Apr 30, 2021

2021 Madrid Open WTA Round 2 Writeup

Good first round with some wild results, a ton of second set implosions, and if you were lucky, you have have caught a brief glimpse of Madison Keys! Also, I have also been informed that Earth has only one moon, which is nice to know, and thank you moon for doing the work of many moons all by yourself <3. Here is the second round WTA writeup.

Barty vs Zidansek :

No real surprises from the first rounds from either of these players. Hsieh struggled mightily to hold serve, and Zidansek seemed to be able to move the ball well through the court. The altitude is making it fly a bit and giving players with a little speed on their shot a bit of extra oomph. Rogers played well in stretches but just didn’t have a clear way to score on Barty. Ashleigh on the other hand scored a lot of cheap points with her serve and showed a commitment to swinging the two-handed backhand that pressured Rogers’ movement more than the slice. The Barty writeups are generally going to be the same round after round which seems a bit of a copout. This is one of the best players in the world, in the best shape of her life, playing good tennis. The only trouble she really has is lapses in range on the forehand side, and the occasional struggle with her timing on the two-handed backhand. Zidansek is a good test since she’s solid from the baseline, so we should get a look at whether there is any blink in Barty’s mental focus after a title run. Barty in 2 (I’d expect one to be close).

Siegemund vs Swiatek :

Good starts for Kozlova, but her level really dropped halfway through each set. Up a break in the first, she folded under Siegemund’s pressure. Up a break again in the second, she was heard to remark “what am i doing out here?” It’s hard to really gauge what she meant by that, but perhaps her heart is not in tennis right now, or she really was bewildered as far as the shot selection she’d gone with so far. Either way, the difference in weight of shot made a big difference here. Kozlova profited from Siegemund errors and when they stopped, so did the profits. Swiatek had an interesting blowout against Alison Riske. Riske seemed at times like she wouldn’t even win a game, but being down so much led her to play a bit more aggressive, and she found decent winners on the backhand side which made the match go a bit longer than it should have. Swiatek really is a cut above most players on tour, but for Riske getting back into the action on tour, she reached a decent level.

Siegemund is good enough from the baseline to earn points against Swiatek, but it’s one of those situations where Swiatek will have a lot of chances to break back if her offense produces errors trying to force the issue. Siegemund redirects the ball well on both wings, but it’s hard to escape the forehand to forehand exchange with Iga and I would expect her coach to know that as well. Swiatek in 2 but the second set could be tight as this is when Swiatek kinda hesitated against Riske.

Kvitova vs Kerber :

Hooray for lefties! Kvitova got a nice bonus after her Stuttgart run with a withdrawal from Bouzkova. That should mean she’ll be at her best against Kerber, which is good as well as she played in the first round. It felt like Voundrousova and Kerber were locked in some sort of finger trap where the better they played the more balls their opponent returned. In the end it was a bit of power from Kerber that got her across the finish line, as her forehand connected with the court for one of the first times this year. Winning two matches in a row hasn’t been Kerber’s plan this year, and this is a tough spot since the ball is travelling so quick in Madrid. Kvitova is like a full evolved version of Pera in terms of shot selection and Kerber struggled a lot to read her shots. Good news for Kerber is these two have played a lot of matches and traded victories back and forth, with Kerber winning their only somewhat recent (2018) meeting on clay. Rallies will be close but this would be a win that Kerber hasn’t really shown she’s capable of of late. Kvitova in 3.

Kudermetova vs Bertens :

Kudermetova had a bit of a gift playing Vesnina first round. Bertens had a bit of a trojan horse presented to her, on the other hand, as Kasintseva put a lot of balls back in play and broke the former champ a number of times. The quality of retrieving that the young player showed was great, but Bertens was able to gain an edge just by virtue of ballstriking. She didn’t play her best tennis, but her forehand crosscourt was almost an automatic point if she hit it 3 times in a row. I don’t see how Bertens can beat Kudermetova without a significant reduction of errors, as Veronika’s positive results are often the result of her ability to move the ball without mistakes. Bertens has the variety and experience to win this match, but it’s similar to Kerber where she just hasn’t displayed the old Bertens quality just yet. Kudermetova in 2.

Teichmann vs Badosa :

Svitolina probably should have won her match against Teichmann, but she just couldn’t convert any of the 7 match points she had and to Teichmann’s credit, she played a ton of defense and very consistent ball to come back from 5-1 down in the third. Results like that are the reason Gauff serving at 0-4 in the third today against Pliskova was still exciting, but for Svitolina backers it was a difficult half hour. Teichmann is a classic lefty and uses her speed well to cover the court on defense. The hole in her game is a slight lack of power, but she’s young and there’s good shape on her forehand and similar to Humbert/ARV it’s difficult to read and still repeatable. Badosa had a simpler time with Krejcikova, who made a late surge in the second but really couldn’t keep the ball in the court. Not a terrible loss though, as Badosa is a complete player and capable of beating anyone outside the top 10 at any given moment.

