Petra Kvitova was encouraged by the way she was able to "fight it out" to beat Kristina Mladenovic, while Sloane Stephens knocked Victoria Azarenka out of the Madrid Open on Monday.

Second seed Kvitova - bidding to become the first woman to win a WTA Premier Mandatory tournament four times - had to dig deep for a 6-3 7-6 (7-5) victory on Court Manolo Santana.

Stephens was another leading to contender to advance at the Caja Magica, seeing off Azarenka 6-4 2-6 6-2 to reach the last 16.

Ashleigh Barty was also taken the distance, getting past Danielle Collins 6-1 1-6 6-1 as the Australian eyes back-to-back titles following her Miami Open triumph.

Kiki Bertens overcame Jelena Ostapenko 6-4 6-3, while Anastasija Sevastova, Yulia Putintseva, Viktoria Kuzmova and Belinda Bencic started the week with victories. 

 

 

KVITOVA SHOWS GRIT IN PURSUIT OF HISTORY

Kvitova made 38 unforced errors to 31 winners in an unconvincing performance, but battled to get through in straight sets after coming under pressure from Mladenovic in the second.

The defending champion, on a high after winning the Stuttgart Open, said: "I'm trying to play well on all surfaces which I think is really showing and it was a pretty difficult match,

"I fought hard in the end and that is what is counting. The clay and the conditions here are a bit different compared to other venues, so I always needed time to fight it out."

Sorana Cirstea or Caroline Garcia will be Kvitova's third-round opponent.

 

STEPHENS WINS BATTLE OF MAJOR CHAMPIONS

Stephens stretched her winning streak against Azarenka to four matches, having lost the first three against the two-time major champion. 

The 2017 US Open champion did not face a break point in the first set, but was broken twice in the second.

Stephens pulled away in the decider, winning four games in a row to set up a meeting with Zheng Saisai or Alize Cornet.

 

BARTY WINNING RUN INTO DOUBLE FIGURES

Barty stretched her sequence of victories to 10 matches, but Collins threatened to bring her back down to earth in the Spanish capital.

The ninth seed struck only 18 winners and made just 19 unforced errors in a contest which swung one way, then the other.

Barty will face Putintseva in her third-round match in Madrid after the Kazakh got past Pauline Parmentier, conqueror of Elina Svitolina in the opening round.

Petra Kvitova battled her way into the third round of the Madrid Open with a straight-sets win over Kristina Mladenovic.

The defending champion was not at her best, but ground it out to come through 6-3 7-6 (7-5) on Monday and will face Sorana Cirstea or Caroline Garcia in the last 16.

Second seed Kvitova, bidding to become the first woman to win the same WTA Premier Mandatory tournament four times, made 38 unforced errors to 31 winners.

Kvitova's first-serve percentage was only 55 as she struggled to match her usual high standards, yet fended off Mladenovic after the Frenchwoman put her under pressure in a nervy second set.

Two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova, eyeing back-to-back titles after her Stuttgart Open triumph, started on the front foot and was rewarded with a 2-0 lead.

However, the three-time winner was outmanoeuvred in a swift riposte and she was made to wait before nudging in front again, leading 5-3 as Mladenovic continued to make sloppy mistakes.

That was enough for Kvitova to close out an opener that was low on quality and she quickly moved through the gears at the start of the second to break to love with a pair of smart returns.

Kvitova could not build on that platform and went long to level the set at 3-3, with Mladenovic capitalising on the Czech's service struggles.

An out-of-sorts Kvitova continued to rack up the errors, but secured a battling hold for a tie-break, which she won with a rasping backhand return to Mladenovic's feet after it had taken eight points for the first hold. 

Elina Svitolina was dumped out of the Madrid Open by Pauline Parmentier and Caroline Wozniacki retired due to a back injury after top seed Naomi Osaka moved into the second round on Sunday.

Svitolina has been struggling with a knee injury but said she was prepared to give it a go and start her clay-court season at the Caja Magica.

The WTA Finals champion bowed out in the second day of the tournament in the Spanish capital with a 6-4 7-6 (8-6) defeat to world number 69 Parmentier.

