After a chock-full Sunday, Monday wasn’t any less busy with play at the Caja Magica, as the day’s action lasted from noon until well past midnight — including a withdrawal and several names tumbling out of the Mutua Madrid Open.
The biggest news of the day at the Mutua Madrid Open came early on the Monday afternoon — and was perhaps a sign of the on-court stories to come. Calling a press conference, Roger Federer announced his withdrawal from the tournament due to a back issue — but he wasn’t the only seed on the men’s side to leave the tournament on what was public holiday in Spain.
Belgium’s David Goffin lost his opening match in an encounter that went down to the wire, but in the end, Lucas Pouille ended up being the one who eked out the final set tie-break, and saved four match points to win, 7-6(4), 2-6, 7-6(7). The rest of the men’s matches went largely according to plan, even if Richard Gasquet was almost forced into a third set by Spanish qualifier Roberto Caballes Baena — and a vocal home crowd. Feliciano Lopez, who’s the only player to have played all 15 editions of the Mutua Madrid Open, made it past Leonardo Mayer in three pretty tight sets, ultimately prevailing 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-4.
“In the end, I think it’s been a pretty tight match,” Lopez said. “The first set, I just won in the tiebreak by a couple of points. I served pretty well, and then I missed two in the second set, and didn’t manage to come back. I had a couple break points but I didn’t manage to convert them and recover my lost serve in the second set. In the third set, I think I was playing a little bit better than him. I had a few more chances. When I was returning the ball I was doing well and serving pretty well. The games were good.”
Unlike in the men’s draw, where the Top 8 seeds won’t step into action before tomorrow, the Caja Magica turned into a Caja Tragica in the opening three days of the tournament for half of the Top 8 on the women’s side. After Roberta Vinci, Agnieszka Radwanska and Angelique Kerber fell on Sunday, Garbiñe Muguruza was the next big name to fall — as Irina-Camelia Begu rallied for the 5-7, 7-6(4), 6-3 win after Mugurza served for the match in the second set.
In the run up to Madrid, the No. 3 seed already mentioned that the pressure of playing in Madrid was going to be a challenge. While she cleared that hurdle in her opening match, Muguruza didn’t quite come up with her best tennis in the decisive moments of the second set against a rock-solid Begu.
“I think that it was very tough match,” she said. “It was very tight. She was playing really well. I had to give my best. In those moments of tension, I wasn’t able to play as good as I should’ve. It’s been very tight. I think I played really well. She played also really good points. She deserved to win. I didn’t find a formula to make damage to her, to put her level down. I think she played very well during all the match and I think that has created on me a little bit of strange feeling. I was playing well, but I wasn’t getting there.
“I have to say I’m a little bit disappointed. I fight a lot today. Sometimes you don’t win when you fight, so, that’s it.”
Muguruza was hardly the only seed to fall on Monday as Karolina Pliskova (No. 13), Elina Svitolina (No. 12), Sloane Stephens (No. 16) and Ana Ivanovic (No. 14) all lost their matches around the grounds.
“I felt like in the second set, she didn’t make any errors at all — I think the first errors came like at 5-0,” Ivanovic said after her three-set, 5-7, 6-1, 6-3 defeat at the hands of Louisa Chirico. “In the third set, I sort of got the balance right of being aggressive enough and not making errors, but as soon as I became a little bit too passive, she took advantage again and kind of got on top of it.”
Monday’s result is the latest in a run of patchy showings for Ivanovic in 2016 and while she maintains that she puts in the work both on and off-court, the frustration about her work not translating into results is slowly building up for the Serb.
“That’s what’s very frustrating, because I feel like I played a great match and then I don’t back it up,” she said. “I put so much work on court and off the court and it’s just, results are not happening. It’s very tough. I always feel these important points of a match, I always lose them and they always kind of go against me.”
Victoria Azarenka and Petra Kvitova, however, continued to march on and the Czech remains on a good path in the march towards a title defense in the Spanish capital. Azarenka dropped just five games against Alizé Cornet, 6-3, 6-2, despite struggling throughout much of the match. Kvitova, the No. 5 seed, defeated Elena Vesnina 6-3, 6-3 — even if it was tougher than the scoreline suggested, particularly as Kvitova’s serve never got firing throughout the match. The Czech served 47 percent in the match — including 39 percent in the second set — but Vesnina only managed to carve out one break point in each set, which were both saved.
“Yeah, definitely the start — it’s always kind of difficult and tricky, and I’m glad that I had two matches with only two sets,” she said. “I didn’t really lost my serve so far, which is unbelievable with my percentage today!”
For Kvitova, the decision to skip Fed Cup and prepare thoroughly for clay seems to pay off more and more with each tournament and match. The Czech looks in her best form of 2016 so far — on the surface where many would probably expect it the least.
“I’m happy with my performance right now,” she said. “I think I played great matches in Stuttgart, and especially two weeks before the Stuttgart, I had a good preparation on the clay with the two weeks.”
Last but not least, Spain’s David Ferrer won his first match in several weeks — having not played since Miami — as he took out compatriot Guillermo Garcia Lopez, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 and converted his first match point a little after 1 am local time to end a manic Monday in Madrid.
Starting tomorrow, the Top 8 seeds on the men’s side will take the court — as the women wrap up their second round matches.