All eyes are turning to the Mutua Madrid Open this week, a combined event between the ATP and the WTA. On this week’s Monday Digest, we have a look at who to keep an eye on as play gets underway in the Spanish capital, as well as a round-up of the highlights from last week.
The Mutua Madrid Open, a WTA 1000 event, is well under way having started last Thursday. The world’s biggest names are playing in Spain this week, with Ashleigh Barty, Simona Halep, and Aryna Sabalenka leading the charge. Sadly, for Canadian fans, no Canadian women feature in the Madrid singles draw, as Leylah Fernandez fell short in the qualifying round, and World No. 6 Bianca Andreescu has to remain in quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19 upon arrival in Madrid – but she’s recovering quickly!
However, the doubles draw still features Canada’s current best doubles player: Gaby Dabrowski joins her partner Demi Schuurs as the No. 3-seeded team. Dabrowski is looking to go one better this year, having reached the final in 2019.
In the men’s singles draw, Denis Shapovalov and Félix Auger-Aliassime are seeded Nos. 11 and 15 respectively. World No. 14 Denis Shapovalov, who suffered early-round defeats in his previous clay tournaments, is looking to improve his record on the dirt this year.
Self-belief is not the problem for the Canadian, though: “It doesn’t matter who’s on the other side, I’m going to play my game and when it clicks, then it clicks,” Shapovalov said in an interview with the ATP. “I don’t know if it’s ever a specific moment or not, but it just happens.”
World No. 20 Auger-Aliassime is also in the search of some magic in his game. After convincingly beating countryman Shapovalov in the third round in Barcelona a couple weeks ago, the Montrealer was the better player for the start of the first set against Monte Carlo champion Stefanos Tsitsipas before the Greek elevated his level to win the match. Auger-Aliassime’s only appearance in the Madrid main draw was in 2019, when he lost to Rafael Nadal in the second round.
Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov have also entered the doubles draw, the older Canadian teaming up with former doubles World No. 3 and 2015 Madrid doubles champion Rohan Bopanna. 20-year-old Auger-Aliassime will try to win his second ATP Masters 1000 title in doubles with partner Hubert Hurkacz, the team having also won the title at the Paris Rolex Masters last year.
In an action-packed first week, many women already kicked off their campaigns in the Madrid Open. Most notably, Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka was ousted by unseeded player Karolina Muchova. The Czech also made the semi-finals at the Australian Open earlier this year, where she lost to Jennifer Brady. The No. 11-seeded American could face off against Muchova in their next round.
In the two ATP 250 tournaments that preceeded the Madrid Open this week, higher-ranked players such as Alexander Zverev and Canada’s Denis Shapovalov were trying to get some match practice. Both were surprised by inspired opposition, though: the 22 year old from Ontario being ousted in his first macth against Frenchman Corentin Moutet, and the German losing to qualifier Ilya Ivashka in the quarter-finals.
It was, though, the time to shine for two former Top 20 players: Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas lifted the trophy in Estoril, and Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili took the title in Munich, both in tough matches that ended in tie-breaks. The two winners also denied first career titles to both finalists, with Ramos-Vinolas stopping Britain’s Cameron Norrie in his second ATP Tour final, and Basilashvili frustrating home-favourite Jan Lennard-Struff.
With the win in Estoril, the Spaniard is back into the World’s Top 40 for the first time since March 2020, with a career-high of No. 17 reached in 2017. For Basilashvili, the title in Munich is the second to his name in 2021, and fifth overall. The Georgian’s first title in 2021 came in Doha, in a run that saw him cut short Roger Federer’s comeback on tour after more than a year sidelined with a knee injury.
Outside of the biggest stages in the world, Canadians will play to try and find glory in the Challenger tour and ITF tournaments. Good results in these smaller events are important for them to raise their rankings and give them more access to WTA and ATP tour-level tournaments.
This week, Torontonian Katherine Sebov fights through the qualifying in order to secure her place into the main draw of the W100 Charleston, an ITF tournament. Sebov will try to add a second ITF title to her name, and first since winning the ITF 60k event in Saguenay, Québec, in 2018. She was also a finalist on four other occasions.