THE first day of Round of 32 action is done and dusted at the Madrid Open in Spain, with a couple of intriguing tests making life difficult for seeded competitors.
Ash Barty continued her winning run for the year, still leading all-comers with the most wins to her name in 2021 but was really tested by Slovenian Tamara Zidansek in an intriguing 6-4 1-6 6-3, one hour and 58 minute encounter.
“A really tough match,” Barty said. “I felt my margins were a little bit off today. Made a lot of errors. I think I was missing in the right way, but still just a foot or two here or there makes a big difference. I felt like there were probably too many loose ones for me today.”
Barty was uncharacteristically inefficient off her first serve at just 51 per cent throughout, but still managing to claim the ascendancy with an improved winning rate off said serve. A huge second set from Zidansek – winning her first ever set off a top 10 player – could have spelled trouble for the world number one, however an improved third set saw Barty wrench momentum back in her favour, capitalising off Zidansek’s errors to claim the win.
“I don’t think there was a lot in it by any means,” Barty said. “We had a lot of close games in the first set, early in the second set. In the third, as well, there were a lot of close games. I think the response early in the third was good. I was a bit more aggressive, was able to bring the match back on my terms.”
Meanwhile, a win to Iga Swiatek over German Laura Siegemund has set up a massive quarter final encounter between Swiatek and Barty, with the 2019 and 2020 Roland Garros champions meeting on court for the first time. While Barty was challenged in the second round, Swiatek had a much easier time against Siegemund to claim a 6-3 6-3 victory. Even despite dropping a 3-0 start to the second set as Siegemund recovered to even up the ledger to 3-0, Swiatek won the remaining games to claim the one hour and 40 minute victory.
“It was pretty hard to close that match,” Swiatek said. “Match balls are pretty stressful because you know you’re almost at the end. Sometimes a crazy idea may come up. I tried to just be focused on my basic game, to play safe.
“Anyway, I made a lot of little mistakes. I wasn’t sure where it came from. It was pretty annoying. It just shows that Laura is a great fighter. You could see that also in previous games. In second game of second set, she had amazing rallies, amazing points. She’s fighting till the end and she’s not giving anything for free.”
Both players are looking forward to their encounter, with only a practice hit-out to go off in the past.
“Real exciting,” said Barty. “A match that I look forward to. I’ve hit with her once in Melbourne a few months ago. She’s got a seriously impressive game. Moves very well on the clay court, can slide off both legs, controls her body really well on clay. Likes to use her hopper, gets around, controls the court with her forehand. It’s a challenge that we go into with a really clean slate, a little bit of a period of trying to figure each other out and how our games match up.”
“She has a great slice,” Swiatek said. “I remember it was hard in Melbourne to keep your legs low, just playing back those slices. I think most of the girls have problem with that. I’m going to remember about that.”
“I really respect her,” she said. “Basically I think it’s a good example of dealing with expectations, just having some kind of a distance to the game. I’m also having a hard time finding it. I want to kind of win every match, I want to win right now. Sometimes I’m not giving myself time. She did that.
In other games, Eighth and ninth seeds Belinda Bencic and Petra Kvitova both reigned supreme, whilst another two seeds fell in intriguing results, with Kiki Bertens and Johanna Konta both disposed of in straight sets by Russian, Veronika Kudermetova and Latvian, Anastasija Sevastova, respectively. Ons Jabeur and Paula Badosa were the remaining two winners of the day to head to the quarter finals.
MADRID OPEN ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:
 Ash Barty (AUS) defeated Tamara Zidansek (SLO) 6-4 1-6 6-3
Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) defeated  Kiki Bertens (NED) 6-4 6-3
 Belinda Bencic (SUI) defeated Bernarda Pera (USA) 3-6 6-1 7-6
 Petra Kvitova (CZE) defeated Angelique Kerber (GER) 6-4 7-5
 Iga Swiatek (POL) defeated Laura Siegemund (GER) 6-3 6-3
Anastasija Sevastova (LAT) defeated  Johanna Konta (GBR) 6-3 6-3
Ons Jabeur (TUN) defeated Sloane Stephens (USA) 4-6 6-1 6-3
Paula Badosa (ESP) defeated Jil Teichmann (SUI) 5-7 6-1 6-2