This is truly a difficult match to predict. They’ve played twice with Badosa pulling through in both contests, but Teichmann will be riding a very high level into this where Badosa did struggle a bit at the end. It’s strange to think that Badosa has more offense than Svitolina, but I think she will likely get across the finish line here. Still, the edges are going to be very small, so whomever wins the big points will nab this one. Badosa in 3.

Sevastova vs Konta :

Sevastova looked great in her first round, pretty much as good if not better than she did in qualifying. Bogdan had chances in the second set, but her forehand really fell apart. It looked shaky at best and she started to loop the ball in with a decelerated motion and basically squandered her break points chances. In her defense, Sevastova playing at her peak moves the ball constantly and creatively around the court, so it’s easy to struggle to really get your feet set once you get opportunities that seem to the viewer like you should execute. Konta was probably the surprise result of the day in my books, and it’ll be worth watching Putintseva through the rest of this clay season to see if she’s carrying some malady. Konta served fairly well, and Putintseva didn’t provide much resistance which is very counter to her normal performance. The Konta win certainly puts her in the discussion for the next match, but it’s hard to overlook Sevastova’s win on clay in their most recent meeting, and her having beaten two players in Kostyuk and Pironkova who would be significant threats or even favorites against Konta. The lapse in the second against Bogdan is one that Konta would have taken advantage of, so I do think this may feature at least one swing in momentum. That’s not saying a lot in the WTA realm, but I expect Sevastova to win in 3.

Stephens! vs Jabeur :

Sloane Stephens wins a match! I’m gettin to say that more than usual the past few weeks : ) Danka Kovinic’s loss to Doi foreshadowed this result, and she arrived to this contest with her left leg taped heavily from the knee down. That spells calf strain or injury, and her movement was hampered in this one. Stephens hits a heavy ball and went with “keep it in play” as per usual, and it was enough as Kovinic forced things a bit to keep herself from having to defend too often. Sloane has made the semis of this event before so the conditions certainly are comfortable for her, and it’s great to see her playing well. Honestly, when she puts together a few good games the mind immediately jumps to her being a favorite to make a deep run in any event she’s at, but Kovinic on one leg almost snagged the second set so Jabeur is a huge step up.

Jabeur had a fairly easy first round, and is coming off a finals run in Charleston II that featured some impatient but solid play. The caliber in this match is higher than anything she faced there, and as much as I call Stephens losses, this matchup would make me hesitant to back Stephens. Jabeur plays a bit too quick and Stephens defends a bit too well, and this can spell handfuls of games to go towards the American. I’m hesitant to call it for Stephens because while she is playing well, her consistency can disappear at any moment, and she is prone to serving a fault on every first serve. Someone in 3 and I would expect it to be Jabeur, but this is a very good spot in the draw for either player to make a deep run.

Pera vs Bencic :

Pera kept up the quality against Martic, and it’s really becoming a trial of difficult matchups for Petra. She needs some right-handed players to compete against and perhaps some players who don’t challenge her movement as much. She has the offense and power to score on anyone, but when she’s forced to defend a bit she makes errors on routine shots. Her slice lost range, and her forehand was shanked enough times to make this simple work for Pera. Bencic had a much hyped contest with Mladenovic, but ran away with it. Mladenovic’s serving woes returned, and it almost seems like the ball hitting the net makes her flinch at this point. She’s somewhat unwilling to give up ground on the baseline, and this is similar to Bencic but since Bencic hits the heavier ball, this was a bad plan and resulted in a lot of forced errors.

I all too often have predicted Bencic losing. Her poor performances stand out in my head too strongly, and this is something that I should be aware of. Pera’s quality means she is capable of winning this match, but Bencic is still a top player who’s already made a finals this year. If either player can earn simple service holds, they’ll win this match, but I suspect it will be difficult since both are quick movers and will fully believe that they “should” win this match. Bencic due to her history, and Pera due to her recent plethora of upset wins. I’m inclined to think the Pera run continues, simply because Mladenovic folded up and still had chances against Bencic while doing so. Pera in 3.

