunting, Konta is actually looking forward to it.
“She’s come off a great result in Stuttgart, she beat a lot of great players, so I know she’s playing well on this surface, so I’m really looking forward to the challenge. I think it’s a great opportunity for me to play someone who’s playing well on the surface and to really improve my game as well,” said the Brit, who has only ever contested 11 tour-level matches on clay, and won just three of them.