Madrid Monday: Vika Back On The Clay

Victoria Azarenka makes her 2013 clay court debut, and Maria Sharapova puts her clay court win streak on the line at the Mutua Madrid Open.

Published May 05, 2013 11:41

Madrid Monday: Vika Back On The Clay
Victoria Azarenka

MADRID, Spain - The first round of the Mutua Madrid Open wraps up with several compelling match-ups, including Victoria Azarenka getting her clay court season started against an in-form opponent and Maria Sharapova trying to extend her lengthy winning streak on the dirt.

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Monday, First Round

Manolo Santana
[3] Victoria Azarenka (BLR #3) vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS #19)
Head-to-head: Azarenka leads 3-0
While Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova has yet to attain a victory against former World No.1 Victoria Azarenka, this may be her best chance yet. She is fresh off her first WTA clay title in Oeiras, second WTA title of the season and fifth of her career. And she has been in especially good form since hiring former World No.1 Martina Hingis as her coach last month.

Though Azarenka is a two-time finalist here, only one of her 16 WTA titles has come on clay - Marbella in 2011. On top of that, a right ankle injury that has kept her out of action since she withdrew from her quarterfinal match in Indian Wells could make her ripe for an upset. Nevertheless, she is technically undefeated on the season at 17-0 - with only injuries sending her out of tournaments.

[2] Maria Sharapova (RUS #2) vs. [Q] Alexandra Dulgheru (ROU #334)
Head-to-head: Sharapova leads 1-0
The stakes are high for Maria Sharapova in Madrid, as she has a chance to take the World No.1 ranking from Serena Williams. Though clay hasn't always been Sharapova's favorite surface, she has become downright dominant on it. She comes into Madrid riding a 16-match winning streak on the dirt - three short of Venus Williams' streak in 2004 for best streak on the surface among active players. She also has the best winning percentage among active players on clay, and her latest title in Stuttgart a week ago gave her seven WTA titles on clay - tied for third-most among active players.

Though Madrid hasn't been Sharapova's best event, she has improved a bit each year, having lost in the first round in 2010, third round in 2011 and quarterfinals in 2012.

As for Dulgheru, the former Top 30 player has fallen on hard times as of late in trying to recover from knee injuries that plagued her for much of the last two years. But in her one previous meeting with Sharapova in the Miami quarters in 2011, she extended her all the way to a third set tie-break in an almost three and a half hour battle. Should she pull off the upset, it would be her fourth Top 10 win.

[9] Samantha Stosur (AUS #9) vs. Carla Suárez Navarro (ESP #23)
Head-to-head: Stosur leads 2-1
Samantha Stosur will be out for revenge against Carla Suárez Navarro, as the Spaniard beat her in the first round of the 2012 Summer Olympics in their last match-up. Stosur will likely have her hands full again, as she is trying to overcome a calf injury that has slowed her down recently. And Suárez Navarro is fresh off her second runner-up showing of the season on clay in Oeiras Spain's top-ranked player is seeking her seventh career Top 10 win against a player also comfortable on clay, with Stosur being a former French Open finalist.

Around the grounds…
Agnieszka Radwanska versus Laura Robson, the youngest player in the Top 50, and Sara Errani against Sorana Cirstea are among the Stadium 3 second round showdowns to keep an eye on.

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