Sabalenka vs Kasatkina :

Sabalenka never gave Zvonareva a chance. The spread was a whopping 5.5 games and she almost covered it in the first set alone. I have to say Aryna is one of the most refreshing talents to come onto the tour in a long time, and it’s easy to cheer for her. Her tantrums are somehow graceful, and neither disrespectful to the opponent nor to herself. Her atttitude on court is intense yet she’s able to laugh and react in flow with the event, and her commitment to offense regardless of the situation has led to her pretty much overwhelming all the opponents that have looked to outlast her. Kasatkina is a similarly enjoyable player to watch. She was pretty much outplayed for a set and a half, but Begu’s high level and strong hitting faltered towards the end and the set was stolen in a pretty depressing way for Irina. The third set looked gone for a good portion, but Begu managed to come all the way back just to lose in a tiebreaker. A tough loss, especially after saving 0-40 on her serve earlier with some “I’m giving up so here’s forced offense” points that really put Kasatkina back on the defensive. Sabalenka and Kasatkina have played some tight sets, but Kasatkina hasn’t really won them yet. I expect a similarly close 1st set, with Sabalenka’s power giving her an edge as the match goes late. Sabalenka in 2.

Pegula vs Azarenka :

Cirstea vs Alexandrova could easily have happened here. Serving at 4-4, 40-15, Cirstea fell and injured her ankle. She’d been playing some great tennis (as had Pegula) and never really found momentum after that. Pegula, to her credit, showed up completely composed and ready to play, and deserves this second round, but it’s always hard to watch a player get injured at the peak of their game. Azarenka’s defensive returning and ability to move Alexandrova was good enough until the second set, where Alexandrova caught fire. If you can catch a replay of the end of the second set, it was backhand after backhand and she absolutely crushed some forehand service returns. The problem with Alexandrova is that it almost seems necessary for her to redline to hang with the top pro’s, and it’s so hard to maintain that level throughout an entire set when you’ve just ended one with it. Azarenka and Pegula will likely be a similarly close contest. Azarenka doesn’t give away much, but she struggled with some double faults and Pegula’s movement is world’s better than Alexandrova’s.

This is a great second round of tennis, and this might be the best matchup in it. I don’t know if Pegula would be here if Cirstea hadn’t gotten injured, but she definitely matches up better with Azarenka than Alexandrova, who made it to a third set. I expect the same from Pegula, and given her win against Vika on hardcourt, she may feel comfortable here. Pegula in 3.

Mertens vs Rybakina :

Mertens probably wins as a favorite more than anyone else on tour. She’s one of my favorite players on tour and is always professional, aggressive, and error-free. The only time she does struggle is against a player with power, which is what Rybakina represents. Rybakina would be on her way to Rome if Tomljanovic had converted a break point in the first. She had a number of opportunities but when you fail to convert over and over, it can really weigh on you, and her game fell apart under the offensive pressure of Rybakina in the second. Good run for Ajla in qualifying, and she served well here in the first set, but just couldn’t win the big points. Rybakina’s movement isn’t perfect on clay, but with the ball flying through the air in Madrid her serving was a big bonus, and her forehand found easy depth through the court that isn’t always available on clay. The key for Mertens really is to keep Rybakina moving, and while that’s really the goal of tennis in the first place, I think that the player with early momentum will have a great chance to wrap this one up in two. Rybakina can definitely apply pressure late in sets since Mertens’ timing suffers against big-hitters on the forehand, but I expect Elise’s pressure/consistency to capitalize where Tomljanovic couldn’t. Mertens in 2.

Zheng vs Halep :

Zheng showed no remorse in moonballing Linette to death. Linette was able to find her offense in the second set and execute a few shots per rally to earn the points, but overall Saisai hit slice backhands and loopy forehands and just challenged the Polish pro to “prove it”, and it worked over and over. Forcing offense is difficult, and moonballs are somewhat frowned upon but very effective in the WTA game (Andreescu is a big utilizer of the shot on defense). Halep and Tormo was supposed to be close, but it wasn’t at all. Down 5-2, Tormo made a run to 5-5, but she really was a notch below the level throughout this match, and seemed to struggle with her serve a bit. In her defense, it was a bit windy today and many players got into trouble with doubles, but Halep deserves the credit for just being better. In a similar clash, Zheng can rally all day, but it will just prolong the inevitable. Halep almost seemed upset at one point that Tormo was even still existing, but was shamed by her box late in the second into giving a “golf clap” to her opponent for winning the point. This is a nice touch in tennis, but there was nothing special about the point Tormo won and it almost came across as condescending. Halep is classy on the court, but after her recent interview I’m starting to see her as a player who absolutely hates losing. She won’t have to yet, but this is a really tough part of the draw with Pegula/Azarenka/Sabalenka/Kasatkina competing to be her next round opponent. Halep in 2.

