I took a day off to watch the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Coming back today for the quarterfinals of the 2014 Mutua Madrid Open, it was a day of great matches and the shadow of disappointment. Let me get the disappointment out of the way first. Top ranked Serena Williams withdrew with a strained thigh. I hope she recovers quickly, of course. But the tournament lost its biggest star on the women’s side as well as an intriguing match-up against Petra Kvitova. Not only that, but winning an event with Serena in it holds a special meaning…unless she withdraws. This opens the door for the Serena cheerleaders to diminish whomever wins Madrid, even though there is no guarantee she would have won. After all, she has lost already this year to Ana Ivanovic, Alize Cornet and Jana Cepelova. With the disappointment acknowledged, let me get to the good stuff. Simona Halep really showed me a lot in her 6-2 6-2 drubbing of Ana Ivanovic. Ana has been looking very impressive this year, but after an opening break to go up 2-0, she was hit by the Halep Express as the Romanian rising star blitzed through 7 straight games to go up 6-2 1-0. Ivanovic can be given to confidence issues and in this case she never looked like she believed she would win after that. Halep gets a semifinal against Petra Kvitova, who received a walkover through the quarterfinals due to Serena’s withdrawal. Kvitova might be the most difficult player to predict on the WTA. She can look like the best player on tour at times (yes, even including Serena). She can also look like a mediocre player. Sometimes all in the same match. Halep’s chances for a win might depend on what Kvitova shows up. On the other hand, if Simona plays as she did against Ivanovic, it might not matter what Petra shows up (unless it’s ultimate A game Petra).
The marquee semifinal match will pit Maria Sharapova against Agnieszka Radwanska. Both had great quarterfinal battles. Masha took on and took out 2-time Major winner Li Na, but not before falling behind a set and break. While Li Na started hot, it seems that Sharapova is finding her form after a shaky start to the year. The 4-time Major winner fought back to take the 2nd set in a tie-break before gaining her footing in the final set to close out Li Na, 2-6 7-6 (5) 6-3. Masha’s semis opponent Aga also was taken to 3 sets in the quarters. Caroline Garcia might not be as well known to casual fans, but the 20-year old Frenchwoman recently won her first WTA level event at the Copa Colsanitas in Bogota, beating Jelena Jankovic in the final. Although Caroline wasn’t able to prevail against Aga, she gave the Polish star all she could handle. Radwanska found enough craft and guile to squeeze out a 6-4 4-6 6-4 victory. It wasn’t Garcia’s day this time, but I am sure she will have many in the years to come.
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3 AGNIESZKA RADWANSKA (won 6-4 4-6 6-4 vs Caroline Garcia)
4 SIMONA HALEP (won 6-2 6-2 vs 11 Ana Ivanovic)
8 MARIA SHARAPOVA (won 2-6 7-6 (5) 6-3 vs 2 Li Na)