Madrid WTA 2017: Pliskova and Bouchard survive marathon opening day, but Konta loses
Great Britain's Johanna Konta loses to Laura Siegemund in the first round of the Madrid Open
There were certainly some tough and intriguing first-round matches thrown up by the Mutua Madrid Open draw, which got under way at the towering Magic Box Saturday.
But as the clock ticked towards 11pm, the final bout of the day was yet to take to court: That was how closely contested many of these matches turned out to be.
First up was No2 seed Karolina Pliskova, whose big-serving game does not reap the same rewards on clay as on the hard courts of Australian and North America, where she thrived, and sure enough, Lesia Tsurenko took her to three sets, 7-6(5), 2-6, 6-2.
Pliskova next takes on Anastasija Sevastova, who beat Shuai Zhang in an altogether tidier one hour, 6-2, 6-4.
Then Misaki Doi put paid to No9 seed Madison Keys’ chances, claiming her first top-10 win at her 14th attempt, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, after two and a quarter hours. The Japanese woman had not won a match since February, but now finds herself poised to win another against either qualifier Donna Vekic or Yulia Putintseva.
Away from the centre stage, in a battle of the generations, 34-year-old Roberta Vinci took three sets to beat teenager Daria Kasatkina, 6-1, 1-6, 6-1. Her reward may well be a tilt at Simona Halep, though the defending champion awaits the arrival Kristyna Piskova from her final run in Prague.
Also on Ananxta Sanchez Vicario, Irina-Camelia Begu beat No12 seed, Elena Vesnina, 6-4, 6-4, and Kiki Bertens beat Ekaterina Makarova, 6-1, 7-6(4).
But back on Manolo Santana, the marathons kept coming. Eugenie Bouchard, ranked down at 60 after a string of poor results, had spent time on the ITF tour to regain her confidence and form, and it helped her score a first-ever win in Madrid, but not without a two-hour battle against Alize Cornet, 6-1, 4-6, 6-1.
The win earned her a possible showdown with Maria Sharapova, if the wild card returning from her 15-month ban beats No17 seed Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. It is a contest that Bouchard relishes after her forthright comments about Sharapova picking up wild cards in her first tournaments back: “I hope I can play Maria.”
Now the clock was well past 11, and the penultimate match of the day was just heading to a third and deciding set—the fifth three-setter in a row. Christina McHale led by a set and 4-0 before Spaniard Lara Arruabarrena, with the Saturday night crowds cheering her every point, broke back and took it to a tie-break. She then pressed home the point by taking a 6-0 lead, and sealed the set, 7-6(1). A double break in the third took her to a 4-1 lead, and she sealed a hugely popular win with a big forehand winner, 6-2. It had taken two hours 23 minutes.
And all that before No6 seed Johanna Konta took to court against the in-form Laura Siegemund just before midnight, and around seven hours after both women had warmed up on Madrid’s still-sunny practice courts.
And the contrast was extreme. The temperature had plummeted, and if the late hour wasn’t enough to clear the vast arena, the cool air was. Between the echoing points, you could hear a pin drop.
Even so, Konta began warmly enough, breaking early, and although Siegemund broke back, Konta got another break and took the set, 6-3. But it became dejà vu all over again: This time the German broke for a lead, Konta broke back for 2-2, but gave up another break.
Perhaps it was no surprise that both women had trouble finding a rhythm or stringing together good rallies. Sure enough Konta levelled again, 4-4, and this time held, turning the pressure onto the German, but Siegemund not only held but broke again: She would serve to take this final match to one more three-setter. She did just that, with a winning drop shot and a superb backhand volley.
With the match almost two hours old, Konta again took the early lead, 3-0, and once again lost it as Siegemund put together a run of five games. Konta did get one hold, but that was it. The German held one last time, 6-4, after two and half hours.
The clock read: 2.27am.