Fixture: (5) Aryna Sabalenka vs (13) Elise Mertens
Date: 5 May 2021
Tournament: Mutua Madrid Open 2021
Venue: Madrid, Spain
Category: WTA 1000
Prize money: €2,549,105
Match timing: Not before 7 pm local time, 10.30 pm IST
Live telecast: USA - Tennis Channel | UK - Amazon Prime Video
Aryna Sabalenka vs Elise Mertens preview
Former doubles partners Aryna Sabalenka and Elise Mertens will square off in the quarterfinals of the Madrid Open on Wednesday. Having won the Australian Open women's doubles title together in February, this time Sabalenka and Mertens will be on opposite sides of the net.
Sabalenka has been in a rich vein of form this year. After starting the season with the title at Abu Dhabi, the Belarusian reached her second final of the year last week in Stuttgart.
She has brought that momentum into Madrid, as is evident from her stunning display so far. Sabalenka hasn't dropped more than six games in any match on her way to the last eight.
With commanding wins over Vera Zvonareva, Daria Kasatkina and Jessica Pegula, the World No. 7 should be highly motivated to continue her journey in the Spanish capital.
Elise Mertens has also been quite consistent this season. The World No. 16 kicked off her 2021 with a title run at the Gippsland Trophy. She then made the semis in Dubai and the final in Istanbul, in what have been a brilliant few months on the tour.
Mertens was placed in a tough section of the draw at Madrid, but she has used her early-season confidence to battle through the obstacles with aplomb. Elena Rybakina and former champion Simona Halep were especially dangerous opponents in her last couple of rounds, but the Belgian found her fighting spirit to grind her way into the quarterfinals.
Aryna Sabalenka vs Elise Mertens head-to-head
Aryna Sabalenka leads Elise Mertens 4-2 in the head-to-head. The Belarusian has had an upper hand in their rivalry in recent times, winning their last three meetings.
Sabalenka and Mertens met twice in 2020, with the former emerging as the winner on both occasions - and that too without dropping a set.
Aryna Sabalenka vs Elise Mertens prediction
Aryna Sabalenka has been in destructive mode this week, and seems to be getting better with every match. In the Round of 16 against Jessica Pegula, the Belarusian struck eight aces and won 85.7% of her first-serve points.
She was equally ruthless on return, converting four of the five break points she got. Clearly, the World No. 7 has made good use of the fast conditions at Madrid, which suit her game perfectly.
Elise Mertens might not have as much power as Sabalenka has, but she has made it through to the last-eight due to her sheer tenacity and self-belief. An aggressive counterpuncher, Mertens likes to take the ball on the rise - a tactic that was particularly useful against Simona Halep, whom she edged 4-6, 7-5, 7-5.
However, the Belgian's serve remains a matter of concern. Her racquet leaked as many as nine double faults in the match against Halep, and a repeat of that could prove to be costly against an uber-aggressive returner like Sabalenka.
Fatigue might also creep into Mertens' game after her 2-hour-34-minute marathon win over Halep. Should that happen, the balance will automatically tilt towards Sabalenka.
Prediction: Aryna Sabalenka to win in straight sets.