The new leaders of the Hologic WTA Tour could be tested early at the Mutua Madrid Open by unseeded multiple major winners.
World No.1 Iga Swiatek, currently on a 23-match winning streak, faces a potential clash against three-time Madrid champion Petra Kvitova in the second round. New World No.2 Paula Badosa could face two-time titlist Simona Halep at the same stage.
Elsewhere, defending champion and No.3 seed Aryna Sabalenka opens against nemesis Amanda Anisimova, while reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu has landed in a section that also contains 2002-born peers Marta Kostyuk and Clara Tauson.
First quarter: Swiatek seeks to keep streak alive
Swiatek’s winning streak has taken the 20-year-old across four tournaments, three continents and two surfaces so far, and she will bid to maintain it on outdoor clay in her second Madrid appearance. On her 2021 debut, Swiatek fell to Ashleigh Barty in the third round.
The Pole opens against a qualifier but could face the player with the finest Madrid accomplishments in the field in round two – Petra Kvitova, champion in 2011, 2015 and 2018. Kvitova herself opens against the tricky variety of Jil Teichmann. Swiatek won their only previous meeting 6-3, 6-3 in the Miami quarterfinals in March.
Should she pass that test, Swiatek is projected to face No.16 seed Elena Rybakina in the third round and No.7 seed Garbiñe Muguruza in the quarterfinals. Muguruza has yet to pass the third round of her home WTA 1000 event in seven previous appearances, and at that stage this year could face one of three talented 2002-born teenagers. No.9 seed Emma Raducanu opens against Tereza Martincova; the winner will face either Clara Tauson or Marta Kostyuk, who have been pitted against each other in the first round.
Second quarter: Sakkari faces series of landmines
No.4 seed Maria Sakkari, a semifinalist here in 2021, faces a tough path as she seeks to get her season back on track. After reaching finals in St. Petersburg and Indian Wells, she lost her openers in Miami to Beatriz Haddad Maia and in Stuttgart to Laura Siegemund (via retirement). Sakkari opens against Australian Open semifinalist Madison Keys, with either US Open runner-up Leylah Fernandez or former World No.10 awaiting in Round 2.
Wildcard Naomi Osaka, who has declared her intention to take this year’s clay-court swing more seriously than ever, could be a third-round opponent for Sakkari. Osaka starts against a qualifier, then will need to get past either No.13 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, playing her first tournament after being sidelined by a knee injury for two months or Sara Sorribes Tormo.
No.6 seed Danielle Collins is Sakkari’s projected quarterfinal opponent. The Australian Open finalist Collins opens against wildcard Monica Puig, the 2016 Olympic gold medalist who has undergone three surgeries on her elbow and shoulder since 2019. Puig is playing her first tournament since Roland Garros 2020, and last won a match at Luxembourg 2019.
The winner will face either former US Open champion Bianca Andreescu, who made her return from a six-month hiatus last week in Stuttgart, or Alison Riske in the second round.
Third quarter: Sabalenka bids for first win against Anisimova
Last year, Sabalenka used the high-altitude conditions of Madrid to her advantage as she blew away the field to win her 10th career title, culminating in a defeat of Ashleigh Barty in the final. She has not won a tournament since, and although a run to last week’s Stuttgart final seemed to get her season on track following a scratchy start, the draw has handed her few favors.
Sabalenka opens against the resurgent Amanda Anisimova, who has won all three of their previous encounters – including their third-round clash in Charleston on green clay last month. Should she survive that, a second-round tilt against Liudmila Samsonova awaits. The powerful Samsonova was a semifinalist in Stuttgart, where she became the only player to take a set from Swiatek since mid-March.
No.15 seed Victoria Azarenka, twice a runner-up in Madrid in 2011 and 2012, is projected to face Sabalenka in the third round. Two seeds returning from injury layoffs will bid to meet Sabalenka in the quarterfinals. No.5 Karolina Pliskova, who has compiled a 2-4 record since coming back from the wrist fracture she sustained in the off-season, or No.10 seed Jelena Ostapenko, who delivered a stellar February campaign but has been sidelined by a wrist injury for the past month.
Fourth quarter: Badosa faces potential clash vs. Halep
Last year, Madrid served as a significant breakthrough tournament for Badosa. As a No.62-ranked wildcard, she delivered an electrifying run to the semifinals in front of her home crowd. Twelve months on, she arrives newly ensconced as the World No.2 after reaching the Stuttgart semifinals and will open against Veronika Kudermetova.
In the second round, Badosa could face 2016 and 2017 champion Halep for the first time. The Romanian former No.1, who endured an injury-struck 2021 and whose ranking has fallen to No.21, will be making her debut with new coach Patrick Mouratoglou. Halep, who won Melbourne Summer Set 1 in January and made the semifinals of Doha and Indian Wells, has been sidelined since due to a leg injury. She will open against Zhang Shuai.
No.14 seed Coco Gauff is the projected third-round opponent for Badosa, and No.8 seed Ons Jabeur is slated to await in the quarterfinals. Jabeur could first need to take some revenge on No.10 seed Belinda Bencic. Their projected third-round clash would be a rematch of the high-quality Charleston final a month ago, which Bencic won 6-1, 5-7, 6-4. The Swiss player first faces a tricky second round against either big-hitting teenage wildcard Zheng Qinwen or the dangerous but perennially injured Karolina Muchova.
2022 Mutua Madrid Open: Seven first-round matches to circle
Amanda Anisimova (USA) vs.  Aryna Sabalenka
[WC] Marta Kostyuk (UKR) vs. Clara Tauson (DEN)
Leylah Fernandez (CAN) vs. Daria Kasatkina
Sara Sorribes Tormo (ESP) vs.  Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
[WC] Zheng Qinwen (CHN) vs. Karolina Muchova (CZE)
 Maria Sakkari (GRE) vs. Madison Keys (USA)
 Ons Jabeur (TUN) vs. Jasmine Paolini (ITA)
Click here to view full 2022 Mutua Madrid Open draw.