WTA Insider breaks down the draw at the Mutua Madrid Open, where World No.2 Petra Kvitova is looking to do something no woman has done before.
WTA Insider Courtney Nguyen
May 3, 2019

MADRID, Spain - The draw is out for the 2019 Mutua Madrid Open, the third Premier Mandatory event of the season. No.1 Naomi Osaka, No.2 Petra Kvitova, No.3 Simona Halep, and No.4 Angelique Kerber are the top four seeds. 

See the full draw here

In addition to Madrid seeing 19 of the Top 20 women in the draw, it will also see the 2019 European clay debuts of 2018 Rome champion Elina Svitolina, 2018 Roland Garros finalist Sloane Stephens, Miami champion Ashleigh Barty, Charleston champion Madison Keys, and Caroline Wozniacki.

Tournament Snapshot:

Top 16 seeds: No.1 Naomi Osaka, No.2 Petra Kvitova, No.3 Simona Halep, No.4 Angelique Kerber, No.5 Karolina Pliskova No.6 Elina Svitolina, No.7 Kiki Bertens, No.8 Sloane Stephens, No.9 Ashleigh Barty, No.10 Aryna Sabalenka, No.11 Caroline Wozniacki, No.12 Anastasija Sevastova, No.13 Madison Keys, No.14 Anett Kontaveit, No.15 Wang Qiang, No.16 Julia Goerges.

Top Half: Osaka, Halep, Pliskova, Svitolina
Bottom Half: Kvitova, Kerber, Bertens, Stephens

Projected Round of 16: Osaka vs. Kontaveit, Pliskova vs. Sabalenka, Halep vs. Goerges, Svitolina vs. Barty, Stephens vs. Wozniacki, Kerber vs. Wang Qiang, Bertens vs. Sevastova, Kvitova vs. Keys. 

Last year: Petra Kvitova d. Kiki Bertens 7-6, 4-6, 6-3

Injury and illness concerns cast cloud over top half.

Four of the top eight seeds come into the Madrid Open with health and fitness concerns, and they're all in the top half of the draw. Top seed Naomi Osaka is still working her way back from an abdominal injury that knocked her out of the Stuttgart semifinal, No.3 Simona Halep has caught a cold, No.5 Karolina Pliskova is coming back from a viral illness she caught after Miami, and No.6 Elina Svitolina continues to manage a knee injury, which forced her out of Stuttgart. 

WTA Insider Clay Court Power Rankings: Kvitova surges after Stuttgart, Kontaveit makes Top 10 debut

Halep is the least concerned of the bunch. A champion in Madrid in 2016 and 2017, Halep withdrew from the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix due to a hip injury she sustained at Fed Cup. The good news is Halep told reporters she feels 'fully refreshed' after her 10 days off. The bad news is she picked up a minor cold on her way to Madrid. But the No.3 seed is entered in both singles and doubles and did not sound too concerned. 

Halep has a workable draw to go deep once again in Madrid. Drawn in the top half of the draw with Osaka, she opens against a qualifier. The first seed she could face is No.16 seed Julia Goerges, who is battling a back injury. The other top seed anchoring Halep's quarter is No.6 Elina Svitolina, who is managing a knee injury that forced her to withdraw from Stuttgart. The remaining seed in Halep's quarter is No.9 Ashleigh Barty, who is playing her first clay event. 

READ: Simona Halep undeterred by injury - 'My level was higher than I expected'

World No.1 Naomi Osaka enjoyed a confidence-building start to her clay season, making the semifinals of Stuttgart. Since then she has been rehabilitating her abdominal injury and says she only started serving again on Thursday. It's not an easy draw for Osaka from the start, as she'll open against 2009 French Open semifinalist Dominika Cibulkova, before facing one of two Spanish dirtballers, in Lara Arruabarrena and Sara Sorribes Tormo. 

READ: Naomi Osaka hits back at critics, preaches perspective after Stuttgart run

Get through the early rounds and Osaka could face Stuttgart finalist Anett Kontaveit or Elise Mertens, before a possible quarterfinal against Pliskova, Aryna Sabalenka, or Belinda Bencic. That's a tough quarter for Osaka. 

Petra Kvitova's title defense is on.

Fresh off her title run in Stuttgart, No.2 Petra Kvitova is looking to become the first woman to win a Premier Mandatory tournament four times. Last year she won the tournament running on fumes, having come straight into Madrid off an emotional win in Prague. This year, Kvitova is well-rested and full of confidence after going through a quality field in Stuttgart. 

Champions Corner: Kvitova races away in Stuttgart - 'I'm proud of the consistency I have'

Kvitova opens against young American Sofia Kenin, who is having a breakout season but has yet to defeat a Top 100 player on clay, and could face No.13 seed and Charleston champion Madison Keys, who herself may have to fend off Hsieh Su-Wei in the second round. 

Get through the early rounds and Kvitova could see a rematch of last year's final against Kiki Bertens in the quarterfinals.

Sloane Stephens debuts under Sven Groeneveld

The 2018 Roland Garros finalist's search for a new head coach finally landed on veteran coach Sven Groeneveld. The American announced the partnership this week - after announcing another impending union - and will be playing her first European clay event this week. Stephens' first foray on clay was on the green dirt of the Volvo Car Open, where she lost in the quarterfinals in three tough sets to eventual champion Madison Keys. Stephens has a tough road to the quarterfinals, opening against a qualifier before either Daria Kasatkina or a surging Victoria Azarenka, with Caroline Wozniacki looming as her first seeded opponent in the third round. 

Speaking of Keys, the 2018 Roland Garros semifinalist gets her red clay season underway this week as well. After her title run in Charleston, Keys headed to Texas for Fed Cup duties and has had the last two weeks to prepare for Europe. She opens against Sorana Cirstea and could face Kvitova in the third round, which would be a battle of the winners of the two biggest clay events so far. 

Champions Corner: Madison Keys comes to terms on clay - 'I've held a little bit of a grudge'

Ashleigh Barty slides into the clay season.

The Australian, who made the final at two of the four tournaments she's played this season, including a win at the Miami Open, takes her 18-3 record onto her least favored surface. Every clay season is a learning experience for Barty, who says it's not that she can't play on clay, it's just that she hasn't had the experience. The quicker conditions of Madrid could make for an easier transition for Barty, whose all-court game should be perfect on clay.

READ: Ashleigh Barty on clay - 'It's a challenging part of the year'

Barty has a good opportunity to come out of her small section of the draw. She opens against her Fed Cup teammate Daria Gavrilova - who could pull off the upset given her comfort on clay - with Danielle Collins and a possibly-still ailing Svitolina in the third round.  

Notable first round matches: Osaka vs. Cibulkova, Sabalenka vs. Kuznetsova, Van Uytvanck vs. Bencic, Pliskova vs. Yastremska, Sakkari vs. Suárez Navarro, Barty vs. Gavrilova, Kasatkina vs. Azarenka, Cornet vs. Wozniacki, Wang Qiang vs. Vekic, Martic vs. Muguruza, Pavlyuchenkova vs. Ostapenko, Hsieh Su-Wei vs. Garcia.