Kiki Bertens and Petra Kvitova, two players who have had tremendous, title-winning success at the Mutua Madrid Open, advanced to the second round on Manolo Santana Arena on Monday.
No.7 seed Bertens, the defending champion, eliminated 15-year-old WTA main-draw debutante Victoria Jiménez Kasintseva of Andorra, 6-4, 6-0, in the opening match on the centre court.
No.9 seed Kvitova, a three-time Madrid champion (2011, 2015, and 2018) claimed a 6-2, 2-3, ret. victory over her fellow Czech Marie Bouzkova. Bouzkova unfortunately had to retire from their match after injuring her right hand during a fall in the second set.
For Bertens, her win over the teenager from Andorra came at an opportune time. The 2019 Madrid titlist had only played three WTA events thus far this season, as she continues a comeback from Achilles tendon surgery, and had failed to win a match at any of them.
A win at the Billie Jean King Cup team event earlier in the month helped Bertens get back on track, and the World No.10 at last attained a win at a WTA event this year with her 64-minute victory over World No.901 Jiménez Kasintseva.
15-year-old Jiménez Kasintseva, who won the 2020 Australian Open junior singles title, was making her WTA main-draw debut this week at the Mutua Madrid Open as a wildcard, playing her first-ever match against a Top 100 player.
Jiménez Kasintseva, who became the first-ever player from Andorra to appear in a WTA main draw, exhibited great groundstroke skills, especially in the opening set.
But Bertens was too strong overall against the left-hander, winning 63 percent of her return points and converting six of her nine break points to win her opener in Madrid for the fourth time in a row. 2019 champion Bertens is 12-1 in her last 13 matches in Madrid -- she also reached the final in 2018, losing to Kvitova.
As the match commenced, powerful forehands by Bertens gave her an early 3-1 edge, but the teenager was unfazed and converted her fourth break point in the next game to surge back on serve.
Bertens again went up a break at 5-3 after ending a rally with a backhand passing winner, but she was unable to serve out the set as Jiménez Kasintseva hit consecutive backhand winners down the line to break the defending champion once again.
However, Bertens notched the one-set lead in the following game, forcing errors from the Andorran with deep, heavy hitting.
With the momentum firmly in her favor, Bertens collected an early break at love with a backhand crosscourt winner to lead 2-0, and the experience of the former World No.4 swept her to victory over the talented teen from there. Bertens prevented Jiménez Kasintseva from hitting a single winner in the second set as the defending champion booked a spot in the second round.
As for Kvitova, the three-time Mutua Madrid Open champion came into her match against her 22-year-old compatriot with a commanding 29-7 win-loss record at the event. However, Bouzkova had pushed her mightily in their only previous meeting before Kvitova prevailed at the Western & Southern Open last season.
After an early exchange of breaks in the first two games, it was Kvitova who took charge in the second set, dominating with powerful service returns to move ahead by a break at 3-2. Kvitova never looked back from there in the opener, sweeping the last five games of the set. Kvitova had 17 winners in the first set, while Bouzkova was only allowed three winners during that timeframe.
56th-ranked Bouzkova steeled herself and took an early 2-0 lead in the second set, but a fall during that game caused her to take a medical time-out mid-game for treatment.
Bouzkova would go on to hold for 3-0, but the injury persisted and Kvitova pulled back on serve at 3-2. Bouzkova would only play one point in that game before she deemed herself unable to continue, and Kvitova moved past her fellow Czech under unfortunate circumstances.
"I hope that she will be okay," Kvitova said, in her post-match press conference. "I think she really still played quite okay. But, yeah, the end of the match is really tough to describe."
Now into the second round after her 30th career match-win at the event, World No.12 Kvitova will next take on Angelique Kerber in a clash between left-handers and Grand Slam champions.
"It's quite a long time when we played each other [last]," said Kvitova, looking forward to her match against Kerber. "She's a lefty so that will be a big challenge. I think she is still working very hard. That's what I know, still fighting and everything."
Along with No.7 seed Bertens and No.9 seed Kvitova, No.8 seed Belinda Bencic also clinched a spot in the second round, after dispatching Kristina Mladenovic, 6-4, 6-2, in an hour and 19 minutes.
Bencic was a perfect 4-for-4 on break points as she won their first meeting since the 2019 Moscow semifinals and leveled their head-to-head at 3-3.
World No.11 Bencic fired 21 winners to just 15 unforced errors in the match as a whole. The Swiss player was particularly solid in the second set, during which time she won 87 percent of points on her first serve and never faced a break point.
Bencic will meet qualifier Bernarda Pera of the United States in the second round. Pera also dispatched her first-round opponent, upsetting Petra Martic 6-3, 6-2 in just 76 minutes on Monday.