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WTA Rome Preview: Can Halep restore order ahead of Roland Garros?
All roads lead to Rome, where a marquee WTA field will gather to make its preparations for Roland Garros. Here’s a look at how they may play out.
Published May 08, 2021
The WTA is chock full of talent these days; the challenge is getting it together in one place. For the first time since the Australian Open, all of the tour’s marquee names—Ashleigh, Aryna, Naomi, Serena, Simona, Bianca, Garbiñe, and more—will gather in Rome for the Internazionali BNL d'Italia, where they’ll make their last-minute preparations for the season’s second Slam, at Roland Garros.
Here’s a look ahead at how they may go.
There’s no rest for the weary, or for an Aussie on the road these days. This week Ashleigh Barty will tee it up for the fifth time since March. When she does, she’ll see a familiar face on the other side of this quarter: Aryna Sabalenka, a woman Barty has already played three times this spring.
Will the Australian and the Belarusian, who split their finals in Stuttgart and Madrid, have anything left at the Foro Italico? Will they decide to live to fight another day, on a bigger stage? Or will they just keep rolling?
First-round matches to watch:
Elise Mertens vs. Veronika Kudermetova
2019 Rome winner Karolina Pliskova vs. 1999 Rome winner Venus Williams
Coco Gauff vs. Yulia Putintseva
Camila Giorgi vs. Sara Sorribes Tormo
With a 7-7 season record and five losses in her last six matches, Sofia Kenin was due for a change. She made a big one last week, firing her father Alex from what seemed to be a lifetime job as her coach. We’ll see if the move frees her up to play better right off the bat, the way some coaching changes do, or if there’s an adjustment period.
Either way, Kenin, the top seed in this section, will have her work cut out for her in Rome. Iga Swiatek, Karolina Muchova, Garbiñe Muguruza, Maria Sakkari, and two-time Rome champ Elina Svitolina are all nearby.
First-round matches to watch:
Muchova vs. Madison Keys
Muguruza vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
After a few near misses, Simona Halep finally made it across the finish line in Rome last fall, when Pliskova was forced to retire from their final. What are the chances she can defend that title? Halep looked like the favorite in the early going in Madrid, until she lost to Mertens, but her draw should give her another shot at a deeper run this week.
The first seed she could face is Johanna Konta, and the second-highest seed in this section is Bianca Andreecu, who will be making her clay debut after injuring herself in Miami last month. However she looks and plays, it will be good to have Bianca back, for this tournament and hopefully for the summer.
Also here: 2019 Roland Garros finalist Marketa Vondrousova
There’s no question where the star-power is in this draw: Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams are the top two seeds here. What are the chances they’ll both make their hoped-for quarterfinal rendezvous? Serena hasn’t played since the Australian Open, while Osaka has entered two events and failed to get past the quarterfinals either time.
On paper, Serena would seem to have the slightly less difficult draw. The only seed she could face before the quarters is Belinda Bencic, while Osaka will play either Jessica Pegula or Daria Kasatkina to start, and, possibly, Jen Brady in the round of 16.
First-round match to watch: Pegula vs. Kasatkina
Semifinals: Svitolina d. Mertens; Halep d. Bencic