Wozniacki, the 11th seed, decided she could not continue after losing the opening three games of her encounter with Alize Cornet.

Madison Keys, Wang Qiang and Julia Goerges were the other seeds to suffer first-round exits, with Garbine Muguruza also dumped out. 

Sorana Cirstea beat Keys 3-6 6-4 6-1, while Donna Vekic accounted for Wang 7-5 6-4, Goerges lost 7-5 6-4 to Viktoria Kuzmova and Petra Martic sent Muguruza packing 7-5 7-6 (7-2).

World number one Osaka got past Dominika Cibulkova 6-2 7-6 (8-6), going through along with Simona Halep, Karolina Pliskova, Angelique Kerber and Sloane Stephens.

 

OSAKA THROUGH 'ADJUSTMENT PERIOD' ON CLAY

Top seed Osaka struck 43 winners in a typically aggressive display against Cibulkova and will take on Sara Sorribes Tormo in round two.

The US Open and Australian Open champion believes she is ready to make more of an impact on clay this season.

"I feel like there's, like, an adjustment period for me and it took a few years," said the 21-year-old. "But now I'm more comfortable [on clay]. I'm not sure if it's because I had a really long training block before I came to start the season, but yeah, it feels good."

 

PLISKOVA BACK FROM THE BRINK, HALEP AND KERBER THROUGH IN TWO

Fifth seed Pliskova saved four match points as she came from behind to beat Dayana Yastremska.

The former world number one, who has appointed Conchita Martínez as coach on a full-time basis, fought back to win 5-7 7-6 (7-5) 6-3.

There was no such trouble for Halep, a 6-0 6-4 winner against Margarita Gasparyan, and Kerber eased to a 6-3 6-2 defeat of Lesia Tsurenko.

 

STEPHENS SETS UP AZARENKA CLASH AT THE END OF MEMORABLE WEEK

Eighth seed Stephens got engaged to footballer Jozy Altidore and added Sven Groeneveld to her coach this week.

The 2017 US Open champion ended a hectic few days by seeing off Polona Hercog 6-2 7-6 (7-4) and will take on Victoria Azarenka in round two.

Naomi Osaka overcame the stern challenge of Dominika Cibulkova on Sunday to advance to the second round of the Madrid Open.

The world number one recovered from a break down in each set to prevail 6-2 7-6 (8-6) and record her first main-draw victory at the tournament.

Osaka was dumped out in the first round by Shuai Zhang 12 months ago and, coming into this event nursing an abdominal injury sustained in Stuttgart, the early signs were not promising against Cibulkova.

The Japanese dropped serve to trail 2-1 in the first set but responded immediately to get back on level terms and a deep forehand in game six earned her two break points – converting the first as her opponent went long.

One set point went begging as Cibulkova came under pressure again next time round, but Osaka was not to be denied as the Slovakian erred again and the top seed edged in front.

A deft drop-shot – a frequently used tactic for Cibulkova – earned her a break to begin the second but a costly double-fault meant the set was back on serve at 4-4.

Only three of the 14 points in the tie-break went with service, Cibulkova managing to stave off one match point with a whipped forehand but going long on the second as Osaka advanced to a meeting with either Lara Arruabarrena or Sara Sorribes Tormo.

Petra Kvitova started her bid to secure a record-breaking Madrid Open title with a straight-sets defeat of Sofia Kenin.

Defending champion Kvitova is striving to be the first woman to win a Premier Mandatory tournament four times and eased into the second round with a 6-1 6-4 win on Saturday.

Up to second in the rankings after winning the Stuttgart Open last weekend, the two-time Wimbledon champion breezed into a 5-0 lead at the Caja Magica and went on to secure a meeting with Barbora Strycova or Kristina Mladenovic.

Kiki Bertens, runner-up last year in the Spanish capital last year, defeated Katerina Siniakova 6-3 6-2 in the final match of the day. 

Seeds Aryna Sabalenka and Anett Kontaveit bowed out with defeats to Svetlana Kuznetsova and Aliaksandra Sasnovich respectively on day one, while Ashleigh Barty knocked out fellow Australian Daria Gavrilova.

