Fixture: (5) Aryna Sabalenka vs Vera Zvonareva
Date: 30 April 2021
Tournament: Mutua Madrid Open 2021
Round: First round (Round of 64)
Venue: Madrid, Spain
Category: WTA 1000
Prize money: €2,549,105
Match timing: 11 am local time, 2.30 pm IST
Live telecast: USA - Tennis Channel | UK - Amazon Prime Video
Aryna Sabalenka vs Vera Zvonareva preview
Fifth seed Aryna Sabalenka takes on Russian qualifier Vera Zvonareva in the first round of the 2021 Madrid Open on Friday.
Sabalenka has put together a highly consistent 2021 so far. Having kicked off the year with a title at Abu Dhabi, the Belarusian has an impressive 18-6 win-loss record for the season.
Sabalenka brought all that confidence into Stuttgart last week, making a strong start to the clay swing. She beat former French Open champion Simona Halep en route to the final, where she went down fighting to Ashleigh Barty.
Having had just a couple of days of rest, Sabalenka will now look to get into the groove quickly at Madrid. In a draw packed with multiple Grand Slam winners, the fifth seed finds herself facing comeback queen Vera Zvonareva in her opener.
A former World No. 2 and a two-time Grand Slam runner-up, Zvonareva made a return to the tennis circuit in 2017. With quite a few wins under her belt over the last 12 months, the Russian has now made her way back into the top 120; she is currently perched at No. 114.
The 36-year-old has a 10-6 win-loss record in 2021. Her best performance so far has come at home in St. Petersburg, where she made the semifinals.
In her first clay tournament of the season at Istanbul, Zvonareva fell to World No. 57 Fiona Ferro 3-6, 3-6 in the second round. The Russian has, however, managed to bounce back strongly; she has posted a couple of commanding wins in the Madrid Open qualifiers.
Aryna Sabalenka vs Vera Zvonareva head-to-head
Aryna Sabalenka has a 1-0 lead over Vera Zvonareva in their head-to-head. The Belarusian got the better of Zvonareva 6-3, 7-6(7) in the second round of the 2018 US Open.
Aryna Sabalenka vs Vera Zvonareva prediction
Aryna Sabalenka is the favorite heading into this contest. The 22-year-old has a lot of confidence in her game right now. She has greatly improved her footwork of late and has learned to control her aggression, which has given her a lot of success on the tour.
But Vera Zvonareva is an experienced customer, and Sabalenka won't find it easy to blow her off the court with sheer raw power. The Russian has a world-class backhand and can find winners off it from almost anywhere on the court. Zvonareva's forehand isn't shabby either, but with the conditions being faster at Madrid, she might struggle with her huge backswing on that wing.
An accomplished doubles player too, the 2020 US Open women's doubles champion won't hesitate to come forward whenever the opportunity arises. But one area in which she is vulnerable is her serve, and that is where Sabalenka needs to capitalize.
Zvonareva has already played two matches in qualifying, and is more acclimatized to the conditions than Sabalenka. But if the Belarusian makes a fast start and avoids giving Zvonareva too much time to get into her comfort zone, she should be able to prevail.
Prediction: Aryna Sabalenka to win in two tight sets.