The second day of the WTA Mutua Madrid Open is full of mouthwatering first-round match-ups. On a stacked day in the Spanish capital, including matches from Pliskova and Sakkari, LWOT have tried to determine who will come out on top.
We predict all of Friday’s matches. In addition to the four matches in this article, we have three additional articles. One features Venus Williams vs Jennifer Brady, the second headlines Simona Halep vs Sara Sorribes Tormo, and the final features Misaki Doi vs Naomi Osaka.
WTA Madrid Open Day 2 Predictions
Maria Sakkari vs Amanda Anisimova
Head-to-head: Sakkari 1-0 Anisimova
Maria Sakkari is in pretty good form, all things considered. She’s beaten four top-20 players this year, including ending Naomi Osaka’s 24 match winning streak on hard courts. Even at her best, however, she struggles to replicate this form on the clay. Her huge serve gives her an advantage over other players ordinarily, but on a clay court, this is stunted, causing her to feel a little uncomfortable.
Though Amanda Anisimova only has three wins to her name this year, Madrid could be where she turns things around. Her killer groundstrokes are perfectly suited to clay courts and could provide her with the firepower required to out-hit Sakkari. At only 17 years old, these groundstrokes led her to her first Slam semifinal at the French Open and her first WTA title in Bogota.
Though Sakkari won their first meeting quite comfortably at the US Open last year, Anisimova will be motivated to kickstart her season on her favourite surface. It will be close but I think she has the weaponry to squeeze passed her opponent.
Prediction: Anisimova in 3
Nina Stojanovic vs Anett Kontaveit
Head-to-head: Stojanovic 0-1 Kontaveit
Anett Kontaveit has drawn some tough opponents of late. This year alone, she has lost twice to Aryna Sabalenka, once to Petra Kvitova and once to Elise Mertens. In all but one of these encounters, she took the match to a deciding set. Kontaveit has been bossing her opponents with her forehand, even keeping up with Sabalenka for the best part of two sets in Stuttgart, and should be feeling confident in Madrid.
Nina Stojanovic had to come through qualifying to earn her place at the table. Though she barely scraped through her first match against Jasmine Paolini, she did dispatch Ana Konjuh, who proved she can be dangerous in Miami, convincingly.
There is nothing particularly remarkable about the qualifier’s game, however, and, whilst she may continue to gain form as the year goes on, Kontaveit will likely prove too experienced for her.
Prediction: Kontaveit in 2
Elise Mertens vs Shuai Zhang
Head-to-head: Mertens 1-1 Zhang
Fresh off a runner-up showing in Istanbul, Elise Mertens will be feeling confident in Madrid. Her second serve has plenty of kick on it and she can counterpunch on the backhand with aplomb on the surface. Comfortable on the front foot, and comfortable on the back foot, it could be argued she is still to fulfil her full potential on the red dirt.
Shuai Zhang is yet to get off the mark this year. Not only has she lost all four matches, she’s lost all eight sets she’s played as well. Zhang’s net play and backhand are dangerous at the best of times, but they have lost a bit of their pop recently. Perhaps the 32-year old is reaching the end of her singles career.
Though Zhang will likely give a spirited fight, Mertens should outclass her opponent in every department.
Prediction: Mertens in 2
Karolina Pliskova vs Cori Gauff
Head-to-head: Pliskova 0-0 Gauff
Now, this is a first-round match. By Karolina Pliskova’s standard, 2021 hasn’t been the best of years. The former world #1 has posted just 9 wins in 16 matches, with 3 of those losses against the same player, Jessica Pegula. Last week, however, Pliskova looked to have regained some form, having served for the match against eventual winner, Ash Barty. Her serve is too good to be affected by the clay and she arguably has the potential to win any match she plays.
Cori Gauff may still be growing but she can probably boast exactly the same thing – at her absolute best, she could beat anyone in the world. It can be difficult to predict the young American phenom’s patchy play, however, so the outcome of this match could depend on which version of Gauff arrives on court.
I was really impressed with Pliskova in Stuttgart, and, for me, this quality should be enough to see her over the finishing line. Gauff is too good to go down without obliterating a few backhands, however, so it will be a close, enjoyable encounter.
Prediction: Pliskova in 3
Main Photo from Getty.