 

KVITOVA IN CRUISE CONTROL

Kvitova carried on where she left off in Germany last week, dominating 20-year-old American Kenin in a one-sided opening set.

Kenin showed character to put up a fight in the second set, getting back on serve at 4-4 after going 2-0 down.

Kvitova broke straight back and served out the match, having served nine aces and won 71 per cent of points on her first serve. 

 

BARTY DASHES GAVRILOVA HOPES

Barty claimed the biggest title of her career at the Miami Open in March and hit the ground running on clay.

The world number nine said she is ready to do some damage on what is her least favourite surface and showed no mercy on compatriot Gavrilova.

Barty attacked her Fed Cup team-mate's serve on Court Manolo Santana, breaking three times in each set to seal victory in only 65 minutes and book an encounter with Danielle Collins or Vera Zvonareva.

 

IN-FORM KONTAVEIT AND SABALENKA SLIP UP

Kontaveit was beaten by Kvitova in the Stuttgart decider last weekend after reaching the semi-finals of the Miami Open, but Sasnovich recovered from a first-set bagel to beat the 14th seed 0-6 6-3 6-2.

Wildcard Kuznetsova accounted for 10th seed Sabalenka 7-5 6-4, while Victoria Azarenka could face Sloane Stephens in round two after a 7-5 6-4 success over Daria Kasatkina.

Jelena Ostapenko, Caroline Garcia, Anastasija Sevastova and Yulia Putintseva also advanced.

A maiden clay-court title dramatically slipped from Johanna Konta's grasp as Maria Sakkari came from a set and a break down to claim her first WTA Tour crown with a 2-6 6-4 6-1 win in the Rabat Open final.

Sakkari, who eliminated top seed and defending champion Elise Mertens on her way to the final, looked set to suffer defeat when she lost the opening set and then dropped serve in the fifth game of the second.

However, Konta could not capitalise on her dominant position and her opponent levelled the contest before surging to victory in the decider.

Sakkari will break into the world's top 50 when the new rankings are released on Monday, while Konta can at least take heart from reaching her first final in 11 months.

 

Qualifier Jil Teichmann won her first WTA Tour title by edging out Karolina Muchova in a thrilling final to win the Prague Open.

Teichmann, ranked 146 in the world, triumphed 7-6 (7-5) 3-6 6-4 in two hours and 44 minutes on Saturday to disappoint the crowd, who were backing home favourite Muchova.

The 21-year-old champion also beat a Czech star in the semi-final, topping Barbora Strycova on Friday.

Teichmann needed six set points before taking the opener in a tense tie-break, but only needed one match point to win it in the third after wildcard Muchova – also playing her first WTA final – had hit back in the second.

"I'm just speechless, honestly. I just fought and fought. It was a great battle and I'm just relieved that it's done," said Switzerland's Teichmann after Saturday's triumph.

"I'm exhausted, but Kaja played a great match as well. I knew it was going to be a battle, but in the end, one has to win." 

There have now been 20 different winners in the 21 WTA Tour events so far this season.

Qualifier Jil Teichmann continued to upset the odds by beating Barbora Strycova to reach a first WTA Tour final at the Prague Open on Friday.

The Swiss left-hander needed just 76 minutes to beat ninth seed Strycova 6-3 6-0 for her best WTA Tour win by ranking and tournament round.

Teichmann had double Strycova's winners (22 to 11), while the Czech failed to convert any of her break-point chances.

Home favourite Karolina Muchova also reached a maiden Tour final by overcoming Bernarda Pera 6-2 7-5 in the other semi-final.

At Grand Prix de SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryem in Morocco, Johanna Konta reached a first final in 10 months thanks to a 6-2 7-6 (9-7) triumph over fourth seed and 2018 finalist Ajla Tomljanovic.

Before this week, the Briton had failed to piece together more than two straight WTA main-draw wins on clay.

Maria Sakkari followed up her beating of defending champion Elise Mertens with a 6-4 6-4 triumph over Alison van Uytvanck to book her spot in the final. 

Karolina Pliskova has employed Conchita Martinez as a full-time coach but Rennae Stubbs will no longer work with the former world number one.

