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Three to See, Rome Day 9: Swiatek hopes to turn tables on Rybakina; Djokovic, Ruud also seek revenge
The reigning Wimbledon champ aims to make it 3-0 against the WTA world No. 1 this year on Wednesday, while Holger Rune looks to topple Novak for a second straight meeting.
Published May 16, 2023
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Iga Swiatek vs. Elena Rybakina
We won’t have a Swiatek-Sabalenka rematch in Rome, but we will have one between Swiatek and Rybakina, which is not a bad substitute, particularly for a quarterfinal. Swiatek is No. 1, Rybakina No. 6. Swiatek is the defending French Open and US Open champion, Rybakina is the defending Wimbledon champion. Perhaps more important and relevant on Wednesday, Rybakina is 2-0 against Swiatek in 2023, and she won both of those matches convincingly: 6-4, 6-4 at the Australian Open and 6-2, 6-2 in Indian Wells.
“Coming back to my previous matches against Elena, it doesn't make sense. It was on hard court. I know how I kind of felt,” the Pole said Tuesday. “This time I don't have, like, any expectations.”
Swiatek will not want to make it three defeats in a row to her going into Roland Garros. Along with that motivation, she’ll also be on a surface that favors her this time. Winner: Swiatek
Novak Djokovic vs. Holger Rune
Djokovic paid Rune the ultimate compliment on Tuesday: He compared the Danish teen to himself.
“Really fit physically, great defense, but also great counter-puncher,” Djokovic, singing both of their praises at once.
Rune wasn’t going to disagree.
“I mean, it’s a good thing, I think,” he said of Djokovic’s compliments. “Novak, obviously, he has an amazing career.”
Rune earned Djokovic’s respect in their two previous matches. He took a set from him in their first meeting, at the 2021 US Open, and he upset him in their second, in the Bercy final last fall. This will be their first encounter on clay, though I don’t think that will advantage either player. Like Djokovic said, they both have the mix of defense and counter-punching offense that is at the core of modern dirt-ball.
Rune has the physicality, the backhand, and the belief to win this match. Will he, as the underdog, also have the fans? Or will they rally around the legend across the net? If it’s the latter, will Rune have the maturity to ignore them and win anyway? Winner: Djokovic
Casper Ruud vs. Francisco Cerundolo
Ruud is seeded 20 spots higher than Cerundolo: No. 4 to No. 24. He made two Grand Slam finals in 2022, while Cerundolo has a career record of 2-5 at the majors, and has never been out of the third round at any of them. So why does it feel as if the Argentine is the favorite?
We can start with the fact that he has a 2-1 record against Ruud, and both of those wins came on clay. We can continue with the fact that Cerundolo, 24, has amassed an impressive array of Top 20 victories this spring. He’s knocked off Ruud, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Cam Norrie, and Jannik Sinner in front of his fellow Italians on Tuesday. And we can finish with the fact that while Ruud has one of the most lethal forehands in the game, Cerundolo’s has looked every bit as deadly in 2023. Winner: Cerundolo