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No Barty or Swiatek but here are 4 key storylines to follow at the WTA Madrid Open

The WTA Madrid Open is currently underway at La Caja Magica and there are some fascinating players to follow including Badosa, Osaka, Halep and Pavlyuchenkova

Simona Halep of Romania during practice ahead of the 2022 Mutua Madrid Open WTA 1000 tennis tournament Simona Halep of Romania during practice ahead of the 2022 Mutua Madrid Open WTA 1000 tennis tournament Image Credit: Zuma / Panoramic

The Madrid Open may be missing the retired Ash Barty and the current world No 1 Iga Swiatek. But there are still some riveting plotlines to follow at the first big European clay court event of the WTA season. In partnership with Opta facts, we bring you four key storylines to keep an eye out for at La Caja Majica over the next 10 days.

Simona Halep aiming to reach her fifth final in Madrid

Former world No 1 Simona Halep, who is playing her first tournament with new coach Patrick Mouratoglou, has reached the final in Madrid on four occasions – more than any other woman in the history of the tournament.

The Romanian won the title in 2016 and 2017 and finished runner-up in 2014 (to Maria Sharapova) and 2019 (to Kiki Bertens). She will be aiming to reach her fifth Madrid final this fortnight and is through to the second round, where she will meet new world No 2 Paula Badosa.

Paula Badosa aiming to become first Spanish woman to reach WTA Madrid Open final

With Swiatek pulling out, Badosa, playing her first tournament as the new world No 2, is the highest seed in the draw. Badosa reached the semi-finals in Madrid last year, marking the first time a Spanish woman had reached the last four in Madrid.

The 24-year-old won her first-round match over Veronika Kudermetova in straight sets and next meets two-time Madrid champion Halep in the second round – the first meeting between the two players.

Can Naomi Osaka become the first player outside the top 30 to win Madrid?

So far, in the history of the tournament, Dominika Cibulkova is the only woman ranked outside the top 30 to reach the Madrid final. She achieved the feat in 2016 when she went all the way to the title round as the world No 38 and lost to Halep.

This year, Naomi Osaka, ranked No 36 in the world, is among the most high-profile names outside the top 30. Osaka begins her campaign against Anastasia Potapova on Friday and will be aiming to become the lowest-ranked champion in the history of the tournament.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is the only woman to compete in all 13 editions of the WTA Madrid Open

Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is the only player to feature in the Madrid Open every year since it began in 2009. The former French Open finalist makes it 13 in a row in 2022 as she returns to competition for the first time since the Australian Open in January.

Pavlyuchenkova has a tough assignment as she takes on local favourite and clay-court specialist Sara Sorribes Tormo in the first round.

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