After a roller coaster first quarter of 2016, the unpredictable nature of the 2016 WTA season kept up with many stars falling by the wayside as some unheralded talent found their way into the spotlight. While many seeded players fell, in the end established WTA stars Simona Halep and Dominika Cibulkova made their way into the final in Madrid. Now, after a fantastic week of thrills and spills, we look back at the winners and losers of the Mutua Madrid Open.
Simona Halep: After struggling for the entire first quarter of 2016, Halep got her year back on track with a first ever Mutua Madrid Open title and a second WTA Premier Mandatory title. Halep showed signs of improvement on her way to quarterfinals in Indian Wells and Miami, but the Romanian could not find her form during Fed Cup and at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix.
Halep came out of the blocks firing in Madrid, cruising through her first two matches in the Spanish capital against Misaki Doi and Karin Knapp. The former French Open finalist then found herself seeking revenge against the player who beat her in the last eight in Miami this year, Timea Bacsinszky. Halep eased past her Swiss rival 6-2, 6-3, before fighting past fellow Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu to reach the last four. In the semis, Halep put a demolition job on Samantha Stosur to reach her second Madrid final.
In the final, Halep met 2014 Australian Open runner-up Dominika Cibulkova, who had stunned top seed Agnieszka Radwanska earlier in the week. The sixth seed kept up her brilliant form with a fairly routine win over Cibulkova to claim her first Mutua Madrid Open title under the watchful eye of Romanian tournament owner Ion Tiriac and 1976 Olympic gold medalist Nadia Comaneci.
Dominika Cibulkova: After enjoying the best tournament of her life at the 2014 Australian Open, reaching a first Grand Slam final in Melbourne, Dominika Cibulkova has struggled with injury and tough draws trying to find her way back. Cibulkova tore her Achilles in Antwerp in 2015, and after returning during the grass court season later that year, the Slovak has been searching to find her vintage form.
The former top 10 player took a big step toward getting back to the top of tennis, with a big upset win over top seed Agnieszka Radwanska. After sending the Pole packing, Cibulkova kept up her fine run of form, fighting past dangerous players Caroline Garcia and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to reach the quarterfinals. In the last eight, the former Grand Slam finalist battled back from a set down to defeat Sorana Cirseta, before blowing past American youngster Louisa Chirico. While Cibulkova could not quite hold up against Halep, the Slovak made huge strides this week setting herself up for a successful French Open and beyond.
Samantha Stosur: After struggling for much of the past three years, Samantha Stosur seems to be getting closer to her best. While Stosur's level this week in Madrid was far from her play at the 2011 US Open, the Australian showed improved play and mental strength.
After reaching her first final of 2016 last week in Prague, the former world number four kept up her solid run, upsetting home hope Carla Suarez Navarro, before eventually bowing out to Halep. After a solid two weeks of clay court preparation on the road to Roland Garros, Stosur looks set to keep her fine form going and look for the 2010 French Open finalist to make a second week run in Paris.
Agnieszka Radwanska: Following a solid run to the semifinals in Stuttgart two weeks ago, Radwanska suffered another head-scratching loss in the first round to eventual finalist Dominika Cibulkova. After squeaking past Cibulkova in the opening round in Indian Wells, the Slovak was too much for Radwanska, with clay always being the Pole's worst surface. The world number two will skip Rome next week, meaning she will need to improve her clay court game dramatically before Roland Garros if she hopes to even be able to contend in Paris.
Angelique Kerber: Another one of the top seeds who fell in the first two rounds, Kerber has shown inconsistency throughout 2016. After winning her maiden Grand Slam at the Australian Open in January, Kerber struggled with the added pressure of being a major champion throughout February and March.
The German seemed to have gotten back on track with a semifinal run in Charleston and a title at her home tournament, the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, in Stuttgart. But another opening match loss clouds the world number three's preparation for Roland Garros. A deep run next week in Rome will be pivotal if Kerber wants any chance of a second week showing in Paris.
Garbiñe Muguruza: Much like many of the top seeds, Muguruza has struggled mightily this year with sustaining any momentum from tournament to tournament. The Spaniard suffered a disappointing Australian swing, before coming alive in a quarterfinal run at the Qatar Total Open in Doha. The defending Wimbledon finalist, though, could not string her success together, losing early in both Indian Wells and Miami, and then last week in Stuttgart.
In her first tournament in Spain since her breakout run to the finals at Wimbledon, expectations were high on Muguruza coming in. But the home hope could not live up to her hype, falling in the second round to a solid Irina-Camelia Begu. Similar to Kerber, Muguruza will need to step up her game dramatically next week in Rome if she hopes to go deep in Paris.