Martinez and Stubbs have been sharing coaching duties in Pliskova's team after the Czech parted ways with Tomas Krupa last year.

Spaniard Martinez, the 1994 Wimbledon champion, agreed to take on more responsibility working with the 27-year-old after the Dubai Tennis Championships in February.

"We've been gradually getting to know Conchita since last year's US Open and I'm so satisfied with her work that I was striving for full-time cooperation. I'm glad we managed to reach an agreement," Pliskova said.

"I thanked Rennae for quality cooperation and wished her good luck in her personal as well as professional life."

Pliskova withdrew from the Prague Open this week due to a viral illness.

Sloane Stephens has made another announcement in an eventful week, revealing that Sven Groeneveld has joined her coaching team.

The 2017 US Open champion got engaged to Toronto striker Jozy Altidore at the start of this week.

Stephens has also started a new professional relationship, recruiting Maria Sharapova's long-time coach Groeneveld.

Last year's French Open runner-up parted with Kamau Murray at the end of last season despite surging to a career-high third in the rankings.

Dutchman Groeneveld and Sharapova mutually agreed a split in March of last year.

It was announced on Thursday that Sharapova will miss the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome as she continues to struggle with a shoulder injury.

Bernarda Pera put an end to Wang Qiang's hopes of glory in Prague, while Elise Mertens' reign in Rabat came to an end on Thursday.

Pera caused an upset in the last eight of the Prague Open, overcoming third seed Wang 6-0 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 to reach her second semi-final on the WTA Tour.

The American let slip a 5-2 lead in the second set but rallied impressively in the decider to clinch victory. Next up will be Karolina Muchova, who defeated Natalia Vikhlyantseva in straight sets to progress.

Muchova is one of two Czech players through to the last four – she is joined by Barbora Strycova, the ninth seed overcoming her sixth-seeded compatriot Katerina Siniakova, dropping just three games in the process.

Jil Teichmann, meanwhile, made it through to her maiden semi-final by dismissing the challenge of German Tamara Korpatsch in a one-sided clash.

At the Grand Prix de SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryem in Morocco, defending champion Mertens was surprisingly beaten 6-4 7-6 (7-2) by Maria Sakkari.

Sakkari, the sixth seed, is still yet to drop a set at the tournament and will go up against another Belgian in Alison Van Uytvanck, who hit back in style after falling a set down versus Ysaline Bonaventure, in the semi-finals on Friday.

In the other half of the draw, Johanna Konta lost the opening set in a tie-break against second seed Hsieh Su-wei but went on to secure a 6-7 (1-7) 6-4 6-4 win.

Ajla Tomljanovic, who triumphed 6-2 6-4 against Rebecca Peterson, stands between Konta and a place in the final.

Wang Qiang and Elise Mertens each triumphed in their respective tournaments on a day of few shocks on the WTA Tour.

World number 16 Wang was in action at the Prague Open and was pushed to three sets by Mandy Minella but ultimately emerged victorious, winning 6-1 4-6 6-4.

A clash with Bernarda Pera, who defeated Antonia Lottner in straight sets, awaits the third seed in the last eight.

There will be at least one home representative in the last four after Czech seeds Barbora Strycova and Katerina Sinakova eased through to set up a quarter-final meeting.

Fellow home favourite Karolina Muchova is also into the next round, along with Natalia Vikhlyantseva, Jil Teichmann and Tamara Korpatsch.

At the Grand Prix de Sar la Princesse Lalla Meryem in Rabat, Mertens raced through 6-4 6-0 against Ivana Jorovic.

The seeds were untouchable in Morocco, too, although Hsieh Su-wei had to come from behind to defeat Lara Arruabarrena 4-6 7-5 6-3.

Ajla Tomljanovic and Johanna Konta also needed three sets to win, but Maria Sakkari defeated Isabella Shinikova in straight sets, while Alison van Uytvanck did likewise against Varvara Lepchenko, dropping just four games.

Rebecca Peterson and Ysaline Bonaventure complete the quarter-final draw.

Svetlana Kuznetsova dumped last year's runner-up Mihaela Buzarnescu out of the Prague Open on Tuesday with a straight-sets victory.

