Tennis | Madrid Open 2022 | Former champions and in-form contenders look to seize Swiatek’s opportunity

By Tony Fairbairn

  • Aryna Sabalenka [3] against Amanda Anisimova
  • Paula Badosa [2] against Veronika Kudermetova
  • Simona Halep vs. Shuai Zhang
MADRID, SPAIN — Following the withdrawal of Iga Swiatek from Madrid, a former champion and two in-form contenders are looking to seize the opportunity on day one in Madrid.
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Aryna Sabalenka [3] vs. Amanda Anisimova H2H & Match Fundamentals

Aryna Sabalenka [3] against Amanda Anisimova Head to Head: Anisimova leads 3-0
WTA Madrid Madrid, Spain
Clay (O) Prize money: €22,000
Fourth at Manolo Santana Stadium (4:00 p.m. BST) Amazon Prime Video

Aryna Sabalenka might have been upset to lose another final in Stuttgart, but would have been encouraged by her week and her level of play, as well as the fact that the only player to beat her last week was the world number one Iga Swiatek. Now that Swiatek is out for the week, it’s a golden opportunity for the third seed to capitalize and send a big statement that she’s here to fight all this clay-court season. Winner of Madrid last year, can the Belarusian repeat the feat and gain momentum towards Roland Garros?

However, Sabalenka has a big hurdle to overcome in round one as she battles form Amanda Anisimova first. The American has had a stellar start to the season and will be looking to continue that form on arguably her favorite surface. Having been a former Roland Garros semi-finalist, Anisimova will be looking to send a big statement during the clay-court season that she can challenge for a grand slam.

It should be a titanic clash with a powerhouse ready to dominate in this game and with a fast Madrid court it should be a game both players will feel confident about. Although Sabalenka has a lot of confidence, Anisimova has a dominating head-to-head record for a reason and her defensive qualities paired with aggression see her neutralizing Sabalenka’s base power. It will be a tight game but the American is the slight favorite going into this game.

Prediction: Anisimova in three sets.

Paula Badosa [2] against Veronika Kudermetova H2H & Match Fundamentals

Paula Badosa [2] against Veronika Kudermetova Head to Head: Kudermetova leads 3-1
WTA Madrid Madrid, Spain
Clay (O) Prize money: €22,000
Third at Manolo Santana Stadium (14:00 BST) Amazon Prime Video

New world number two Paula Badosa would have been happy with her job in Stuttgart and has now reached a career high thanks to her hard work. The Spaniard will be keen to make a WTA 1000 final and what better place to do that than on the stage of her big breakthrough last year. Badosa will now look to cement her spot as the title favorite with a strong first-round performance and prove to people why she is so mentally tough.

Stand on the way to Badosa East Veronika Kudermetovawho enters Madrid in some form after reaching the final in Istanbul last week losing to Anastasia Potapova In the final. The Russian has caused problems for players 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.

It should be a very tough game for Badosa with the Spaniard unable to deal with Kudermetova’s unique style of play 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 advantage in this thrilling opener.

Prediction: Badosa in three sets.

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Simona Halep vs. Shuai Zhang H2H & Match Fundamentals

Simona Halep vs. Shuai Zhang H2H: Tied 2-2
WTA Madrid Madrid, Spain
Clay (O) Prize money: €22,000
Second at Manolo Santana Stadium (12:00 BST) Amazon Prime Video

Simona Halep knows Madrid very well, having already won twice and dominated the courts of the Spanish capital. Now the Romanian enters the WTA 1000 with a new coach in Patrick Mouratoglou, with Halep looking to regain her dominance on clay as she looks to build a sustained challenger for the Roland Garros title.

First for Halep is Shuai Zhang who has caused the Romanian problems in the past and will seek to spoil the party again. Zhang will be looking to bring his hard court form to red clay and can be a troublesome opponent for any player with his variety and unpredictability mixed with his tennis IQ. Can the Chinese player bring that and disrupt Halep’s clay court rhythm.

It could be a tricky opening for Halep, but she should go through the opener even if it will take some time to settle under a new coach. The Romanian will be looking to put on a clinical display and start her clay-court season in convincing fashion.

Prediction: Halep in straight sets.

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