Every one of women's tennis biggest stars will gather in Madrid to do battle at the iconic Caja Magica for the Mutua Madrid Open title from 5-14 May 2017 as the only Premier Mandatory event of the clay-court season takes place.
The first of the three major events of the clay-court season, the Mutua Madrid Open is a key battleground in the run-up to the second Grand Slam of the year and offers 1,000 ranking points to the champion as well as prize money and prestige.
As the biggest clay court gathering on the WTA Tour outside Roland Garros, the Madrid Open commands plenty of significance. The Premier Mandatory Tournament (the only one of such tournaments on clay) naturally attracts the biggest names in women’s tennis, and 2017 will not be an exception.
Hoping to make her return to title-winning ways is Serena Williams, who was forced to pull out of the 2016 edition because of illness.
Serena Williams won the Madrid Open in 2012 and 2013. (Photo by: JAVIER SORIANO/AFP/Getty Images)
Apart from Williams, who won the title in 2012 and 2013, the only other two-time Madrid champion is Petra Kvitova, who reigned in the Spanish capital in 2011 and 2015. Sadly, the Czech left-hander is not expected to be part of the draw in 2017, as she continues to recover from hand surgery, following injuries sustained in a burglar attack in her home in December.
Defending champion, Simona Halep has a useful record in Madrid. Her 2016 title-run was her second trip to the final, having lost the title match to Maria Sharapova in 2014- the year she got to the French Open final, losing to Sharapova as well. She is another to keep an eye on in Madrid.
Speaking of Sharapova, she will be free to compete again as from April 26, when her doping ban expires, and with the Madrid Open starting just under two weeks after that, there is a good chance of the Russian competing in the Spanish capital, as she seeks some vital time on the court ahead of the French Open.
When Serena Williams pulled out of last year’s event, Agnieszka Radwanska assumed the mantle of the top seed, but the Pole isn’t the most comfortable on clay, as she showed in a loss to Dominica Cibulkova in an admittedly tough opening round draw for a number one seed.
Angelique Kerber. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Like Radwanska, Angelique Kerber also suffered an opening round defeat in Madrid in 2016, but that could be put down to her post-Australian Open honeymoon rather than any particular struggles on the surface.
It is true that Roland Garros remains the only major where Kerber has not made the semi-finals, but she does possess a couple of titles in Stuttgart, as well as one on the green clay of Charleston.
Last year’s beaten finalist, Cibulkova will be another to watch in Madrid, so will 2015 finalist, Svetlana Kuznetsova, who is quite accomplished on the surface.
Last year threw up the Cinderella run of young American, Louisa Chirico, who stunned the tour with her quite remarkable trip to the semi-finals. It will be interesting to see if Chirico, or any other of the WTA young guns could make a similar splash when the 2017 Mutua Madrid Open holds from May 5-14.