2015 WTA Rome Preview, Predictions
Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
From Madrid to Rome we head to the second Premier event in as many weeks for the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.
The annual clay court event has become one of the most prestigious outside of Roland Garros, with a whole host of top players having the honour of being called champion.
Serena Williams has won the past two tournaments here, with Sharapova winning the two prior to them. Chris Evert has won Roma more times than anyone with five titles. Gabriela Sabatini and Conchita Martínez, are just behind with four titles.
Internazionali BNL d’Italia
Location: Rome, Italy
Prize Money: $ 2,707,664
Date: May 11th – May 17th 2015
Top 8 seeded players (Ranking)
1. Serena Williams (1)
2. Simona Halep (2)
3. Maria Sharapova (3)
4. Petra Kvitova (4)
5. Caroline Wozniacki (5)
6. Eugenie Bouchard (6)
7. Ana Ivanovic (7)
8. Ekaterina Makarova (8)
All the top players have entered this prestigious event.
First round matches to look out for:
(12) Venus Williams vs Garbine Muguruza:
Venus Williams must be cursing her luck with draws recently, as she’s got yet another difficult round one test, this time against Garbine Muguruza. Muguruza hasn’t been on the best of form since her losses to Pliskova earlier in the year, but the Spaniard has a great clay court game as proven by her French Open run in 2014. For her, this is a big test of her potential to perhaps be a future number one, as she’ll be facing one of the greatest players of this generation. Venus’ clay court season didn’t get off to the best start in Madrid as she was downed by Victoria Azarenka in straight sets. Despite this being her weakest surface, Venus is still a threat at 34 years of age and will no doubt test the rising Muguruza.
The pair have met two times before on hard courts with Venus winning both times, but Muguruza has come a long way since Auckland last year and is the better clay courter at the moment. Expect a heavy hitting battle with lots of winners and errors. It will likely come down to who can sustain a good level more consistently.
(11) Karolina Pliskova vs Timea Bacsinszky
This potentially great encounter pitches two of the biggest success stories of 2015 against each other. Pliskova’s rise up the rankings during the early part of the season has seen her almost crack the top 10, whilst Timea Bacsinszky’s comeback has been nothing short of admirable.
Karolina Pliskova proved her clay doubters wrong with a solid run in Prague last week, taking the title in her home country. The big serving Czech’s form has seen her rise to 5th in the WTA race rankings. Despite a loss to Caroline Garcia in Madrid, Pliskova will be full of confidence heading into Rome.
Timea Bacsinszky has comeback better than ever after her break from tennis. The Swiss Is 13th in the race rankings and has won two titles this year in Mexico. Timea lost to Maria Sharapova last week in Madrid, but that shouldn’t derail her confidence.
This has the potential to go the distance, with the match seemingly being very close on paper. Bacsinszky won their only previous meeting last year at the Canadian masters. Make sure to catch this one when play kicks off.
(9) Angelique Kerber vs Alize Cornet
It seems like Alize Cornet is more likely to defeat a top 10 player than a player ranked outside the top 50 these days. The Frenchwoman has scored victories over Serena Williams and most recently Simona Halep in Madrid. Maybe Cornet drawing the ninth seeded Kerber was a blessing for her?
Or maybe it was a curse, as Keber leads their head to head 2-0 including a victory on clay two years ago in Madrid. The German has been in tremendous form on the clay despite her loss to Sam Stosur last week. Kerber claimed titles in Stuttgart and Charleston on the dirt. It could very well have been the big turning point in an otherwise difficult season.
Alize Cornet has struggled to string together victories recently, and that has seen her drop outside the top 20. Despite upsetting Halep in the opening round of Madrid, she slumped to Roberta Vinci in the following round. However, it seems that Cornet brings her best against the top 10 and this could very well be another one of them occasions.
When the two best clay courters of the past few years are drawn in the same half you have to expect fireworks, and that’s what we will get when the two biggest names in the WTA, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova step on court.
