WTA Madrid Tennis Picks, Predictions: Osaka to Struggle Against Potapova (April 29)

WTA Madrid Tennis Picks, Predictions: Osaka to Struggle Against Potapova (April 29) article feature image

Icon Sportswire/Getty. Pictured: Naomi Osaka hits a forehand at the Miami Open.

It was a fascinating first day of main-draw action in Madrid and Friday projects to bring even more exciting tennis.

I've found two opportunities for value on the slate of WTA matches in the Spanish capital.

Read on for two spots to think about from Friday in Madrid.

Match times are subject to change. Read here for tips on viewing tennis matches.

Madison Keys (+154) vs. Maria Sakkari (-186)

6:30 a.m. ET

Madison Keys hasn't played since going out in her second match on the green clay of Charleston. Keys fell to Belinda Bencic in the round of 16.

Against Bencic, Keys struggled on her second serve, winning only 42% of her second-serve points. She also returned poorly, allowing Bencic to win 67% of her service points. In addition, Keys struggled with her rally tolerance in Charleston and will need to be steadier in Madrid.

Keys started off the season very strong, making the semifinals of the Australian Open. However, since then the American has gone just 4-5 on the season while struggling to keep the ball in play. Keys has lost her rhythm from the baseline and her game has stuttered as a result.

Maria Sakkari certainly didn't have an ideal start to the clay season in Stuttgart. Sakkari was sick and retired in her first match against Laura Siegemund.

Sakkari's best surface is clay, as she has a 161-101 record on the surface and won her only WTA Tour title on the clay of Rabat. In addition, last season, the Greek came within one point of the French Open final before losing a heartbreaker to Barbora Krejcikova.

She moves around the court very well and has an excellent forehand that allows her to control the baseline. Sakkari's backhand is also solid and she's able to effectively move the ball around the court and use her variety to create opportunities for herself.

Given that Sakkari was sick and not injured, I'm not worried about her physical condition over a week later.

Stylistically, this matchup favors Sakkari. She can effectively blunt Keys' power by getting a lot of balls back into play while not letting Keys to regularly push her into defensive positions on the court. This is represented in their two previous matchups, where Keys hasn't gotten more than four games in a set.

And given that Keys has been erratic in her baseline play in recent tournaments, this feels like an especially good spot for Sakkari to cover.

Pick: Sakkari -2.5 games (-128 via FanDuel)

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Naomi Osaka (-225) vs. Anastasia Potapova (+184)

9:30 a.m. ET

Naomi Osaka hasn't played since losing 4-6, 0-6 in the Miami final to Iga Swiatek. She hasn't played a clay-court match since the 2021 French Open, where she pulled out before her second-round match with Ana Bogdan.

While hard courts are Osaka's best surface, she still has a 60% winning percentage on clay over her professional career.  However, a large portion of the matches she's played on clay have been in ITF events and Osaka has gone just 2-2 on clay in the last two seasons combined.

The Madrid altitude will help Osaka's power game gain a little more punch on the slow red clay, but she doesn't move well on the surface and can get impatient on it. Osaka's variety, in terms of slices and drop shots, is also a bit lacking, hurting her on clay.

Anastasia Potapova is having the best run of form of her career. Potapova won the Istanbul title last week, taking down Veronika Kudermetova in the final. Then, she came to Madrid and qualified for the main draw.

Potapova held both Daria Saville and Kristina Mladenovic to under 55% of their service points won and 40% or less of their second-serve points won.

She broke serve an astonishing 13 times in just those two matches, continuing a trend from Istanbul where she broke 26 times in her five main-draw matches there.

Potapova's done an excellent job in recent weeks of using controlled aggression to dominate the baseline in a way she hadn't in the past. Her forehand is heavy and hard to attack, while her backhand cuts through the court and has put opponents on the defensive.

Osaka is the much more accomplished and talented player, but this is a tough spot for her. Potapova moves very well and will be able to retrieve a lot of Osaka's groundstrokes. Potapova also has a great understanding of how to turn defense into offense, which will frustrate Osaka.

Given Osaka's lack of match play on clay in recent years, it feels unrealistic to expect her to perform well against a confident, in-form player who is already used to the Madrid conditions from playing qualifying.

Pick: Potapova +3.5 games (-102 via FanDuel)

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