The WTA tour begins main draw play at the Internazionali BNL D’Italia, frequently referred to as the Italian Open, on Monday. Yet, the qualifying rounds had all the panache of a main draw third-round event.
Young American rising star Amanda Anisimova didn’t make the cut as she fell in straight sets to France’s Kristina Mladenovic. Lucky for her, Anisimova moves into the main draw as a Lucky Loser. Another Frenchwoman, Alize Cornet, battled through Kristyna Pliskova to earn her way in. Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu bested the Puerto Rican Gold Medalist Monica Puig to claim her spot in the main draw. Sam Stosur and Andrea Petkovic will not see main draw action, both losing in straight sets. And, Maria Sakkari came through qualifiers, ready to make a deep run in Rome.
Day 1 will have some tough match-ups. Who’ll move on to the second round in this highly skilled and competitive draw? Here’s a look at four of the must-watch matches on the courts in Rome on Monday.
WTA Italian Open Day 1 Predictions
Serena Williams vs Rebecca Peterson
Head to head: Williams 1-0 Peterson
Rebecca Peterson turned in a strong performance to get past Sam Stosur in the qualifiers. No easy match, the Swede claimed the win 7-5 7-5. Playing two matches to find a spot in the main draw, it remains to be seen if that time on the court helps or hurts Peterson. In her only meeting with Serena Williams, the 23-year-old was able to make it a contest against the veteran in Miami. Serena was handed a tough score line in the second set of the Miami open 6-1. However, Williams stormed back to claim the decider 6-1.
Same as the elder Williams, Serena lacks any tournament play since Miami. Yet, that’s a playing pattern which simply doesn’t see to hamper Williams’ level. Unless Peterson has a trick up her sleeve, it should be a straightforward win for the younger Williams sister.
Prediction: Serena Williams in 2
Saisai Zheng vs Garbine Muguruza
Head to head: Zheng 0-2 Muguruza
Garbine Muguruza is far from the form of a Slam champion. In truth, her inconsistent play and overall underperformance continues to lead to losses. When she’s on top of her game, Muguruza plays with skill, precision and easy power. Such a clear champion. So, which version of the Spaniard will show up in Rome?
Saisai Zheng built some confidence winning a Challenger title in China. And, in Madrid, it took Sloane Stephens three sets to bounce the resilient Chinese. Her biggest weapon comes in the return of serve. It’s that very skill which has allowed her 49 break points during her last three matches. Consider that the counterbalance to her own unremarkable (and highly attackable) serve.
Zheng is capable of keeping pace with the WTA’s best. Even if Muguruza is performing well, the 25-year-old Chinese will put pressure on the Muguruza serve. Unfortunately, it’s the Muruguza serve which will be one of the first things to go off the rails. That, followed by her unforced errors, may give Zheng the opening she’s needs for a first round win.
Prediction: Zheng in 3
Venus Williams vs Elise Mertens
Head to head: Williams 2-0 Mertens
Her fifth tournament of 2019 and first on clay, Venus Williams starts her campaign in Rome against one of the tour’s toughest. What should be a straight set win for Belgain’s Elise Mertens may be complicated if there’s a lingering shoulder injury. That very injury caused the defending Rabat champion a quarterfinal exit in Morocco.
The elder Williams sister hasn’t played a tournament since Miami. Yet, it seems that the Williams sisters have an uncanny ability to play precious few matches and still show up tournament tough. That feat combined with an opponent most likely not at 100% should give Venus a clear edge. Forget the 30 ranking spots separating the two. Few on the WTA tour can beat a healthy Venus Williams – assuming that’s the Venus who shows up.
Prediction: Venus Williams in 2
Amanda Anisimova vs Elisabetta Cocciaretto
Head to head: No history
Amanda Anisimova is lucky to be in the main draw after losing in qualifiers. But, luck being what it is, the 17-year-old American claimed a spot as a Lucky Loser. She’ll face 18-year-old wild card, Italian Elisabetta Cocciaretto. You can be certain Anisimova will make the most of this opportunity. It should be a straight sets win for the American teen against the Italian teen. No doubt, Cocciaretto will have the support of the vocal Italian crowd. But, undoubtedly this won’t be much of a contest.
Prediciton: Anisimova in 2