MADRID, SPAIN - The draw at the Mutua Madrid Open is out and the top seeds will have to be sharp at the outset as a number of upsets may be in the cards. Main draw play begins on Saturday, May 6th. Click here to view the draw.
Top Eight Seeds: Angelique Kerber, Karolina Pliskova, Simona Halep, Dominika Cibulkova, Garbiñe Muguruza, Johanna Konta, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Madison Keys (No.7 seed Agnieszka Radwanska withdrew with a right foot injury).
Top Half: Kerber, Cibulkova, Kuznetsova, Keys.
Bottom Half: Pliskova, Halep, Muguruza, Konta.
Projected Quarterfinals: Kerber vs. Kuznetsova, Cibulkova vs. Keys, Konta vs. Halep, Pliskova vs. Muguruza.
Last year's final: Simona Halep d. Dominika Cibulkova, 6-2, 6-4.
Five thoughts on a brutal draw in Madrid
Halep's title defense is on: The No.3 seed has been drawn into the bottom half of the draw and looks tough on paper. But when you factor in the surface and tournament histories, she emerges as a strong front-runner to make a deep run. Aside from Stosur, the remaining seeds in the bottom half of the draw are primarily hard court stalwarts.
Pliskova, Konta, Muguruza, and Wozniacki have had solid hardcourt seasons, but they've stumbled early on the clay (none of the four have yet to make a quarterfinal on the surface).
"I'm looking forward to start the tournament. It's a little bit of pressure of course, but it's a nice pressure."
Halep has looked like a new player on clay, winning twice during Fed Cup (with a win over Konta, who she could face in the quarterfinals) and making the semifinals at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, where she ran into the buzzsaw that was Laura Siegemund.
She's been in Madrid since Tuesday to prepare for the tournament and she looks ready to go. Madrid is where her 2016 began in earnest last year. It could happen again this year.
Tough draws for Kerber and Muguruza: The German is the top seed in the draw but she's tempering her expectations as she enters a section of the season that has not been fruitful in the past. Kerber has made the quarterfinals in Madrid just once, and that came all the way back in 2013.
She opens against big-hitting Timea Babos, whose big serve should thrive in this altitude, and then could play a surging Katerina Siniakova, with Sharpova looming in the third round.
"It's not the best tournament that I played in the last few years," Kerber said. "I lost the last few years in the first round so to be honest, I'm not expecting too much. But to be honest, I think maybe that's the way to play here, to look forward to my first round and play day by day and trying to play good tennis here."
As for Spain's No.1, Muguruza will look to rebound from a three set loss to Anett Kontaveit last week in Stuttgart. Her draw is no help. Muguruza opens her tournament against one of the game's best on clay, Timea Bacsinszky, with Kiki Bertens or Ekaterina Makarova waiting in the second round.
The draw could thin out if she clears those two hurdles, but Muguruza will have to hit the ground running.
"I think it will be a very tough first round. I would say she's like a seeded player almost, and she's not. I think it's good. The more tough matches I have the more prepared I will be."
Keep an eye on Svetlana Kuznetsova and Elina Svitolina: No.8 seed Kuznetsova and No.11 Svitolina are drawn into the same section in the top quarter that includes Kerber and Sharapova.
With questions still surrounding Kerber's form (and her rough history in Madrid) as well as Sharapova's potentially tricky draw against flat-hitting Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in the first round, this quarter could open up early.
This is potentially a great draw for both Svitolina and Kuznetsova, who have shown strong form on hard courts and who should be on everyone's short list to transition that momentum seamlessly to the clay. Svitolina comes into Madrid having won her third title of the season at the TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Cup on clay.
The two could face off in the third round. Kuznetsova was a finalist here in Madrid in 2015.
Konta has the toughest draw of all: Konta is still trying to find her legs on clay and told reporters her improvement on the surface could take a few seasons. She'll face a stiff test in the first round against Stuttgart champion Siegemund and then could potentially have to roll through CoCo Vandeweghe, whose big serve could do damage here, with Wozniacki and Halep possibly waiting before the semifinals.
"It's a very difficult [opening] match. I'm playing someone, Laura, who's coming off a great result in Stuttgart. She beat a lot of great players so I know she's playing well on this surface. I'm looking forward to the challenge, to play someone who's playing well on this surface and improve my game as well."
Matches to Watch:
First Round: Kerber vs. Babos, Cornet vs. Bouchard, Sharapova vs. Lucic-Baroni, Mladenovic-Konjuh, Bellis-Gavrilova, Konta-Siegemund, Wozniacki-Niculescu, Vinci-Kasatkina, Muguruza-Bacsinszky, Strycova-Safarova, Ka.Pliskova vs. Tsurenko.
Potential Second Rounds: Kerber vs. Siniakova, Sharapova vs. Cornet/Bouchard, Mladenovic vs. Puig, Pavlyuchenkova vs. Gavrilova, Keys vs. Putintseva, Konta/Siegemund vs. Vandeweghe, Stosur vs. Goerges, Halep vs. Kasatkina, Vesnina vs. Schiavone.