By Britwatch Team
- Top Seeds: Angelique Kerber, Karolina Pliskova, Simona Halep, Dominika Cibulkova
- Defending Champion: Simona Halep
- British interest: Johanna Konta
- Paths to the final of Top 4 seeds (based on Ranking/Seeding)
- CLICK our featured players for stats from TennisAbstract
MADRID, SPAIN – Simona Halep returns to defend her title, and showed early signs of a return to form both in Stuttgart and by winning the Tie Break Tens.
Draws & Results
|Order of Play|
 Angelique Kerber
With World No. 1 Serena Williams now out for the rest of the year as she expects her first child, there was ample chance for Kerber to reclaim the top spot in Stuttgart, but an opening round loss delays that, as she looks to try and get her clay season back on track.
She has enjoyed a strong winning streak over her first round opponent Timea Babos, and will hope that it gives her a second win on clay in 2017, if we also include her win in Fed Cup. Her likely second round will be against good but sometimes overly emotional Katerina Siniakova. The young Czech has had to have treatment on her back the last couple of tournaments, but like Babos, has yet to get a win over the German.
The first seed she could encounter is Mirjana Lucic-Baroni – although the resurgent Croatian has had some decent results this year, including the Charleston semi-final on the ugly green-grey clay, she was bounced out of Stuttgart by the eventual semi-finalist Kristina Mladenovic, and she will start against wild-card Maria Sharapova. As an amusing aside, also in this bracket we could see a Sharapova/Genie Bouchard clash which might be spicy, given the Canadian’s comments following he return of her once idol from a 15 month doping suspension.
Kerber’s Path to the Final
- R1: Timea Babos
- R2: Katerina Siniakova
- R3: Mirjana Lucic-Baroni 
- QF: Svetlana Kuznetsova 
- SF: Dominika Cibulkova 
- F: Karolina Pliskova 
What a difference a flight home makes. After impressing on the spring hard-court fling, Pliskova managed just a single win before bowing out in the quarter-final. Flying home to the wild weather in Prague, she did not even get past her opening round, and finds herself against Lesia Tsurenko in the opening round. They have split their wins and the one win on clay belongs to Pliskova, back in the lower tiers.
She has an even split for her probable second round Anastasija Sevastova, and took their most recent win last year. Third round could be a battle of the Czechs and two most opposite demeanours on court. Barbora Strycova wears her heart on her sleeve and has been muttering and hollering her way to the semi-final.
She looks set to meet Garbiñe Muguruza, who may be feeling not only the pressure of the home crowd, but also the fact that she is yet to kick start her clay court season. She lost to qualifier Anett Kontaveit in her Stuttgart opener.
Pliskova’s Path to the Final
- R1: Lesia Tsurenko
- R2: Anastasija Sevastova
- R3: Barbora Strycova 
- QF: Garbiñe Muguruza 
- SF: Simona Halep 
- F: Angelique Kerber 
 Simona Halep
Has Halep found the key to her success once more? After what can best be described as a mini-meltdown in Miami, which left her by her own admission feeling ‘ashamed’ of how her coaching time-out had gone with Darren Cahill, we have seen a marked change in her.
She has had a fair bit to cope with as well, with the utter debacle that was the Fed Cup tie between Romania and Great Britain in her home town of Constanta. She fielded questions about that well in Stuttgart and let her tennis do the talking. She reached the semi-final, and she starts against Kristyna Pliskova, who will have to hot-foot it over from Prague where she will be in the final on Saturday.
With a title to defend, and after pocketing a cool $200,000 from winning the Tie Break Tens tournament on Thursday, she is looking the most in-form player.
Halep’s Path to the Final
- R1: Kristyna Pliskova
- R2: Daria Kasatkina
- R3: Samantha Stosur 
- QF: Johanna Konta 
- SF: Karolina Pliskova 
- F: Angelique Kerber 
Last year Cibulkova cut a swathe through the draw, taking out top seed Agnieszka Radwanska on her way to the final. Her season so far has been steady but a wrist injury saw her give Stuttgart a miss, and she will be looking to try and make up for some lost time.
It is actually a tough start against Jelena Jankovic, and while the Serbian has not been on the best of form, clay is a surface that should suit her, and for an opening round, could be quite tricky. If she gets past her, she has either a qualifier or lucky loser next. Before potentially meeting the Stuttgart finalist Mladenovic who has been in solid form.
The draw gets no easier with Madison Keys possibly in the quarter-final, top seed Kerber in the semi-finals and No. 2 seed Pliskova as a potential finalist.
Cibulkova’s Path to the Final
- R1: Jelena Jankovic
- R2: Qualifier/Lucky Loser
- R3: Kristina Mladenovic 
- QF: Madison Keys 
- SF: Angelique Kerber 
- F: Karolina Pliskova 
The WTA Mutua Madrid Open takes place between 7-14 May – (BST +1 hour).
Featured Image Credit: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography
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