2018 @WTA @InteBNLdItalia Preview, Predictions
Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
After a great tournament in Madrid, the tour heads to Rome for the second Premier tournament in as many weeks. Elina Svitolina is the defending champion on the last major stop to Roland Garros. Let’s get to it.
Simona Halep’s winning run in Madrid came to an end at the hands of Karolina Pliskova, so the Romanian will be keen to regain some ranking points in Rome. She enters as the top seed so gets a BYE into round two where she will face the winner of Victoria Azarenka vs Naomi Osaka–a brutal draw. Madison Keys is also in this section, but her struggles on clay may give Carla Suarez Navarro or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova a chance to make the round of 16.
Caroline Garcia had a good run to the Madrid semi finals, but a 2 & 2 defeat to Kiki Bertens ended it on a sour note. The Frenchwoman looks to have found some form though and she should be safe to make the last 16 with a declining Sara Errani or Timea Babos waiting in round two. Sloane Stephens will likely meet her there, but she herself has a tough opener against Barbora Strycova.
I expect the seeds to advance to the quarter finals here despite some tough matches along the way. Both Garcia and Halep prefer the courts of Madrid, but in Rome I would give the Romanian the edge.
Prediction: Halep def. Garcia
Rome has been quite a good pit-stop to Roland Garros for Garbine Muguruza, so despite her indifferent form the Spaniard is a dangerous player here. She will open against the winner of Daria Gavrilova vs Cici Bellis which will be an interesting second round match with both those players presenting a challenge. Ashleigh Barty is the other seed here, but the Aussie prefers faster surfaces and has Maria Sharapova as an opening round opponent. Francesca Schiavone will play her last Rome tournament this week and opens against Dominika Cibulkova.
Jelena Ostapenko disappointed in Madrid but the thing with the Latvian is that she can hit form at any time. She has a relatively soft draw after Petra Kvitova’s withdrawal, so that means that Magdalena Rybarikova is the other seed in this section. She plays Johanna Konta in round one. Mihaela Buzarnescu might be the biggest challenge in this section for Ostapenko as she has form on her side this clay season.
It could all lead to a Muguruza vs Ostapenko quarter final which would be a titanic battle. Muguruza historically struggles with big hitters, but let’s face it–on clay she has the edge over the Latvian.
Prediction: Muguruza def. Ostapenko
Elina Svitolina is the defending champion here and is one of the favourites as a result. She will be well rested after exiting Madrid early, but she herself as a tough draw ahead. Lesia Tsurenko and Petra Martic are dangerous floaters and we have seen how difficult Daria Kasatkina can be to beat. The Russian’s draw is quite a nice one so she could await Svitolina in the round of 16.
Karolina Pliskova, 2017 US Open
Karolina Pliskova has been a revelation on clay this season. It is usually a surface she struggles on, but a title win in Stuttgart followed by a semi final in Madrid has shown her improvements on the surface. Rome has slower conditions, though, that could hinder her, and the Kiki Bertens second round draw is brutal. Does the Dutchwoman have enough in the tank after her run in Madrid though? Maria Sakkari will be there to test that. You can also not count out Angelique Kerber, who is also in this section.
This is a difficult section with two very dangerous unseeded players in there. I think Svitolina will make it to the last eight, but it depends on how Bertens looks. If she continues her Madrid form I think the Dutchwoman will go far, but I expect the exhaustion to catch up to her when she makes the last eight.
Prediction: Svitolina def. Bertens
Caroline Wozniacki heads to Rome after a disappointing loss to Bertens in Madrid. Clay has not been her best surface despite having a game that suits it, but the draw is pretty kind to the Dane. Sam Stosur is a shadow of her former self, and whilst Kristina Mladenovic and Anastasija Sevastova are both capable here, they are not in the best of form themselves.
The other half of this section is really difficult to call. Venus Williams is the seeded player, but her difficulties on this surface are well documented. Coco Vandeweghe’s form came crashing down in Madrid and the Rome conditions do not suit her game at all, which could give Anett Kontaveit a chance to go deep. Svetlana Kuznetsova is the most natural clay courter here, but she is coming in off an injury and has no form behind her at all.
This is the weakest quarter of the draw and by the sheer lack of form and clay court prowess here, I have to go with Wozniacki defeating Kontaveit in the quarter finals.
Prediction: Wozniacki def. Kontaveit
Semi Finals/Finals Prediction:
Muguruza def. Halep
Svitolina def. Wozniacki
Muguruza def. Svitolina
There is no player who stands out above the rest at the moment, making this a difficult call. Muguruza usually comes alive here, so I am going with the Spaniard.