With Iga Swiatek out for the count, the clay title in Madrid hangs in the balance. Here’s why we could see a Halep and Raducanu dream finale.
It’s no secret that one of Emma Raducanu’s tennis idols growing up was fellow Romanian Simona Halep, the other being Li Na. The way this year’s Madrid Open draw has been laid out sees Raducanu and Halep on opposite ends of the competition. With both ladies coming into the Round of 16 having not dropped a single set, we could see a dream final and first-ever encounter between the British teen and her childhood idol. Here are a few reasons why this may well be the case moving forward:
The clay factor
Emma Raducanu and Simona Halep are from two very different backgrounds when it comes to their individual clay court experiences. While Raducanu is still adjusting to the surface, Halep is a seasoned veteran with a strong preference for the slower bounces. Having won the French Open in 2018 and a total of seven clay-court titles to her name throughout her career, the 30-year-old has extensive experience and familiarity with the surface and the results to back it up.
Nevertheless, Raducanu has made her statement to “make clay her surface” and has also been producing some results to back up her newfound determination. Having won her clay-court debut at the Billie Jean King Cup, the 19-year-old continued to see success on the surface when she made it to the quarterfinals at the Stuttgart Open. There, her progress was halted only by the world No.1 and clay specialist Iga Swiatek in what was a fairly tight scoreline of 6-4 6-4 as the Brit made her exit.
Resounding performance by both players so far
Halep’s and Raducanu’s track records on clay are only further consolidated by their most recent performances on the surface during the opening rounds of the Madrid Open.
Impressively, Halep made light work of the world No.2 Paula Badosa in a straight-set win in the Round of 32. Prior to that, the Romanian took down the world No.40 Zhang Shuai also without dropping a set. In many ways, Simona Halep has already established herself as the Madrid Open favorite for the title, and it will take an extraordinary performance to stop the former French Open champion in her tracks.
On the other side of the draw, Raducanu has been making similar strides en route to the Round of 16. Also yet to drop a set, the 19-year-old eased passed Tereza Martincova in her first match, followed by a clean sweeping of Marta Kostyuk in the second. Showing a wide variety of shot selections as well as solid court coverage, Raducanu had an answer for everything that the Ukrainian threw at her. Carrying the confidence of a toe-to-toe performance against arguably the greatest active clay player Iga Swiatek, Raducanu has all the experience she needs for the best crash course on clay anyone could have asked for.
Next round favorites
Moving forward, Simona Halep and Emma Raducanu are both the favorites in their upcoming matches as the third round commences. Despite being unseeded for the tournament, Halep has overwhelmingly positive odds stacked in her favor against 14th seed Coco Gauff. In their only two encounters throughout their careers, Halep bested the American teen on both occasions. Regardless, Gauff is no pushover on clay either. In fact, the 17-year-old is a former junior French Open champion, so coming out on top of this match will be a grueling task for both players involved.
While Halep has likely already succeeded her most difficult opponent of the tournament in Paula Badosa, Emma Raducanu has yet to be truly tested. In her first-ever encounter against world No.42 Anhelina Kalinina, the Brit will be looking to take full advantage and command the trajectory of the match through her growing clay-court confidence. In truth, Raducanu’s odds of winning this match according to analysts are not as overwhelming as Halep’s, albeit she is still the favorite. In what will be the toughest match for the Brit so far, Raducanu will be facing a strong opponent carrying the confidence of two high-profile wins against Sloane Stephens and Garbine Muguruza.
It all lies in the balance at the Madrid Open women’s singles! As the WTA narrative goes, it really is anyone’s game, and whoever is tuned in and more focused on the day will surely come out on top. While a Halep vs Raducanu grand finale would be a dream match for many fans, there are still some top contenders in the draw who have equal opportunity to cease the title. Bianca Andreescu, Ons Jabeur, Jessica Pegula, and Victoria Azarenka could be the next obstacles that stand in the way of the “dream finale.” Who are your top picks for the Madrid Open 2022 finalists?