by Karen and Master Ace

Is it unfair to the winners of the clay court tournaments that have already crowned winners to say that the Mutua Madrid Open will separate the Contenders for the French Open title from the Pretenders?  Maybe but with the return of 2 time defending champion and World No. 1 Serena Williams to competition, it kind of feels like the clay season has just begun. Madrid also sees the return of Australian Open champion, Li Na, as well as Australian Open runner Dominika Cibulkova who is just starting her clay campaign, having pulled out of Stuttgart with an injury. 

A lot of the players who fell in the early rounds of Stuttgart  as a result of Fed Cup play should have gotten sufficient rest in time to start their clay season. 

The excitement of the women’s draw and the potential match ups have really got tennis fans talking.  Master Ace has broken down the draws and indicated his picks for who will make the quarters onwards and his picks for first round matches to watch.  We can only hope that there will be wall to wall coverage of WTA matches. 

Even though we are in the 3rd week of the European clay season, like you say it does feel as if clay season is just beginning with the the defending champion of this event and the reigning Australian Open champion returning to action.

The first quarter   is headed by Serena Williams, who will be going for a three peat. Carla Suarez Navarro, who made the finals at Oeiras, Flavia Pennetta and Petra Kvitova loom in this quarter of the draw. First round match to watch : Flavia Pennetta vs Lucie Safarova (h2h 1-3)

Second quarter – This is headed by Simona Halep, who has a tendency to do well in events that are above the Premier level in 2014. Very solid quarter with Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic First round match to watch : Ana Ivanovic vs Madison Keys (first meeting) 

Third quarter – This is headed by Agnieszka Radwanska. Most people would have Radwanska going far this week but some people may not know that clay is not her best surface despite her game being all-around. Svetlana Kuznetsova, who is in the finals at Oeiras, has been playing well on clay so far and was the only player to play a 3 setter with S Williams at 2013 French Open. First round match to watch : Andrea Petkovic vs Sara Errani (h2h 1-0)

Fourth quarter – This is headed by Na Li. The biggest name looming in this quarter is Maria Sharapova who is on a 41 match winning streak on clay against all players except Serena Williams. Last person to defeat Sharapova on clay besides S Williams is Li, who won their quarterfinal battle at 2011 French Open.


Q1 : S Williams vs Safarova
Q2 : Halep vs Ivanovic
Q3 : Errani vs Kuznetsova
Q4 : Sharapova vs Li

S1 : S Williams vs Halep
S2 : Kuznetsova vs Sharapova
F : S Williams vs Sharapova
W : S Williams

Odds and Ends 

The qualifying draw in Madrid is stacked.  Alisa Kleybanova is already out.  Julia Georges needed 3 sets to overcome Vania King in order advance to the second round of qualifying. Camila Giorgi, Belinda Bencic and Jana Cepelova are also playing qualifying and it will be interesting to see which of the top players will draw one of these or any other qualifiers when main draw play starts.  Play starts tomorrow (Saturday 3 May).  TV coverage starts on Monday 5 May. 

It has been announced that former No. 1 Dinara Safina will be at the trophy presentation ceremony in Madrid.  Word is that she will be officially announcing her retirement from the WTA Tour.  Safina has not played since an early round exit at the 2012 Australian Open.  
Dinara Safina showed what hard work and dedication can do to a player’s game.  She also showed that notwithstanding hard work and dedication, if the mental aspect of the game is not there, players will fail.  Safina had 3 chances to win a Grand Slam during her reign. Twice at the French Open and once at the Australian Open.  On all 3 occassions she mentally collapsed against her opponents.  Many will remember Safina as a long line of WTA players who held the No. 1 ranking without ever winning a Grand Slam.  Unlike Wozniacki and Jankovic however, Safina had many chances to cement her legacy but she fell at each turn.  However, I will remember her for this and this
Next week Acey and I will take a look a look at the women who we consider to be contenders for the French Open title.  We will also be taking a look at those players who could pose potential problems for the top women heading into the French Open. 

A tennis friend of mine brought this great article by David Epstein to my attention and I am currently doing some research in order to put what the presenter has said about genetics and technology and see if there is any correlation between genetics, technology and the sport of tennis.  Stay tuned. 

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