Home Articles Madrid Master 2024 – The Biggest Surprises

Madrid Master 2024 – The Biggest Surprises

by Simon Zeitler
Robin Montgomery vs. Aryna Sabalenka

The Madrid WTA & ATP Masters are close to their end, but one thing is for sure, there were a lot of surprises and fresh faces! Let us look into the biggest ones and whether they might be in for the long haul or just a one hit wonder?

How ‘bout that girl that pushed Aryna to the limit?

Robin Montgomery (image above) probably wasn’t a name that many tennis fans outside of the U.S. have heard a lot of times before this week. But she definitely announced herself on stage in Madrid. After beating Avanesyan and Boulter, she was up against no 2 in the WTA rankings Aryna Sabalenka in the Round of 32. And in the beginning, it looked as if the usual would happen – young players are just overwhelmed with Sabalenka’s power and lose pretty easily. But the 19-year-old left hander fought her way back with great variety of shots and secured the second set, before coming just short in the third.

Hopefully, we will see more performances from the youngster, who is managed by IMG and was supported by Frances Tiafoe in Madrid. She is part of the next gen of players from the U.S., who skip college and go straight to the pro tour and has 4 ITF titles to her name already. Her good topspin, which is quite unusual on the WTA tour, and left-handed power tennis, make her one to look out for in the future.

Her win brings her close to the top 150 and hopefully we will see her out on the center stages of the world more frequently!

Another teenager from the Czech Republic!

Sara Bejlek, Czech Rep

In a way it is getting scary, how the relatively small (but fierce) nation of the Czech Republic is producing one top player after the other. Next to the standing stars of Vondrousova, Muchova and Kreijcikova, they have the young prodigies Noskova and the Fruhvirtova sisters. Not to mention that there are Bouzkova and Siniakova in the top-40, and they still have Grand Slam champion Kvitova and former No. 1 Pliskova on tour.

Feel like this has been a lot of “ovas”? Well, luckily our next Czech rising star goes by the name Sara Bejlek. The 18-year-old even went one round further in Madrid than Montgomery, beating Blinkova, Kalinskaya and Krueger, before running into powerhouse Rybakina.

Even though she wasn’t able to beat the (maybe) best-in-shape player on tour yet, her composure and gameplay are far ahead of her young age. She is close to breaking into the top-100 and will surely give the Czech fans even more to celebrate in the future.

He’s been through a lot, but what a fighter!

I don’t know if the men can hang with the WTA surprises this time, but I surely was surprised by one man in particular. Pavel Kotov gave World No. 2 Jannik Sinner a serious run for his money in the third round, after beating Jordan Thompson in a grueling match before. He may not look like an elite athlete to the stranger’s eyes, but he packs quite a punch on both wings and his serve.

Kotov has been through a lot, with his coach and good friend dying to cancer at the age of 29 a couple of years ago. But the 25-year-old from Russia has shown that he is all the way back to form, with reaching semis in Marrakech and now challenging Sinner in Madrid. He has a nonchalant way about his tennis, that reminds me of Marat Safin in a way. Combined with a flawless technique and fast arm, he could be dangerous in the clay season to come.

World No. 512 – a “young” surprise?

Now – for most of this article we have been covering the young talents amongst the surprises – but since the men’s tour these days is very consistent, there was just one other surprise. A youngster at 37-years-old, coming from the island of Mallorca and going by the name of Rafael Nadal.

He came into the tournament at World No. 512 and given his form and injuries, surely no one placed bets on him in Madrid. Granted, he was lucky to be drawn against the young Darwin Blanch, but he went on to beat Alex De Minaur and Pedro Cachin, with the latter being a bit too starstruck for the moment. 

After being beaten by a remarkable Jiri Lehecka, he was given an emotional farewell ceremony in front of his family and friends. This may have been his last time at the Madrid Masters, but it surely did raise the hopes of his faithful set of fans. If he can gain some steam in the weeks to come, I wouldn’t rule out his chances at the Olympics at least, even if best-of-5 seems a bit too far fetched for now. But clay tennis surely feels a lot better with Nadal in it!

Have I missed any surprise from the Masters? Let me know in the comments!

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