The brilliant field of 56 has been reduced. We’re down to the final eight. Today, we watched some of the seeds fall. Gone are Simona Halep, Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys and Ash Barty. Here’s a look at the four quarterfinal matches and picks for who’ll make it to the semifinals.
WTA Italian Open Quarterfinal Predictions
Marketa Vondrousova vs Johanna Konta
Head to head: No history
Johanna Konta has found the form which has in other years escaped her on clay. The Brit upset the #7 seed, Sloane Stephens, in the Round of 32. Then, in just 72 minutes, Konta sent former Italian Open champion Venus Williams packing. It’s clear the Brit is here to play–and to win–turning in 36 winners to just 16 unforced errors against Venus Williams.
Marketa Vondrusova was not to be denied Thursady, as she won the three-set contest against Simona Halep. Perhaps no one expected Vondrousova to make the quarterfinals, but it shouldn’t be a surprise. The Czech teenager has made it at least to the quarterfinals in every 2019 tournament, aside from the Australian Open. She’s got a stellar game that translates to any surface.
While Konta has had a great run, the 19-year-old lefty from Sokolov may end that. I can’t see Konta mustering the offensive play needed to upset the Vondrousova game.
Prediction: Vondrousova in 3
Victoria Azarenka vs Karolina Pliskova
Head to head: Azarenka 4-3 Ka. Pliskova
Victoria Azarenka benefited from Garbine Muguruza’s retirement in the second set of today’s Round of 16. The Belorussian is one of the few players escaping a second Thursday match thanks to the Rome rainout. Fresh from and definitely having spent less time on courts, Azarenka is looking to take this tournament. The 29-year-old mom has always been known for her spirit and fight. Now, the form and fight have aligned.
Karolina Pliskova was one of the few who got through on Tuesday, allowing her to play a single match in Thursday’s marathon sessions. It was most likely her abundance of energy which pushed her past an eager and unexpected opponent in the form of Sofia Kenen. Things may well have been different had Kenin not played an exhausting three-set match to take out the #13 seed, Madison Keys, earlier in the day. Down a set and a break, Pliskova got back into the match as Kenin’s energy continued to wane. Not to say Pliskova hasn’t earned her spot, but Kenin’s reserves simply ran dry allowing Pliskova the win.
Don’t let the ranking disparity fool you. Azarenka is a very capable clay courter, as Pliskova well knows from losing to her in Stuttgart. Expect some momentum shifts but also expect the well-crafted points off the Azarenka racquet to bring her through.
Prediction: Azarenka in 2
Kristina Mladenovic vs Maria Sakkari
Head to head: No history
Who expected Kiki Mladenovic to be in the Italian Open quarterfinals? It’s an amazing accomplishment that the Frenchwoman has made it this far, after facing stiff competition in qualifiers just to see a main draw spot. Then, Mladenovic annihilated compatriot Caroline Garcia 6-1 6-2 to open her main draw bid. She followed that up with wins over both Belinda Bencic and Ash Barty in her double-header day.
After her title in Rabat, Maria Sakkari may be unstoppable. The Greek had to go through qualifiers to get into the main draw. Since then, she’s capitalized on every opportunity. Her stellar play has led her to victory. She was clearly poised to take out Petra Kvitova before winning via third set retirement. Sakkari has dropped just one set in in Italy. The Grecian is looking to win, regardless of how well Kiki Mladenovic has been playing.
Prediction: Sakkari in 2
Naomi Osaka vs Kiki Bertens
Head to head: Osaka 1-1 Bertens
It’s no surprise that the Madrid Open champion finds herself in the Italian Open quarterfinal. Kiki Bertens was the most overlooked player heading into 2019. Now, she’s a top contender in any match. Carla Suarez Navarro pushed the Duthcwoman in the Round of 16, but Bertens claimed the win with a delicate drop shot on match point. There’s been absolutely no let-down in the #6 seed’s game. However, two three-set matches may fatigue the 27-year-old.
Naomi Osaka enjoyed a relatively easy day at the office. The World #1 saw off Dominika Cibulkova in straight sets, and her Round of 16 match against Romanian Mihaela Buzarnescue offered the identical 6-3 6-3 scoreline. Today’s weapon was the Osaka serve. If that remains strong, Osaka has a good chance to take this tournament. Unfortunately, it’s the Osaka serve which has been woefully inconsistent.
Bertens and Osaka have laser sharp serves coming into the quarterfinals. If this were a hard court match, the easy choice would be Naomi Osaka. But, Bertens is the better clay-courter, more consistent server, and should claim a semifinal berth.
Prediction: Bertens in 3
Correction: An earlier version of this article mistakenly referred to Kiki Bertens as being Belgian. She is from the Netherlands.
Embed from Getty Images