Rome, then Roland Garros: Muguruza, Halep, Ostapenko, Venus face off

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Garbine Muguruza is a former French Open champion and a threat this week in Rome. (AP)

The women’s event in Rome will have to make do without the WTA’s most famous player, Serena Williams, as well as its most dominant player of the moment, Petra Kvitova. The former wasn’t quite ready for competition, while the latter was ready for a break after two straight weeks tournaments, and two straight titles. Otherwise, the Foro Italico will feature its usual well-stocked draw. For the top women, this is the last chance to get things right before Roland Garros.


First Quarter

Is Simona Halep still the French Open favorite? Despite Kvitova’s recent run, and Serena’s impending return, Halep, a two-time runner-up in Paris, remains the logical, though hardly overwhelming, choice. But she has some work to do, and some points to defend, in Rome, where she reached the final in 2017. And she’ll have to start working right away: Halep will play either Victoria Azarenka or Naomi Osaka in her opener.

Also here: Sloane Stephens, Caroline Garcia, 2016 Rome finalist Madison Keys, and 2015 Rome finalist Carla Suarez Navarro

First-round matches to watch: Azarenka vs. Osaka; Keys vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. The Russian edged the American 6-4 in the third in Stuttgart two weeks ago.

Semifinalist: Halep

Unstrung, from Jon Wertheim: Tennis Moms


Second Quarter

Are Garbiñe Muguruza and Jelena Ostapenko, the top seeds in this section, really the last two French Open women’s champions? They’ve been quiet through the clay season so far, and for much of the 2018 season in general. Can they build some momentum before Roland Garros? Muguruza began her 2016 RG run with a trip to the semifinals in Rome; her draw makes a repeat journey seem distinctly possible.

First-round match to watch: Three-time Rome champion Maria Sharapova vs. 16th seed Ash Barty

Wild card to watch: Francesca Schiavone

Lucky Loser to watch: Aryna Sabalenka

Semifinalist: Muguruza


Third Quarter

If it wasn’t for Kvitova, her countrywoman Karolina Pliskova would be the surprise of the clay season. The Czech bomber has shown what she can do on dirt by winning Stuttgart and reaching the semifinals in Madrid. Now she’ll come to Rome, but another semi will be tough. This section includes Elina Svitolina, Angelique Kerber, Daria Kasatkina and Madrid finalist Kiki Bertens.

Qualifier for Americans to watch: Danielle Collins

Semifinalist: Bertens


Fourth Quarter

Venus Williams reached the Rome final in 1998, and won the tournament in 1999; since then, it has become one of her favorite locales, even if no titles at the Foro have followed. Is it any surprise that the Eternal Player likes the Eternal City? This year Venus comes in as the No. 8 seed, in a section that includes Caroline Wozniacki, Coco Vandeweghe, Anastasija Sevastova, Anett Kontaveit and Kiki Mladenovic.

First round matches to watch: Vandeweghe vs. Kontaveit; Sevastova vs. Mladenovic

Wild card to watch: Roberta Vinci

Semifinalist: V. Williams


Semifinals: Muguruza d. Halep; Bertens d. V. Williams

Final: Bertens d. Muguruza

Happy Mother's Day to...

Victoria Azarenka:

Ana Ivanovic:

Serena Williams:

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