WTA Rome preview & pick: Victoria Azarenka vs. Garbine Muguruza

WTA Rome preview & pick: Victoria Azarenka vs. Garbine Muguruza

Until further notice, it's safe to assume Azarenka is the favorite in almost any matchup no matter the surface.

Daria Kasatkina was pushing Victoria Azarenka to the brink before injuring her right ankle while sliding over the service line. Though she was in the heat of battle, locked at 6-6 in the first set, Azarenka channeled her inner Del-Potro and immediately rushed to Kasatkina’s aid, bringing her an ice bag and brushing clay off her back. 

After her double bagel against Sofia Kenin, any notion of an Azarenka letdown should be dismissed. Until further notice, she is the player to beat. She’s hitting her backhand better than anyone in the world, and playing some of the most confident tennis of her life. 

Azarenka will now face her fourth Grand Slam champion opponent in five matches on Saturday against Garbine Muguruza. The Spaniard also enters this matchup in fantastic form, having beaten Sloane Stephens, Coco Gauff, and Johanna Konta earlier this week. 

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“I don’t expect a lot of long rallies tomorrow,” Azarenka said. But when asked about potential tactics, she fired back. “It’s kind of silly that you expect us to talk about tactics in the press conference before a match.”

It’s safe to assume Azarenka’s game plan will be similar to that of her last 15 matches (of which she’s won 14), hit her opponent clean off the court. 

Athletes don’t often find themselves in a zone like the one Azarenka is in right now. Until another player not named Naomi Osaka rises to the occasion, it’s really tough to pick against her. At some point she will lose, and it very well could be tomorrow, but until we see it, it’s safe to assume another Azarenka victory. 

The Pick: Victoria Azarenka