Today was the beginning of the first clay event where all the top men and women will be present. None of the men were in action today but we did have four women’s seeds in action with only one of them winning their match, leaving the seeds with a 25% success rate.
The home favourite who was awarded a wildcard into this tournament got her campaign off to a good start as Lara Arruabarrena came from behind to defeat Christina McHale 4-6, 7-6(7-1), 6-2. Arruabarrena started shaky but when she got in a groove her backhand started firing and McHale started to fall away, as she often has this season. Arruabarrena was nervous when she came out on the biggest tennis stage of her country and started hitting lot of errors. She slipped down the double break, without McHale playing the best tennis, but she managed to get one the breaks back by the end of the set. Eventually McHale took the set and she started the second set well as she went up 0-4 I’m full control. Arruabarrena started sparring with McHale and she got the double break on the way to forcing the tiebreaker. The Spaniard played her best couple of points of the match in the breaker as she only dropped one point on the way to the taking the set. It was all Arruabarrena in the decider as she saved all four of the break she faced and broke McHale twice on the way to taking the match. I see Arruabarrena having a good week in Madrid and now she has got her nerves out of the way, she can play more comfortably.
In our feature match, Laura Siegemund got herself out of a lot of tight situations on the way to taking the 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 win over Johanna Konta. Both women were playing low margin for errors games today and it was Siegemund who got those extra few shots in at the end of the match. Konta broke in the first game of the match and from there she carried the break until Siegemund was serving at 3-5 down. Siegemund played a nervous service game to give Konta the break and the set to take the early lead. Siegemund started very strongly in the second set and she consolidated an early break to lead 4-2. Konta reeled off three straight games from there and came close to taking the match but eventually Siegemund held and got another break after that to take the set. Konta went up to lead 0-3 in the decider and had three break point to go up 0-4 but the German roared to life. Siegemund got four straight games, including two breaks and she didn’t drop another service game on the way to the match.
Clay-Court specialist and defending quarterfinalist Irina-Camelia Begu continued her strong Madrid play as she got past the top 20 player in Elena Vesnina in a decisive 6-4, 6-4 match. Vesnina didn’t really play a bad match but Begu was quite strong and Vesnina wasn’t able to do much against the Romanians forehand. The first set was very competitive and entertaining as Begu only dropped one point behind her first serve and she didn’t face a break point. Begu got the only break in the middle of the set in a hard-fought deuce game, were they both saved game points. Vesnina wasn’t able to make much damage on the Begu serve as the Romanian eventually served out the set. Neither woman was able to sustain the good level of tennis for the second set but Begu went up a double break early to lead 5-2. Vesnina made a fight back from there and she managed to get the break back. Vesnina had a break point to level the match but Begu got the game eventually and took the match. Begu loves playing on clay, especially in Madrid, and she could do some major damage to the seeds this week.
Finally, Anastasija Sevastova continued her great year with an impressive 6-4, 6-2 win over Shuai Zhang. Sevastova has a great all-surface game and she was playing really well as she implemented the right amounts of spin at the right times throughout the match. The Latvian is putting together a really solid year so far and it’s going by slightly under the radar, which is good for Sevastova in regards to the pressure she could have on her. The first set was quite bizarre as Zhang and Sevastova exchanged breaks early to get to 2-2 and from there it was competitive on the way to 4-4. That was until Sevastova got a break and served out the opening set in a comfortable fashion. In the second set, Sevastova played an unbelievable 20 minutes to race out to a 5-1 lead to get the opportunity to serve out the match. Zhang fought hard to get one of the breaks back but Sevastova broke again straight away to take the match in under an hour. Sevastova gets the vulnerable-on-clay Karolina Pliskova in the second round and that will be a massive opportunity to get a big win for Anastasija.