Pliskova vs Pavlyuchenkova :

Pliskova! Gauff! These two started the match off with 3 games which featured 6 double faults and 3 breaks of serve. It was Gauff’s world early as the back and forth inconsistent play favored the quicker and more conservative player. As Pliskova warmed up though, things turned quickly. Down a break in the second, Gauff began to try to claw back the whole deficit with a single swing. The result was unforced errors, and Pliskova without pressure found a great serving rhythm. The third was a quick beatdown, despite a Gauff surge at 0-4 that saw her serving at 2-4 40-0. At that point, she added a double fault, a forehand error, and 3 dropshots in a row to get broken again. A hard match for Gauff, but she seems a bit nervous with the situations at times, and also a bit unclear on what route she’s taking to success. She’s been a bit defensive for the last season or so, but is now going for huge 1st and 2nd serves. It just doesn’t translate well for her shot selection because she’s between two minds when approaching the ball. I’d like to see her coaches utilize the 2 shot drill (you have to end the rally within two shots after the serve) a bit because she really does have the power to play offensive tennis, and to have her go into lockdown defensive mode if she loses the lead. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the loss to Pliskova today, but shot selection was the main issue besides Pliskova’s serving that cost her the match.

Pavlyuchenkova tried to play a tennis match today but Madison Keys was late for something. After going down an early break Keys caught fire, and broke back and played a perfect service game for 4-4. That was the last time she kept the ball on the court, and Pavs hit well today and kept Keys moving en route to a quick two set victory. I don’t actually think Pliskova will give up the number of errors that Keys did, but it’s a similar match which is good for Pavs. Pavs also served way better than Gauff did today, and while she’s not as quick, her decisions on court are near automatic at this point in her career. It’s weird to think of Pliskova playing her best as not a favorite in the next match against a much lower ranked opponent, but I think her movement will be exposed more against the consistency and power that Pavs regularly brings. Certainly will take a while, since she’s serving so well. Pavlyuchenkova in 3.

Ostapenko vs Brady :

Tough tough match for Ostapenko in the first round, getting a late trade of Hercog for Kuznetsova, but she handled it beautifully. Ostapenko likely played the best tennis in the first round, with really solid returning and very few errors. These conditions suit her, and good returning is something that is a huge bonus on the WTA. I was looking forward to backing her against her next opponent, but Brady presents a peculiar test. Brady played Venus Williams, who is fighting hard against time. She just can’t keep up with the pace of the tour anymore, and it’s not that she won’t win any matches this year, but more that it’s clear she’s not getting the reaction out of her body that she’s expecting. Brady played well, considering clay is not her best surface, and she went after her serves well. That’ll be key against Ostapenko, as Brady’s ability to move Ostapenko may negate some of her good returning. Brady’s defending also may become key, and while Ostapenko should open this as a slight favorite, Brady’s job may be easier by giving up the initiative a bit. The errors she made against Williams will give Ostapenko good momentum, but her movement is exactly the type that frustrate Jelena. Another hard one to call, but I think given Ostapenko’s best surface being Brady’s worst, it might be another win for the tiny marshmallow. Ostapenko in 2.

Sakkari vs Kontaveit :

Sakkari came very close to losing to Anisimova, and Amanda won’t be pleased with the result but should keep in perspective how well Sakkari has been playing this year. Kontaveit had a similarly simple yet difficult win against Stojanovic, who is starting to believe that she can really compete with the best players on tour. She’s not wrong, but for now the Estonian advances to a section of the draw with some real significant names in it. Kontaveit thrives on her power, and I think she’ll find it very tough to hit through Sakkari. This is a match where I expect the player with the lead to find it very difficult to score, and there’s something to the idea that this is a completely even matchup. Kontaveit’s results lag behind Sakkari’s a bit as far as high profile matches, so I give a small nod to Sakkari’s ability to neutralize her opponent’s offense. Sakkari in 3.

Muchova vs Osaka :

Muchova looked great in the first round, and Osaka did not. Doi always tests Osaka, and I think if she stopped slicing the ball on her backhand, she’d do even better. Slowing the ball down against Osaka gives her too much time to set up on her forehand, and she converted over and over when Doi opened up the racquet face. It’s hard to say that Muchova’s level is good enough to beat Osaka, but Naomi will need to play a bit better than she did in the first round to win here. Clay hasn’t been her forte yet, but she’s shown in big events that she improves round by round so I will hesitate to pick against her, but will say that this is a very tricky spot as well as Muchova plays from the baseline. Osaka in 3.