The much awaited Madrid Masters 2019 draw for women's singles was released a while ago. And there are some enthralling thrillers lined up right from the start of the tournament.
The tournament begins with a first round match-up between World No. 1 Naomi Osaka and the hard-hitting Dominika Cibulkova. Osaka won their two previous encounters comfortably, both of which came at the Tokyo Open - in 2016 and 2018.
After winning her first Australian Open this year, Osaka has struggled to continue the strong run she showed Down Under. This first round encounter will be a litmus test for the Japanese.
In the same half as Osaka, there is another interesting match-up - between Aryna Sabalenka and Belinda Bencic. Their last meeting came in the third round of the Dubai Duty Free Championships, and Bencic won that thriller after saving 6 match points.
The winner of this contest might face the defending champion Karolina Pliskova in the third round. Pliskova has had a decent start to 2019, having reaching the semi-finals of the Australian Open where she lost to the eventual champion Osaka.
In the second quarter of the top half, Simona Halep will possibly face Johanna Konta in the second round. It's hard to predict the winner of that one as both players have struggled to find their rhythm this year.
On the other hand, the sensational Australian Ashleigh Barty might possibly face Danielle Collins in the second round. That promises to be a sure shot entertainer as both of them have looked in tremendous form this year; Barty won the Miami Open after defeating the likes of Pliskova, Kontaveit and Kvitova, and Collins reached her first Major semifinal after defeating Angelique Kerber in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open.
Coming to the bottom half of the draw, Sloane Stephens, who has had a pretty rough 2019 so far, might face Victoria Azarenka in the second round. If she wins this encounter, there is more trouble awaiting her in the form of Caroline Wozniacki in the third round - assuming Wozniacki wins her first two matches.
In all likelihood, Angelique Kerber and Garbine Muguruza might face each other in the second round. These two players haven't played against each other since their 4th round clash in Wimbledon 2017, which Muguruza won 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.
Kerber has suffered some surprising defeats this year against young players like Bianca Andreescu and Danielle Collins, and this tournament could well decide her fate for the remainder of the claycourt season.
In the second quarter of the bottom half, Petra Kvitova is all set to face the young American Sofia Kenin in the first round. Kenin has been in good form recently, winning her first doubles and singles titles this year and improving her ranking to 33.
Potential quarter-final matches:
1) Naomi Osaka vs Karolina Pliskova
2) Simona Halep vs Ashleigh Barty
3) Angelique Kerber vs Sloane Stephens
4) Petra Kvitova vs Kiki Bertens