Today was the second day of main draw action in Madrid and the first mens matches were completed. 9 of the 13 seeds that played their first round today were successful, leaving the seeds with a 69% success rate.
Our feature match saw the defending champion Simona Halep get her campaign off to a flying start as she breezed past Kristyna Pliskova 6-1, 6-2 in under an hour. Halep looked impressive but Pliskova looked exhausted as she had played the Prague final just over 24 hours before this match. Halep was hitting her backhand with particular force and she was carving out a lot of good angles and winners. Pliskova got her first service hold in the opener but after that she could barely reach a lot of Halep’s balls. She lost four straight games and dropped the opener without putting up much of a fight. Halep broke in the first games of the second set and then broke again in the middle of the set to go up 5-2 on serve. Pliskova had a couple of break points when Halep was trying to serve it out but the Romanian held her nerve and managed to take the match. Halep looks good and she doesn’t seem to be feeling the pressure of defending all the points she has from last year. I have Halep down to win the title and I think she will win the French Open later this year so this is a good start to her first tournament on outdoor clay.
In the biggest upset and shock of the day Timea Bacsinszky got the better of the home favourite and defending Rolland Garros champion Garbine Muguruza in a 6-1, 6-3 match. Muguruza played a dreadful match and couldn’t hit all ball in the court when the important points were in play. Muguruza hasn’t been able to piece it together for majority of the year and I would be worried about defending her French Open crown if I were her. Muguruza started well as she broke Bacsinszky in the first game of the match but she then went on to lose six straight games in a one-sided set. Bacsinszky did play a wonderful set of tennis but a lot of it was Muguruza not being able to keep the rallies in play. The Spaniard started strongly as she started getting into the rallies and putting more pressure of Bacsinszky and she gained a 0-3 lead. After she got that lead she lost 6 straight games for the second time in the match and that cost her the first round as Bacsinszky pulled off the upset win. I think that Muguruza should do something like pull out of the rest of her tournaments till Paris and do a big training block, but I doubt that will happen.
There was a very dramatic match which saw Caroline Wozniacki miss opportunities to eventually close out a 7-5, 6-7(3-7), 6-4 win over Monica Niculescu. Wozniacki isn’t the best clay-court player with her playing style but she could have played better today and been that tiny but more aggressive when she got given short balls from the Romanian. Niculescu did serve for the first set at 4-5 but Wozniacki played a solid game and got the break and then Niculescu froze when trying to serve to stay in the set and the Dane took the opener. The second set was tight and the first real opportunity came when Wozniacki had match point when Niculescu was serving at 6-5. Wozniacki hit a rare unforced error on the match point and Niculescu took the match to a decider in the tiebreaker. Niculescu went up an early break in the final set but Wozniacki broke back and broke again for the opportunity to serve out the match at 5-4. She held her nerve and didn’t waste her second opportunity to close her first round match. I think Wozniacki will be happy that she got the win and it will give her some confidence that she managed to come from behind against Niculescu.
In the battle of the Czechs, Barbora Strycova got her third straight win over Lucie Safarova as she got the 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 victory on Pista 6. Neither woman was playing her best match today and there was quite a few more unforced errors than normal but it was Strycova who managed to get her game under control in the end. The two exchanged breaks on the way to 5-5 in the first set and eventually Strycova got broken while under pressure at 6-5 to give Safarova the set. Strycova played a really solid second set as she broke Safarova twice and saved both break points she faced on the way to forcing a decider. She carried her good play into the final set as she went up a break to lead 3-0. Safarova managed to break back from there and she levelled the score but by then Safarova looked to worn out and she lost the last three games of the match. Barbora Strycova will probably be happy with her final two sets as she played quite a solid game towards the end of her victory.