Simona Halep will be looking to become the first WTA three-time champion at the Madrid Open but standing in her way are a string of dangerous opponents bidding to halt her 12-match winning streak at the Caja Magica.
The world No. 1 and two-time defending champion in the Spanish capital opens her campaign on Sunday against Russian lefty Ekaterina Makarova.
Halep, who fell tamely to CoCo Vandeweghe in the Stuttgart quarter-finals last week, has been dealing with an upper leg injury but says she’s ready to take on the world’s best in Madrid.
“I’m okay, I recovered, I had a lot of treatment coming here, so I feel good,” the Romanian top seed told reporters on Friday.
“I was practicing hard these days. I’ve been here since Tuesday so I had time to adjust myself here, to adapt, I’m all good.”
Halep will face one of two Belgians in the second round, either Alison van Uytvanck or Elise Mertens, before a possible third round against American No. 13 seed Madison Keys.
Sixth-seeded Karolina Pliskova, ex-world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka and US Open champion Sloane Stephens, who is seeded No. 9 in Madrid, are all potential quarter-final opponents for Halep.
“Expectations are always there, but I don’t feel the pressure,” assured Halep.
“I feel I’m ready, I feel that it’s going to be tough, for sure every match I will play. But if I enjoy and if I’m happy on court then it’s going to be fine.”
Home favourite and No. 3 seed Garbine Muguruza and eighth-seeded Venus Williams could collide in the quarters and share the same half of the draw with Halep.
Muguruza, a two-time Grand Slam champion, has struggled in Madrid in the past and has never made it beyond the second round here. She has only ever won three main draw matches at the Caja Magica but is looking to finally do well on home soil.
The 24-year-old retired from her opening match in Stuttgart last week, citing a lower back problem.
“It was a shame because I didn’t want to start the clay season with a retirement but I just felt pain in my lower back and I took a few days with the doctor to recover and I’m happy that I’m feeling much better here in Madrid,” said Muguruza on Friday.
“Historically it’s a tournament where I’ve never played very well but I’m always very excited to be back because it means a lot to me to play in front of the crowd. I’m just excited to go out there and perform better than previous years.”
Muguruza takes on China’s Peng Shuai in the first round and could play 14th-seeded Daria Kasatkina in the third round.
Petra Kvitova or Venus Williams are possible quarter-final rivals for Muguruza if she makes it that far.
“I think first of all it’s a Premier Mandatory, there are no byes, right away you’re playing the best in the world. There’s a little bit of altitude, there’s nothing really specifically, it’s just something that isn’t happening and I still don’t know why,” said Muguruza of why she finds this tournament so tricky.
The other half of the draw features Australian Open champion and No. 2 seed Caroline Wozniacki, who was handed a daunting opener against Australia’s Daria Gavrilova.
The Dane is drawn to possibly square off with French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in the quarter-finals and could get seventh-seeded Caroline Garcia or fourth-seeded Elina Svitolina in the semis.
Ostapenko kicks off her campaign on Saturday against Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu, while Svitolina is also in action on opening day against Frenchwoman Alize Cornet.
Projected quarter-finals (by seed):
Simona Halep (ROU x1) v Karolina Pliskova(CZE x6)
Garbine Muguruza (ESP x3) v Venus Williams (USA x8)
Caroline Garcia (FRA x7) v Elina Svitolina (UKR x4)
Jelena Ostapenko (LAT x5) v Caroline Wozniacki (DEN x2)
Serena Williams (USA)
Angelique Kerber (GER)
Agnieszka Radwanska (POL)
Laura Siegemund (GER)
Lucie Safarova (CZE)
Catherine Bellis (USA)
Timea Bacsinszky (SUI)
Marketa Vondrousova (CZE)
Rafael Nadal’s bulldozing form saw the Spaniard skip past world No. 10 David Goffin on Saturday to reach an 11th Barcelona final and post a 400th career match win on clay.
The Mallorcan is just the fourth man in the Open Era to enter the 400 club on the surface and is the first to win at least 400 matches on both clay and hard courts.
