WTA Italian Open 2019 Preview

Italian Open

Home favourite Camila Giorgi’s withdrawal due to a wrist injury surely dents Italian hopes of a first titlist in Rome since Raffaella Reggi in 1985. Particularly as such a strong field has assembled for the Italian Open, a Premier 5-level event. What is certain, is that some high-quality clay-court tennis is in the offing at the Foro Italico.

Preview: WTA Italian Open 2019

Halep could take on Vondrousova in second round

Third seed Simona Halep has not won the title in Rome, which for a clay courter of her calibre is almost astonishing. The Romanian arrives at the Italian Open in good form, having enjoyed a good Madrid campaign, despite missing out on reclaiming the world #1 ranking after her loss in the final to Kiki Bertens. For the past two years in the Eternal City, she has played second fiddle to Elina Svitolina, twice falling at the hands of the Ukrainian in the title-match. Revenge must be on her mind. But first, Halep may find herself with the chance of avenging her Indian Wells defeat against 19-year-old Czech Marketa Vondrousova.

In the Californian desert, Simona Halep struggled to get beyond the impressive, Wozniacki-esque defense of the Czech star. Vondrousova’s defensive adeptness is, however, slightly less effective on clay, although she has compiled a 4-1 record on the clay this season, highlighted by a run to the Istanbul final. She could cause Halep, still not completely fit after a stomach bug, some problems. That is if Vondrousova can beat her compatriot Barbora Strycova, a late replacement for Giorgi, for the fourth time in as many meetings in first-round action.
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Halep again doesn’t have the easiest of draws

The Italian Open draw is not the easiest for the Romanian either. It’s not as bad as her Australian Open draw earlier this year, but the Romanian could be forgiven for thinking that she is cursed. Should she overcome Vondrousova or Strycova, the industrious 15th seed Wang Qiang is likely to await in the third round. Her task will get no easier thereafter, with one of the Williams sisters her most likely potential quarterfinal opponent. If she is to battle her way to a first Italian Open title then, it will certainly not be easy.

Defending champion Svitolina seeking first clay court win of the year

Fourth seed Elina Svitolina seems to have made a habit of following up a disappointing result in Madrid by winning the Italian Open. In 2017, for example, she succumbed to Zheng Saisai in the first round in Madrid before lifting the trophy in Rome. Last season, a second-round defeat in Madrid at the hands of Carla Suarez-Navarro was answered by a second triumph at the Foro Italico. But unfortunately for fans of the Ukrainian, she has yet to carry that form into the French Open, where her best effort has been a quarterfinal finish in 2017. Perhaps this year then, a poor showing in Rome might not be the end of the world if it leads to her finally producing her best form at a Slam.
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Svitolina Could Open Against Azarenka in Rome

A tough tie against Victoria Azarenka might await Svitolina in the second round in Rome. Azarenka, however, will need to overcome the dangerous Zhang Shuai in the first round. The Belarusian former world #1 did beat Zhang in straight sets in Indian Wells in their only previous meeting, which came three years ago. She may well be confident of victory as a result, although Zhang has unquestionably improved since 2016. If Azarenka can make it through to the second round, then her clash with Svitolina would surely be the best match of the round, a clay-court masterclass to be savoured.

Konta to face Riske in first round again

Jo Konta will open her campaign against the USA’s Alison Riske again, after putting her to the sword at the Madrid Open last week. Konta, ranked 41st in the world, will surely see the Italian Open as an opportunity to build upon an improved clay-court showing so far this season. She impressed in reaching the final in Morocco, her first on the terre battue, before acquitting herself well in a 5-7 1-6 loss to Halep in the second round in Madrid. Sloane Stephens is waiting for Konta should she prevail. Konta has looked focused so far on the clay, which can surely only mean good things for her ambitions during the grass-court swing.
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Jasmine Paolini and Sara Errani to lead the Italian charge

The loss of top-ranked Italian Giorgi through injury is surely a blow to the tournament organisers in Rome. But the Italian crowds will still have recent Monte Carlo champion Fabio Fognini, 2018 French Open semifinalist Marco Cecchinato and the in-form Matteo Berrettini to support. There also three other Italians still in the women’s singles draw: Jasmine Paolini, the world #202, Sara Errani, runner-up in 2014 but now outside the world’s top 250, and 18-year-old Elisabetta Cocciaretto, ranked 799th in the world.
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Paolini lost to Lottner in the final round of qualifying in Prague and again in the same tournament to Mandy Minella as a lucky loser. Obviously, not the best form to represent your country as their top ranked player at a Premier 5 event. But with the fervent backing of the home crowd, she could do damage against Sofia Kenin, who has just one clay-court win to her name coming into Rome. 23-year old-world #455 Cristiana Ferrando, meanwhile, scored an impressive first round qualifying victory over Pauline Parmentier of France to keep Italian hopes of another entrant into the main draw alive. She next faces Mona Barthel.

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  1. Again, Halep has the toughest of draws with Serena around the corner. Why Simona, all the time ? I wish her good health – to play the Ultimate Match one more time for us, the tennis fans !


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