Madrid schedule of play:
Ana Ivanovic vs. Madison Keys
Ivanovic is playing the best tennis of recent years, but still shows signs of her shaky form. The good thing now is that she wins ugly instead of just lose plainly. Keys will always be a factor, but on clay, her serve and powerful groundstrokes lose its sting. Also, Keys doesn't have the patience to work out points. It will be a huge upset if Keys manages to beat Ana, I don't think that she's ready for this victory yet.
Pick: Ivanovic in 2 sets
Serena Williams vs. Belinda Bencic
Serena Williams will be eager to prove her critics wrong after her shock loss to Cepelova in Charleston. Given that she has a long rest, I think she will be ready to pounce and defend her title. She opens her campaign with a tough one against rising star, Belinda Bencic. The rapidly improving Swiss has passed her qualifying round, defeating good players like Giorgi, and will challenge Serena. The difference is the serve. Serena is able to serve her way out of trouble, but Bencic's serve often falters at the crucial points. This will be a good warm up for the number 1 as she tries to defend her title.
Pick: Serena Williams in 2 sets
Angelique Kerber vs. Caroline Garcia
Garcia looks ready to take on the top 20 with her recent impressive play. She won in Bogota, and helped France in their Fed Cup by winning all her matches. This match here will test if she's ready for the big time. Kerber is a pesky counterpuncher and will never give up on her points. If Garcia is able to continually apply pressure and beat the German, she's ready. With her recent good form, and Kerber's recent dip, an upset is possible here.
Pick: Garcia in 3 sets
Sure win bets: Varvara Lepchenko, Maria Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic
Upset alert: Roberta Vinci, Zheng Jie, Sloane Stephens, Maria Kirilenko