Takeaways from the 2021 WTA Mutua Madrid Open

Aryna Sabalenka Madrid
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After last week’s WTA Mutua Madrid Open, let’s look back at some of the main takeaways as we move forward towards the French Open. Who played well? And who disappointed?

Takeaways from the 2021 Mutua Madrid Open

1. The Barty-Sabalenka rivalry looks promising!

Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) defeated World No.1 Ashleigh Barty (AUS) in the final, 6–0 3–6 6–4. It was Sabalenka’s 10th career singles title and she rose up to No.4 in the rankings. This was the pair’s third encounter in five weeks, with every match of theirs going to a decider. Both are proving themselves to being reliable players on tour across court surfaces and hopefully this rivalry continues! 

Ironically, this loss was good for Barty. With the French Open looming, it would not be a good idea to enter a Grand Slam with the pressure of maintaining a long win streak, as that almost never ends well. For Sabalenka, this win was important not only because it is the biggest title of her career but also as she needed to overcome the mental hurdle of losing two close matches to Barty this year. However, I would advise that she either withdraws early or loses in Rome this week if she wants a decent chance of winning the French Open to avoid the pressure of entering a Slam with a win streak.

2. Defending champion Bertens suffers early exit

Kiki Bertens (NED) was the defending champion in Madrid. She won when the tournament was last held in 2019, but she was defeated in the second round by Veronika Kudermetova (RUS). Whilst she had been off the tour with injury for a while, her inability to return to form, especially at a tournament which suits her so well, is a cause for concern. Bertens fell to No.17 in the rankings. On her current trajectory she may end up as an unseeded player in the not too distant future.

3. A new Spanish star?

Paula Badosa became the first Spanish female player in history to reach the semifinal stage of the tournament. The 23-year-old wild card took advantage of the opening in her draw, and also scored a win over World No.11 Belind Bencic (SUI). She is now ranked just outside the Top 40 as a result. With many comparing her on-court appearance to legend Maria Sharapova (RUS), Badosa can potentially fill that void of star quality––which is absent in the WTA (especially for non-Americans)––if she continues these impressive results. In addition, with fellow Spaniards Garbine Muguruza playing some of her best tennis again and Sara Sorribes Tormo winning her first title in 2021, this could be an exciting time for Spanish women’s tennis!

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