Karolina Muchova continued her strong 2023 season with a 6-2, 6-2 defeat of Anett Kontaveit in 1 hour and 21 minutes to reach the second round of the Mutua Madrid Open.
Muchova, the former World No.19, is on the comeback trail this year after enduring abdominal and ankle injuries in 2022. She already has two WTA 1000 quarterfinal showings under her belt, in Dubai and Indian Wells, and her overall 2023 record is now 16-5 (14-5 in WTA main draws).
Kontaveit is also making a return from injury, though at a much earlier stage than Muchova. The Estonian was ranked No.2 as recently as last August but is at No.87 this week as she has struggled with a back problem.
She had not played a tour match since retiring against Shelby Rogers in the second round of Abu Dhabi in February. Kontaveit returned to action in Billie Jean King Cup Group II action a fortnight ago, notching three wins over opponents ranked outside the Top 300 but losing to World No.151 Despina Papamichail.
Muchova came into the match with a 2-0 head-to-head lead over Kontaveit, having defeated her at Roland Garros and Wimbledon in 2019. She maintained that unbeaten record with a solid performance, striking 18 winners to 14 unforced errors and delivering a number of her signature drop shots.
Kontaveit's rust showed as she racked up 20 unforced errors to only nine winners. After dropping serve in the opening game, the 27-year-old's best passage of play came as she broke back and held to lead a 2-1 lead. But Muchova responded by reeling off seven straight games to take a 2-0 second-set lead and cruised to the finish line. She will next face No.31 seed Irina-Camelia Begu.
Elisabetta Cocciaretto was another notable early winner at the fourth WTA 1000 event of the year. Cocciaretto held off a determined effort from former World No.16 Barbora Strycova to progress 6-3, 7-5 and set up a second-round meeting with No.26 seed Paula Badosa.
Strycova, 37, was playing her first match since the 2021 Australian Open and since giving birth to her first son Vincent in September that year. She showed flashes of her vintage creative form in the early stages and fought hard to force a tiebreak from 5-2 down in the second set. But the No.50-ranked Cocciaretto converted her fourth match point for the win.