Madrid Open 2021: Women's singles draw analysis, preview & prediction

Petra Kvitova has a record three titles in Madrid
Petra Kvitova has a record three titles in Madrid
Vedant Chandel

The European clay swing heads to Spain this week for the 2021 Mutua Madrid Open, a WTA 1000 event that is set to begin on 29 April. Leading the pack in the tournament's 12th edition are top seed Ashleigh Barty, defending champion Kiki Bertens and three-time former winner Petra Kvitova.

Naomi Osaka, Victoria Azarenka and Iga Swiatek are playing their first claycourt event of the season, with the likes of Simona Halep, Elina Svitolina and Aryna Sabalenka also crowding the draw.

With main-draw action set to begin Monday, here is a look at the prospects of some of the big names in the fray.

1st quarter: Ashleigh Barty, Iga Swiatek, Petra Kvitova and Kiki Bertens fight for supremacy

Ashleigh Barty
Ashleigh Barty

Top seeded players: [1] Ashleigh Barty, [7] Kiki Bertens, [9] Petra Kvitova, [14] Iga Swiatek

Expected quarterfinal: Ashleigh Barty vs Kiki Bertens

Dark horse: Veronika Kudermetova

Ashleigh Barty is set to open her campaign with a first-round match against Shelby Rogers, an opponent she has already gotten the better of thrice this year. The recently-crowned Stuttgart champion was made to work hard by Rogers in a couple of those matches though, and can expect some resistance here as well.

Another test awaits Barty in the form of reigning Roland Garros champion Iga Swiatek, who looms in the third round.

Three-time former champion Petra Kvitova finds herself in a similarly precarious situation. Kvitova, who enjoys playing in the relatively quicker conditions here, will open with a grudge match against Marie Bouzkova - who upset her at the Western & Southern Open last year.

In-form players Marketa Vondrousova and Veronika Kudermetova, as well as big names like Angelique Kerber and Kiki Bertens, further crowd Kvitova's section. But if the Czech can strike form early and avoid any grueling three-setters, she will fancy her chances of another deep run here in Madrid.

Predicted quarterfinal: Petra Kvitova def. Ashleigh Barty

2nd quarter: Elina Svitolina, Belinda Bencic and Garbine Muguruza face challenging draws

Elina Svitolina
Elina Svitolina

Top seeded players: [4] Elina Svitolina, [8] Belinda Bencic, [10] Garbine Muguruza, [15] Johanna Konta

Expected quarterfinal: Elina Svitolina vs Belinda Bencic

Dark horse: Ons Jabeur

Elina Svitolina looks to have come into her own at the start of the claycourt season. She has posted some solid results over the last few weeks, but will need to be at her best to fend off solid players in Jil Tiechmann and Paula Baodsa.

Two Grand Slam winners, Garbine Muguruza and Sloane Stephens, are locked in a tough first-round battle. And while the Spaniard is a definite favorite given her recent results, she certainly can't afford to take her opponent lightly.

The winner of that match-up is likely to fight Belinda Bencic for that all-important last eight spot. That said, the Swiss has to find a way past an ever-dangerous Ons Jabuer first.

Predicted quarterfinal: Elina Svitolina def. Garbine Muguruza

3rd quarter: Simona Halep and Aryna Sabalenka headed for a rematch

Simona Halep
Simona Halep

Top seeded players: [3] Simona Halep, [5] Aryna Sabalenka, [12] Victoria Azarenka, [13] Elise Mertens

Expected quarterfinal: Simona Halep vs Aryna Sabalenka

Dark horse: Victoria Azarenka

Aryna Sabalenka could well face her countrywoman in a mouth-watering third round clash. However, both women are likely to face some tough competition even prior to that.

Azarenka in particular has her work cut out. If the Belarussian comes through her opener against Ekaterina Alexandrova, she will face the winner of a first round between 2021 breakthrough players - Jessica Pegula and Sorana Cristea.

Simona Halep meanwhile will have her eyes set on avenging her Stuttgart semifinal loss against Sabalenka. But she will first need to handle the likes of Sara Sorribes Tormo and Elise Mertens.

The Romanian did look solid in her few matches at Stuttgart, and should have enough in the tank to come through those early matches.

Predicted semifinal: Aryna Sabalenka def. Simona Halep

4th quarter: Talented youngsters look to topple Karolina Pliskova and Naomi Osaka

Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka

Top seeded players: [2] Naomi Osaka, [6] Karolina Pliskova, [11] Jennifer Brady, [16] Maria Sakkari

Expected quarterfinal: Naomi Osaka vs Karolina Pliskova

Dark horse: Maria Sakkari

Following an extended run of poor form, Karolina Pliskova showed signs of revival in Stuttgart. The Czech made it to the quarterfinals and came close to scoring an upset win over eventual champion Barty, but will once again need to be at her best to move through a very tricky-looking draw.

Pliskova opens against Coco Gauff, who has shown a played quite a few solid matches this year. If the Czech were to come through that match-up, she would face the winner of the Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs Madison Keys match.

2021 Australian Open runner-up Jennifer Brady is also locked in a tough first-round match against Venus WIlliams. The winner here should have enough momentum to book a date against Pliskova in the third round.

An opening round against a qualifier should give Naomi Osaka enough time to play herself into form. A prospective rematch against Maria Sakkari is on the cards, but both women will first need to get past Karolina Muchova and Amanda Anisimova respectively.

Sakkari snapped Osaka's winning streak at the Miami Open and the second seed will be keen on reversing the result here.

Predicted quarterfinal: Naomi Osaka def. Karolina Pliskova

Predictions for the semfinal

Elina Svitolina def. Petra Kvitova

Aryna Sabalenka def. Naomi Osaka

Prediction for the final

Aryna Sabalenka def. Elina Svitolina

Notable first-round matches

Ashleigh Barty vs Shelby Rogers

Angelique Kerber vs Marketa Vondrousova

Garbine Muguruza vs Sloane Stephens

Karolina Pliskova vs Coco Gauff

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs Madison Keys

Edited by Musab Abid
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