2017 WTA @InteBNLdItalia WTA Preview, Predictions
Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
It is the last grand tournament before the French Open, and one that finishes the back- to-back Premier weeks. The Internazionali BNL d’Italia is here and we have a run down of the 64 woman draw.
It is fair to say that Madrid did not go to plan for Angelique Kerber. The world number one is still trying to find her feet this season, but clay is not her best surface. Kerber should be good for the third round, but things get interesting form then on. She could possibly meet Maria Sharapova in round three, providing the Russian cat beat Christina McHale then the winner of Lucie Safarova vs Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. With Kerber’s struggles this year, Sharapova could make the last eight here, but the world number one will still be the favourite given how soon the Russian is in to her comeback.
Simona Halep once again had a good run in Madrid, so her participation in Rome may slightly be in doubt. Players can often do well one week then withdraw the next so it will be interesting to see if the Romanian heads to Rome. If so, Halep will be one of the favourites. Laura Seigemund or Naomi Osaka will welcome Halep to Rome. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is projected to face the sixth seed in the third round, but she has a tough draw with Sam Stosur and Anastasija Sevastova in her section.
Prediction: Halep def. Kerber
Dominika Cibulkova failed to defend her final points in Madrid, so Rome could be a big tournament for the Slovakian. She will want to avoid another early exit when she faces the winner of Roberta Vinci and Ekaterina Makarova in the second round. The first seeded player projected for Cibulkova is Kiki Bertens. The Dutchwoman played well to make the quarter finals in Madrid and could be a handful for the fourth seed should they meet in the third round. Bertens opens against Monica Niculescu, then will likely face Misaki Doi in the second round. There are some tough matches but Cibulkova will be the favourite to make it to the quarter finals.
Svetlana Kuznetsova had another good run in Madrid where she made the semi finals. Clay suits the Russian’s game and given the quarter she will fancy another semi final appearance in Rome. Katerina Siniakova or Shuai Zheng will be her first opponent, then possibly Madison Keys in round three. The American could have a difficult match against Caroline Garcia in round three, providing the Frenchwoman is fit after her back injury. But Keys is a former finalist here and could set up an interesting clash with Kuznetsova in the third round.
Prediction: Kuznetsova def. Cibulkova
The third quarter is headlined by a player who is out of form, and another who struggles on clay…this could get messy. Johanna Konta has never adapted well to the dirt, and her early exit in Madrid was not a surprise. It will not be a shock to see the Briton struggle against Monica Puig or Yulia Putintseva in round two. Venus Williams is another player who struggles on clay, and she has a dangerous draw against Yaroslava Shvedova. It is a hard section to call as almost every player could make the quarter finals.
Garbine Muguruza’s year did not get any better in Madrid where she lost in round one. The Spaniard did go deep in Rome last year, though, and will be looking to repeat that result in 2017. Muguruza should be good for the third round, but Kristina Mladenovic in the round of 16 could be a bridge too far, if she is not feeling the effects of her run in Madrid. The Frenchwoman has been in fine form this year, and could have a good result again in Rome. Mladenovic opens against Julia Goerges, then plays Alison Riske or Jelena Jankovic in round two.
Prediction: Mladenovic def. Venus
Karolina Pliskova is another player who often struggles to adapt her game to clay, so there could be another upset on the cards in the fourth quarter. Pliskova was soundly beaten by Sevastova in Madrid, and Carla Suarez Navarro could be a tough match too in the second round of Rome. Barbora Strycova is scheduled for the third round, but the Czech has a tough opener against Daria Kasatkina, then possibly Timea Bacsinszky.
Elina Svitolina exited Madrid shockingly early, but the Ukrainian could respond well in Rome. The eighth seed faces Alize Cornet or Sara Errani in the second round, two difficult opponents but players she should beat. Elena Vesnina is the projected third round opponent, and the Russian should make it too with a host of qualifiers in the section. It is a good draw for Svitolina, though, who should make the semi finals and possibly go further.
Prediction: Svitolina def. Bacsinszky
Halep def. Kuznetsova
Svitolina def. Mladenovic
Halep def. Svitolina
It is a tough tournament to call because there are so many unknown factors. Halep and Mladenovic are the form players but will their Madrid run leave them fatigued for Rome? The draw is open to a lot of upsets too but I am picking the in-form Halep to go all the way.