After going down an early break to Goffin in Saturday’s semi-final, Nadal sped to a 6-4, 6-0 success over the Belgian to take his streak to 44 consecutive sets won on clay. He faces 19-year-old Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas in Sunday’s final.
The 31-year-old Nadal has also claimed his last 18 matches on the red dirt, with his last defeat coming to Dominic Thiem in the Rome quarter-finals last May.
Here’s an inside look at how Nadal reached 400 clay wins…
Of the 400 victories on the surface, 85 of them came against top-10 opponents. Nadal is 4-0 against top-10 players on clay in 2018, and 85-16 lifetime. Against top-five rivals, he is 48-12 on clay.
Nadal’s 400 triumphs include a record 54 titles won on the terre battue. He has claimed an unprecedented 10 Roland Garros crowns, 11 Monte Carlo trophies and 10 Barcelona titles.
He is into his 63rd career final on clay and is 54-8 win-loss in those finals.
58 of Nadal’s 400 clay wins included at least one bagel set claimed by the Spaniard.
Of Nadal’s 400 clay wins, 328 of them were secured in straight sets. The 31-year-old hasn’t dropped a set on clay since his defeat to Thiem in Rome 2017.
Nadal’s winning percentage on clay is a stunning 91.9 per cent (400-35 win-loss). In 2018, he is 11-0 on the surface and is now 57-3 lifetime in Barcelona.
Nadal has amassed multiple different streaks on clay over the years. Between 2005 and 2007, he won 81 clay matches in a row, which remains the longest winning streak on a single surface in the Open Era in men’s singles.
He also has the longest streak for most consecutive sets won on clay in the Open Era. Nadal has registered five streaks of 30 or more sets won in a row on the red dirt. Here are the leaders in that category:
44 Rafael Nadal 2017-18
35 Guillermo Coria 2003-04
34 Ilie Nastase 1973
32 Rafael Nadal 2010-11
31 Rafael Nadal 2007-08
30 Rafael Nadal 2012
30 Rafael Nadal 2006-07
* Stats via ATP match notes and Tennis Abstract
Stefanos Tsitipas‘ dream week in Barcelona continued as the 19-year-old Greek stormed into the final with a 7-5, 6-3 win over fifth-seeded home favourite Pablo Carreno-Busta on Saturday.
The former junior world No. 1 awaits the winner of the semi-final showdown between 10-time champion Rafael Nadal and world No. 10 David Goffin.
Tsitsipas is looking to become the first unseeded champion in Barcelona since Gaston Gaudio won the title in 2002.
The Next Gen star has made incredible progress in 2018, making quarter-finals in Doha and Dubai and now the final in Barcelona.
Here’s a closer look at the stats behind Tsitsipas’ breakthrough week in Catalunya.
1 – Tsitsipas is into the first ATP final of his career and is now 1-1 in ATP semi-finals.
1 – Tsitsipas owned just 1 tour-level match win on clay prior to this week.
2 – Tsitspas will rise to No. 2 in the ATP Race to Milan standings by virtue of making the Barcelona final.
4 – consecutive seeds Tsitsipas has defeated en route to the Barcelona final – No. 7 seed Diego Schwartzman, No. 10 Ramos-Vinolas, No. 3 Dominic Thiem and No. 5 Carreno-Busta.
10 – sets won and zero lost for Tsitsipas on his way to the final.
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) April 28, 2018
18 – aces Tsitsipas has struck in 5 matches this week.
19 – at 19 years of age, Tsitsipas is the youngest finalist in Barcelona since Nadal won the title there in 2005 as an 18-year-old.
43 – Tsitsipas has held serve in 43 of 48 service games played in Barcelona this week.
44 – Tsitsipas’ projected ranking for reaching the final in Barcelona – a career-high.
45 – years since a Greek man had last reached an ATP tour level final. Tsitsipas is the first Greek man to do so since Nicholas Kalogeropoulos in Des Moines in 1973.