Iga Swiatek (L) and Paula Badosa.
The main draw action at the 2022 Madrid Open is about to begin on April 28, as the qualifying rounds are already underway. The season’s first WTA 1000 tournament on clay always presents a challenge because of its altitude.
Simona Halep, twice a champion and runner-up at Caja Majica, returns to action after being sidelined due to an injury in the last few weeks. During this time, she has also teamed up with Patrick Mouratoglou, the former coach of Serena Williams. All eyes will be on them to see how the collaboration pans out.
Petra Kvitova holds the record for most titles at the Madrid Open with three trophies, but the Czech has been far from her best this year. Belinda Bencic kicked off her claycourt season by winning the Charleston Open a couple of weeks ago. The Swiss will be eager to continue her winning ways in the Spanish capital as well.
Danielle Collins has played some good tennis this year, but frequent injuries have prevented her from gaining a semblance of momentum. The American returns to action after yet another injury layoff. Emma Raducanu is still a novice on clay, but the teenager has shown plenty of promise in her few matches on the surface so far.
Given her recent dominance, World No. 1 Iga Swiatek is obviously the overwhelming favorite for the title. But there are a few other players who have been waiting in the wings to upstage her and have their moment under the sun. So here’s a look at the players who could win the Madrid Open.
#5) Simona Halep
Simona Halep at the 2019 Madrid Open.
Simona Halep posted some consistent results prior to her injury. She won her 23rd career title at the Melbourne Summer Set and then reached the fourth round of the Australian Open. The former World No. 1 was also a semifinalist in Dubai and Indian Wells.
While the Madrid Open will be Halep’s first tournament in almost a month, which gives her a slim chance at winning a WTA 1000 event. However, given her past record here, one can never count her out. She has won two titles from four finals. The Romanian is one of the best clay court players of her generation, having won nine titles on the surface, including the French Open.
If Halep gets going and builds some momentum, it’ll be a tough task for the rest of the tour to stop her.
#4) Aryna Sabalenka
Aryna Sabalenka at the 2021 Madrid Open.
Aryna Sabalenka is the defending champion at the Madrid Open. Last year, she defeated World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty to lift the trophy. But after her considerable success in 2021, the Belarusian has endured a turbulent season this year.
After an inconsistent hardcourt season, Sabalenka seems to have found her footing on clay. She showed some glimpses of her past form in her third-round loss to Amanda Anisimova at the Charleston Open.
At the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, Sabalenka reached the final for the second straight year. She defeated 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu in the second round. She then followed it up with wins over top-10 players Anett Kontaveit and Paula Badosa. The Belarusian fell to a red-hot Iga Swiatek in the title round.
Despite the loss, Sabalenka enjoyed a good week in Stuttgart and seems to be peaking just in time for her title defense at the Madrid Open.
#3) Maria Sakkari
Maria Sakkari at the 2022 Miami Open.
Maria Sakkari has enjoyed considerable success this year. She reached her first WTA 1000 final at the Indian Wells Masters, losing to Iga Swiatek in straight sets. She also reached the final in St. Petersburg and the semifinals in Qatar.
Sakkari failed to get past her opening round at the Miami Open. Her claycourt season was also off to a disappointing start, as she had to retire from a second-round match in Stuttgart. The Greek’s record at the Madrid Open isn’t that great either, having never been past the third round so far.
However, Sakkari’s quite competent on clay, having reached the semifinals of Roland Garros last year and winning her only career title on the surface as well. Making the last four in Paris also seems to have made her more confident as she has posted consistent results since, reaching a career high of World No. 3 after her run to the final in Indian Wells last month. If she’s fully fit, there’s a good chance she’ll get back to her winning ways in Madrid.
#2) Paula Badosa
Paula Badosa at the 2021 Madrid Open.
Paula Badosa’s consistent results have seen her reach a career-high ranking of World No. 2 this week. She started the year by winning her third career title in Sydney and reaching the fourth round of the Australian Open. She lost early in tournaments in Dubai and Qatar but has performed quite well since then.
Badosa started her claycourt season at the Charleston Open, losing to eventual winner Belinda Bencic in the quarterfinals. She then reached the semifinals in Stuttgart. Last year’s Madrid Open marked the turning point in the Spaniard’s career.
Badosa reached the biggest semifinal of her career at that point in Madrid and has blossomed into an elite player since that result. She has now returned to the tournament as a leading contender for the title.
#1) Iga Swiatek
Iga Swiatek at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix.
Iga Swiatek continues her win-streak as she sweeps aside her opponents without a fuss. The 2020 Roland Garros champion is currently on a 23-match win streak and has won four titles on the trot, while also claiming the World No. 1 ranking last month.
Swiatek is miles ahead of her contemporaries at the moment and is the favorite to win the Madrid Open. She’s especially at her best during the finals, dropping a mere 15 games across the four title rounds that she has contested over the last two months.
Such dominance by a single player is quite rare on the WTA tour. Swiatek became the first player since Serena Williams in 2013-14 to win four consecutive titles.
She made her debut at the Madrid Open last year. After defeating Alison Riske and Laura Siegemund, she lost to World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty in straight sets in the third round.