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WTA Tennis Preview • First Round Action • Jam-Packed Sunday in Madrid

Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit celebrates after defeating Venus Williams of the USA in their first round match of the 2018 Mutua Madrid Open tennis tournament at Caja Magica in Madrid, Spain, 05 May 2018. EPA-EFE/JUANJO MARTIN



Popcorn-worthy WTA first round action headlines jam-packed Sunday in Madrid


No other tournament on tour gets started as quickly as the Mutua Madrid Open and once again a loaded opening weekend of marquee first round showdowns headlines action at the Caja Magica. After main draw play got underway Saturday in the Spanish capital with wins for Karolina Pliskova, Elina Svitolina, Caroline Garcia, Kristina Mladenovic, and Anett Kontaveit, further big names will begin their Madrid campaigns on a loaded Sunday of clay-court action.


Here are the three popcorn-worthy first round matches to keep an eye on at the Caja Magica on Sunday:


Victoria Azarenka vs. Aleksandra Krunic

After stop and start returns to the tour for the last year following the birth of her first child Leo and a lengthy custody battle, things appear to be looking better for Victoria Azarenka as she returns to the tour for the first time since her impressive semifinal run in Miami in March. The two-time Madrid runner-up has an interesting opening match on her hands, facing Serbian Aleksandra Krunic, who’s crafty, unique game pushed Azarenka previously at the 2014 US Open.


Clay has never been Azarenka’s best surface due to struggles with the movement but the faster conditions in Madrid should help the two-time major champion start her dirt season with a win.

Prediction: Azarenka in straight sets


Petra Kvitova vs. Lesia Tsurenko

A day off of winning her third title of 2018 at home in Prague, Petra Kvitova returns to the sight of her best clay-court results at the Caja Magica, where she is a two-time champion. The Czech had to fight hard in her final two matches in Prague and will not have a day of rest before taking the court and the unique conditions in Madrid, making Tsurenko a possible upset threat. Kvitova will need to hope she’s not tired and can continue her impressive form from Prague, and Tsurenko should allow her to do just that.

Prediction: Kvitova in three sets


Maria Sharapova vs. Mihaela Buzarnescu

A former champion in the Spanish capital in 2014, no one may need a win more than Maria Sharapova, who is currently on a four-match losing streak for the first time in her career since 2003. The Russian couldn’t have asked for a better, more comfortable first round matchup against Buzarnescu, who she routined easily at the start of the season in Shenzhen, and if Sharapova is healthy, as she appeared in a promising first round loss to Caroline Garcia last week in Stuttgart, the two-time Roland Garros champion should get back to winning ways again.

Prediction: Sharapova in straight sets

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