Welcome to Road to Rogers Cup, the regular roundup of all the action on the WTA Tour ahead of the 2019 Rogers Cup presented by National Bank at Aviva Centre from August 3 to 11.
Today, we’ll take a quick look back at the recent tournaments in Miami and Stuttgart before previewing the next Premier Mandatory event in the calendar – the Madrid Open.
It feels like an age since Ash Barty swept aside Karolina Pliskova in the final of the Miami Open – but the Australian’s performance in Florida is worth at least looking back on briefly. Barty’s road to the final saw her overcome seventh-seed Kiki Bertens, third-seed Petra Kvitova and 21st-seed Anett Kontaveit, while Pliskova had to find a way past second-seed Simona Halep in the semi-finals.
The final itself opened with a hotly-contested first set. Ultimately, a tiebreak was needed to separate the two players which Barty would go on to win 7-1. The second set was much more straightforward as the Aussie took it 6-3 to claim the first Premier Mandatory title of her career. Heading into the Madrid Open, the Australian is seeded ninth and is due to take on Daria Gavrilova in her first match tomorrow.
2012 Rogers Cup presented by National Bank champion Kvitova came away from Stuttgart with another trophy to add to her collection. The Czech star faced Kontaveit in the final at the Porsche Arena, having defeated the likes of Bertens and Anastasija Sevastova in earlier rounds. Kontaveit, meanwhile, had beaten Belarus’ Victoria Azarenka and Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova before her semi-final matchup with World No. 1 Naomi Osaka was called off after her opponent withdrew due to injury.
In the final, things looked to be going swimmingly for Kvitova as she took the first set 6-3 after breaking Kontaveit’s serve in the sixth game. However, her controlled grip on the match floundered slightly in the second set as the pair exchanged two breaks each, before taking it to a tiebreak. Kvitova raced out to a 6-0 lead, making the outcome seem almost a formality. She sealed the victory with a powerful forehand, raising her arms in celebration before raising the trophy on the red clay court. Kvitova is seeded second in Madrid, where she is defending champion, and takes on American Sofia Kenin on Sunday.
It seems there are no easy matchups on the WTA Tour these days. Just ask World No. 1 Osaka, who is due to open her Madrid Open campaign with a tough match against 2016 runner-up Dominika Cibulkova. Should she see off the 2008 Rogers Cup runner up, Osaka then faces the prospect of a projected third-round clash with Kontaveit and a quarter-finals standoff with Pliskova.
Two-time Madrid Open champion Halep – who, like Osaka, was forced to withdraw from Stuttgart through injury – is due to open this year’s tournament against a qualifier. Down the line, though, she could come up against sixth-seed Elina Svitolina in the quarter-finals but she will have to see off either German Julia Goerges or Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro first.
Fresh from her engagement to Toronto FC star striker Jozy Altidore, American Sloane Stephens heads to Madrid with a new coach after hiring Sven Groeneveld. Last year’s Rogers Cup runner up was beaten by Pliskova in the round of 16 of last year’s tournament.
Serena Williams, a winner in Madrid in 2012 and 2013, will miss the tournament as she strives to regain her fitness ahead of the rest of the European clay-court season. The 36-year-old is expected to play the Italian Open in Rome followed by Roland-Garros in Paris.
In doubles, Gabriela Dabrowski will be eyeing glory in the Spanish capital alongside partner Xu Yifan. Entering the tournament as the sixth seed, the pair begin their campaign with a match against Belgian Kirsten Flipkens and American Abigail Spears. Fresh from a semi-final appearance in Stuttgart alongside Jelena Ostapenko, Dabrowski will be confident heading to Madrid.
Despite being back on the court, Bianca Andreescu’s shoulder injury will force her to miss the Madrid Open. The BNP Paribas Open champion is hoping to be fit to take part in future clay-court tournaments and will be training at the Rafa Nadal Academy in Mallorca, Spain to get a feel for the surface again.
(Feature Photo: Madrid Open)