Madrid Open draw does Emma Raducanu no favours

Emma Raducanu in action

Emma Raducanu has a mountain to climb to get into the third Round of the Madrid Open having been bracketed as a potential first opponent for world No 1 Iga Swiatek.

Swiatek headlines the top of the draw and will face the winner of the first round match between Raducanu and a qualifier.

The Stuttgart champion is 2-0 against Raducanu, most recently defeating the 2021 US Open titlist in the Round of 16 at Indian Wells earlier this season.

No 1 seed Swiatek has only competed in Madrid once before, bowing out in the Round of 16 in 2021, to then-World No 1 and eventual finalist Ashleigh Barty.

Swiatek was forced to withdraw from last year’s event owing to a shoulder complaint.

If seedings hold, Swiatek will face reigning Wimbledon champion and seventh seed Elena Rybakina in the last eight. Barbora Krejcikova, the 2021 Roland Garros winner, is also in a loaded section and could meet Rybakina in the Round of 16.

At the other end of the draw is world No 2 Aryna Sabalenka fresh off the disappointment of a third straight championship match loss in Stuttgart.

Her first opponent will be either Lauren Davis or Sorana Cirstea with the latter owning a recent victory over the Australian Open champion.

Cirstea stunned Sabalenka in the Miami quarterfinals last month but will have to get beyond the experienced American.

The bottom quarter also includes tenth seed Petra Kvitova, who will compete in her 100th WTA 1000 main draw in an event where she has previously excelled. Kvitova is a three-time Madrid Open champion, having won the event in 2011, 2015, and 2018.

Kvitova is seeded to face No 5 Caroline Garcia in the Round of 16. No 13 seed Beatriz Haddad Maia and 2021 US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez are also in the bottom quarter and will meet in the second Round if they both win their openers.

The second quarter is headlined by third seed Jessica Pegula.

Pegula, who was a finalist at this event last season, will play Jasmine Paolini or a qualifier following her first-round bye.

According to seeding, Pegula’s quarterfinal opponent should be Russian No 1 Daria Kasatkina.

Former World No 3 Elina Svitolina is competing in her first WTA 1000 tournament since returning from her maternity leave. Svitolina, who might meet Pegula in the third Round, has never advanced past the Madrid second Round in her previous seven main-draw outings.

Erstwhile World No 1 Victoria Azarenka, seeded 15th for the 2023 Madrid Open, might face Pegula or Svitolina in the Round of 16.

Ons Jabeur, the defending champion and fourth seed, is the highest-ranked player in the third quarter. Jabeur’s championship defense will begin in the second Round against either Ana Bogdan or Anna Bondar provided she can shake off the injury that ended her run in Stuttgart.

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If seedings hold, No 6 seed Coco Gauff and No 9 seed Maria Sakkari might meet in the Round of 16 in this quarter. In this quarter, Jelena Ostapenko and Sofia Kenin are both Grand Slam champions.

Barbora Strycova also returns to singles action this week after maternity leave. Strycova, who hopes to compete in a few events this season, will face Elisabetta Cocciaretto in the first Round.