>> Saturday, May 5, 2012
As the draw was announced for the 2012 Mutua Madrid Open, it became apparent that tennis fans may see another duel between world no. 1 Victoria Azarenka vs world no. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska as both players were placed in the top half of the draw. Azarenka leads the main singles draw of the Madrid tennis tournament featuring all top 10 players in attendance, and she arrives with a point to prove - after winning her first four tournaments of the season she has come away empty-handed at her last two, falling in the quarterfinals of Miami and the finals of Stuttgart. But she is still the match win leader for the year, with a sparkling 29-2 record, and is the No.1 seed here in Madrid.
And guess who's behind Azarenka with 28 wins in the WTA tour? It's none other than Poland's Radwanska who will become the world no. 3 player when the rankings are announced next Monday, the highest career ranking for any Polish player. Radwanska and Azarenka has battled five times this year already, with all matches going in the way of the Belarussian and Radwanska's only losses this year is at the hands of the world no. 1. Azarenka has what is maybe the most intriguing opener of all the seeds, and probably the trickiest: former world no. 2 Svetlana Kuznetsova. Although Azarenka won their only 2012 meeting handily, Kuznetsova has serious credentials on clay, winning the French Open in 2009, and she has won both of their clay court meetings.
If Azarenka gets by Kuznetsova, she will face a qualifier in the second round, before a potential third rounder with another former French Open champ Ana Ivanovic, the no. 13-seed. Yet another French Open champion could meet Azarenka in the quarterfinals as she is seeded to meet world no. 8 Na Li. Li is in a tricky section of the draw herself as she is most likely to face no. 12-seed Angelique Kerber or former world no. 1 Venus Williams to advance to the quarterfinals. Quadrant Favorite: AZARENKA. Unseeded Darkhorse: VENUS.
Radwanska's quadrant of the draw is perhaps the easiest amongst the four but it is a tricky one as well. Radwanska is seeded to meet no. 14-seed Dominika Cibulkova in the round of 16, while the other top players who she may meet in the quarterfinals are world no. 7 Marion Bartoli and former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone, the no. 11-seed. But it may be Sara Errani, the Italian who has won 3 clay court tournaments this year already who would be Radwanska's greatest challenge. Errani is a potential second round opponent for Radwanska. Quadrant Favorite: RADWANSKA. Unseeded Darkhorse: Errani.
Related Article: Serena vs Sharapova, Kvitova lead players in 2012 Madrid Open's bottom half of the draw
On a side note, it is getting hard to pick against Azarenka in any tournament. Her numbers this year are pretty impressive. See some stats below:
Most singles titles (2011: 6 - Kvitova & Wozniacki)
4 - Azarenka (Sydney, Australian Open, Doha, Indian Wells)
Longest singles match win streak (2011: 12 - Clijsters, Kvitova & S.Williams)
26 - Azarenka (Won Sydney, Won Australian Open, Won Doha, Won Indian Wells, QFs of Miami)
Fewest games lost in winning singles title (2011: 13 - Lisicki @ Dallas)
1-S.Williams (15/Charleston), 2-Azarenka (18/Doha), 3-Radwanska (24/Miami) & Errani (24/Barcelona)
Top 5 Winners & Runners-Up by country:
Russia: 1 title; 5 runner-up
Belarus: 4 titles; 1 runner-up
Germany: 3 titles; 1 runner-up
Italy: 2 titles; 2 runner-up
Slovakia: 1 title; 2 runner-up