Buzarnescu, the world number 29, was meeting Kuznetsova for the first time and the fourth seed came undone at the hands of the two-time grand slam champion in an hour and 25 minutes.

Kuznetsova won 76 per cent of points on her first serve and was broken only once in a 6-4 6-2 success in which she broke Buzarnescu four times.

Second seed Anastasija Sevastova lost in three sets to Anastasia Potapova and fifth seed Danielle Collins succumbed to American compatriot Jennifer Brady in a match that also went the distance.

Wang Qiang avoided a surprise exit, the third seed coming through 6-3 3-6 6-2 against Margarita Gasparyan after two hours and 15 minutes.

Viktoria Kuzmova, seeded seventh, bowed out in the first round as she lost 6-3 6-3 to Anna Karolina Schmiedlova. There was better fortune for sixth seed Katerina Siniakova and ninth seed Barbora Strycova, who claimed straight-sets wins over Dalila Jakupovic and 2017 champion Mona Barthel respectively.

Defending champion Elise Mertens, top seed and the only top-20 player in the draw at the Grand Prix de Sar la Princesse Lalla Meryem, needed just over an hour to dispatch Belgian countrywoman Kirsten Flipkens 6-3 6-1.

Johanna Konta, the seventh seed, saved three match points in a remarkable comeback against Wang Yafan. She trailed 6-4 6-5 and fell 0-40 down, only to win 12 straight points to win a tie-break and force a decider that she claimed to progress 4-6 7-6 (7-0) 6-4.

Second seed Hsieh Su-wei was victorious in a three-set contest with Daria Gavrilova, 2018 runner-up Ajla Tomljanovic beat Fiona Ferro in straight sets and Maria Sakkari dropped only two games against Olga Danilovic in Rabat.

Former US Open champion Sloane Stephens announced her engagement to Toronto and United States international striker Jozy Altidore on Monday.

Stephens - a six-time WTA Tour winner and world number eight - shared the news via Twitter with a tweet saying, "Forever yes."

Altidore plays for MLS outfit Toronto after leaving Sunderland in 2015 and the 29-year-old has 110 caps for USA.

He excitedly shared the news on social media with a tweet, "Forever starts now."

Altidore and Stephens, 26, started dating in 2016, but have known each other since childhood.

"She is somebody who gets everything I am going through without having to say anything,” Altidore told USA Today in 2017. 

"You look at each other and you kind of know right away if one of you is annoyed. She just kind of gets the mood I’m in, as obviously she lives a very similar kind of life.

"In that regard it works really well, there is no stress. She is a successful athlete and I do OK, and we just enjoy our time together when we are together."

Top seed Karolina Pliskova has been forced to withdraw from the Prague Open due to a viral illness.

The world number five decided to play at last week's Stuttgart Open, losing in the last 16 to Victoria Azarenka, but has been unable to train in full for the start of the clay-court season.

"I've been in pain all month and I can't train," Pliskova said on her official website.

"On Tuesday, I was determined to opt out of the Stuttgart tournament, but in the end I tried to play. In fact, I expected the performance to be much worse."

Barbora Strycova takes Pliskova's place in the draw in Prague, where there was no play on Monday due to rain.

There was, however, action at the Grand Prix de Sar la Princesse Lalla Meryem in Rabat, including a surprise early exit for Yulia Putintseva.

The third seed claimed the opening set but eventually went down 3-6 6-4 6-3 to Tamara Zidansek after two hours and 22 minutes on court.

There was better news for eighth seed Alison Van Uytvanck - she reached the second round with a 6-4 6-3 win over Pauline Parmentier thanks to crucial breaks at the end of each set.

"I think it's always difficult to play against Pauline in the first round, especially on clay," the Belgian told the WTA Tour's website.

"I knew it would be tough, so I'm happy with the way that I played. I was playing aggressively without making many unforced errors."

Ana Bogdan defeated Alize Cornet 6-3 6-3 and there were also victories in straight sets for Rebecca Peterson and Isabella Shinikova, as they knocked out Viktorija Golubic and Tatjana Maria respectively.

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