Under a blanket of clouds on a cold day in Madrid, the march towards the sharp end of the Mutua Madrid Open provided a significant challenge for the strongest players in the tournament. In difficult conditions and a humid atmosphere, competitors were playing for their place in the semi-finals. Notching up a fourth victory at the Caja Mágica means you are just two steps away from the title, but this is easier said than done when the prize is one of the most coveted crowns on tour.
Simona Halep demonstrated her conviction as she sealed her passage to the Mutua Madrid Open semi-finals with a convincing 6-1, 6-1 win over US player CoCo Vandeweghe. The tournament’s Romanian defending champion continued to improve on the clay as she placed herself just two matches away from protecting the trophy she lifted twelve months back.
It was the first time the two had met on the women’s tour and the world number 8 was able to dictate the tempo from the baseline throughout. After requiring nearly three hours on court the previous day to knock out Spaniard Carla Suárez, despite her best efforts, Vandeweghe was unable to contain the Romanian’s consistency.
Halep’s desire when receiving was patent, and she produced some impressive stats on her way to victory, with five breaks from seven games on the return and as many as 56% of the points when Vandeweghe was serving.
The result means Simona Halep has booked a place in the semi-finals against Anastasija Sevastova, whose impressive run continued as she beat Dutch player Kiki Bertens 6-3, 6-3. The Latvian WTA world number 22, who has won one WTA singles title to her name, will be looking for a ticket to the most important final of her career.
There is nothing between Sevastova and Halep in their head-to-head (3-3), the first match of which came in 2009, both of their last matches were on clay.
On the other hand, Kristina Mladenovic maintained her momentum to reach the Mutua Madrid Open semi-finals for the first time in her career. The French player, number 14 seed and recent finalist on the clay in Stuttgart, booked her place among the 4 best in the Caja Mágica after defeating wildcard Sorana Cirstea 6-4, 6-4.
Mladenovic now faces a semi-final clash against Svetlana Kuznetsova, who defeated Canadian player Eugenie Bouchard 6-4, 6-0 in one hour and 17 minutes. The Russian, who reached the final in 2015, will be bidding for another chance in the title match two years since her last attempt on the Madrid clay.
Mladenovic has played Kuznetsova once and beaten her once, but this will be their first meeting on clay.