Madrid: Barty beats Swiatek, Alcaraz to face Nadal

  • Matt Trollope

In a battle between the past two Roland Garros champions, Ash Barty beat Iga Swiatek on Monday to advance to the quarterfinals of the Madrid Open.

The world No.1 extended her winning streak to seven matches thanks to a 7-5 6-4 triumph over Swiatek, which earned her a tour-leading 23rd match win in 2021.

Barty will next face Petra Kvitova, a three-set winner over the in-form Veronika Kudermetova.

Also reaching the last eight in Madrid were Belinda Bencic – who got past an injured Ons Jabeur – and Spanish wildcard Paula Badosa, who thrilled home fans with her 6-7(0) 7-6(3) 6-0 win over Anastasija Sevastova.

Another Spaniard, Carlos Alcaraz, blasted past Adrian Mannarino 6-4 6-0 to set up a highly-anticipated showdown with top seed Rafael Nadal.

Like Badosa, Alcaraz is a wildcard, and will turn 18 the day he faces his legendary countryman in the second round.

“I always wish to play against Rafa, learn from him. I don't know how to describe this feeling now. Is a dream come true,” Alcaraz said. “I know a little his game. I will try to play my best and let's see what happen.”

In other men’s results, No.16 Cristian Garin was the highest-ranked player to progress following a 6-1 6-4 win over Fernando Verdasco, while 13th seed Grigor Dimitrov fell in a third-set tiebreak to South Africa’s Lloyd Harris. 

DRAW: Madrid Open men's singles

First-round victors on Monday also included Dan Evans, Aslan Karatsev – whose 2021 win-loss record now stands at 21-5 – and Fabio Fognini. 

Fognini’s win sets up an all-Italian clash with eighth seed Matteo Berrettini in round two.

Barty unstoppable

One streak was always going to end when Barty’s 13 straight wins on red clay were pitted against Swiatek’s 18 consecutive sets won on the same surface.

And the 2020 Roland Garros champion seemed poised to extend her streak when she moved ahead 3-0 in the first set against Barty with a wrong-footing backhand winner.

Barty, as she so often does, worked her way back into the contest, figuring out the Polish teenager’s game – this was their first meeting – in winning seven of the next nine games.

Swiatek began the second set brightly with a winning drop shot to hold at love.

But Barty broke in the third game and went on to build a 3-1 lead, and although Swiatek held three break points at 0-40 in the sixth game, Barty saved them all and eventually completed victory in one hour and 41 minutes.

“I really enjoyed myself out there tonight. I think it was exciting for both Iga and I. But no different to any time you get to play someone for the first time,” said Barty, acknowledging she was conscious of the hype surrounding their match-up.

“Iga's game is exceptional. I love the way that she plays. I love the way she takes the game on. She plays without fear. I think the way she controls the court, has the ability to move and neutralise from defensive position is very, very impressive.”

“I think it took me some time to get used to Iga's weight of shot. Obviously we had a game plan going into it, but I had to adjust that and had to kind of learn on the fly a little bit.

“Once I was able to do that, I became a lot more clear and was able to control the match a little bit more the way that I wanted to.”

DRAW: Madrid Open women's singles

Barty has won four of her past five meetings against Kvitova, a three-time champion in Madrid who beat Kudermetova 6-3 4-6 6-4 earlier on Monday.

Kvitova earned two break points in the ninth game of the second set which, if converted, would have seen her serving for a straight-sets win. 

Kudermetova, an intense competitor and powerful ball striker, got out of that tricky spot and forced a deciding set, but eventually went down after more than two hours on court.

Bencic will play Badosa in the other quarterfinal of the draw’s top half.