On Monday, Coco Gauff will kick off her campaign at the Internazionali BNL d'italia against Yulia Putintseva. The WTA stop has been on the American’s radar since beginning her preparation for the European clay-court season.

“I’ve only been to Rome once and that was under the COVID restrictions,” Gauff recalls. “So I haven’t got to get the full experience. Even then, it’s still a great tournament.”

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In Their Shoes: Coco Gauff's wait for Rome return is over

In Their Shoes: Coco Gauff's wait for Rome return is over

In 2020, the 1000-level tournament was part of a condensed clay-court swing staged after the US Open. Gauff won her Italian Open debut against Ons Jabuer, before losing in three close sets to No. 9 seed Garbine Muguruza.

This year, Gauff comes into Rome with a career-high ranking of No. 35. The Delray Beach, Fla. resident has been focusing on upgrading a specific part of her game during her training sessions.

“One of things that I’m working on in my game is definitely my serve, making sure I can get that kick serve out wide to get the ball above my opponents’ shoulders,” she says.

In Their Shoes: Coco Gauff's wait for Rome return is over

In Their Shoes: Coco Gauff's wait for Rome return is over

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Gauff is 14-7 in 2021, which includes a semifinal showing at the Adelaide International. After picking up three wins on green clay in Charleston, the 17-year-old fell to Karolina Pliskova at the Mutua Madrid Open in her first appearance on red dirt this season.

The former Roland Garros junior champion and Putintseva are meeting for the first time, set to face off in the first match on Pietrangeli.