Serena will open her defence of the Roma title against the winner of the Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs Sam Stosur opening round clash. Serena will no doubt be hungry to defend her title, and thus she shouldn’t have too many problems in the opening rounds. The third round will likely be Barbora Strycova or Sara Errani, both of which the world number one should win. The quarter finals onwards will be where it gets most interesting with Ana Ivanovic being the projected opponent, though her road to that stage is very difficult. Talented youngster Belinda Bencic is a likely round two opponent for the Serb, and if she is to get through that she will face either Sabine Lisicki, Sloane Stephens, Karolina Pliskova or Timea Bacsinszky, all of which have potential to be very tricky.
Maria Sharapova could find herself in a Wozniacki rematch if things go according to seeding in the second quarter. The pair met in Madrid in a feisty match-up that was filled with tension, so a rematch could provide even more drama. Of course, both players must navigate their way through a tough quarter before we can speculate what is going to happen. Sharapova should have little trouble to round three at the earliest with Caroline Garcia (Another rematch with a lot of tension) being a possible opponent at that stage. It’s not set in stone however with 15th seed Madison Keys and Madison Brengle competing in an all American first round clash. Both players also have the potential to go far. Sharapova’ clay record recently speaks for its self so she’ll be the huge favourite to make the quarter finals. She’ll be a bigger favourite than Wozniacki at least, who could face a resurging Victoria Azarenka in round two. The Belarusian came within centimetres of defeating Serena Williams in Madrid, so she’s in good form. One must beg the question however, how did that loss affect Azarenka mentally? The winner of that blockbuster round two match will be likely facing Kerber or Begu in the third round. Kerber will be the favourite, but Begu showed some good tennis in Madrid, so an upset is entirely possible. It’s most certainly an interesting quarter, and no matter which one of the three likely quarter final opponents will square off against Sharapova. It will likely be a great match.
The two top seeds in this half of the draw had a complete contrast in fortunes in Madrid. Petra Kvitova will be riding high after winning the title in the Spanish capital, whilst Simona Halep will be looking to make up for a disappointing opening round loss to Alize Cornet.
Kvitova’s BYE will mean she’ll get some rest at least, but when she returns she could be facing some of the home crowd favourites. First will be the winner of Karin Knapp vs Francesca Schiavone, and then it could be fellow big hitter Camila Giorgi in the third round. Giorgi lost disappointingly to Tsvetana Pironkova in Madrid, but with the Italian crowd behind her she might just get the boost she needs. Will it be enough to beat Kvitova? A lot of that depends on how Kvitova is feeling after going all the way in Madrid. Sixth seed Eugenie Bouchard is enduring a bit of a slump at the moment, and with French Open semi-final points to defend, the Canadian needs to start finding her form fast. Pironkova or Zarina Diyas could send her packing early yet again, so Bouchard must come in with the right mind-set. The favourite for the quarter final might just be Carla Suarez Navarro, who is having one of her best seasons to date. The Spaniard made the quarter finals of Madrid before losing to Serena Williams, and looking at her draw another deep run is possible. Mona Barthel isn’t in good form, and the Roberta Vinci vs Heather Watson winner shouldn’t be a problem for Navarro.
Simona Halep’s early exit in Madrid was a shock, but now the Romanian will be on a mission to make up for that disappointing loss. The world number two’s first real test will likely come in round three, where none of the potential four opponents will be favourable. Venus Williams, Garbine Muguruza, Flavia Pennetta, or Elina Svitolina will meet Halep in the round of 16. That is difficult. Muguruza might be most people’s favourite, but given her recent form she could easily exit early. Halep should advance from the section, but an early exit won’t be surprising either. Ekaterina Makarova could have potentially re-matched Svetlana Kuznetsova, but the Russian was injured during the Madrid final so is now a doubt for Rome. With a lot of qualifiers in the section, it should be Makarova vs Safarova in round three, which will be a good battle of the powerful lefties. Safarova performed better in Madrid, so the form favours the Czech.
Serena def. Pliskova in 2 sets
Sharapova def. Azarenka in 3 sets
Kvitova def. Suarez Navarro in 2 sets
Halep def. Safarova in 2 sets
Serena def. Sharapova in 2 sets
Halep def. Kvitova in 2 sets
Serena def. Halep in 3 sets
Serena will get back to winning ways by claiming a third consecutive Roma title.