Sunday, 12 May 2013

WTA Rome: Preview and Predictions

Another week and another big clay court tournament in the preparation for Roland Garros.  Madrid was so-so, but Rome has very similar conditions to Roland Garros so this will be the big tournament to base things on for Paris, which begins in just TWO WEEKS! Note the top eight seeds all have byes in round one.

QUARTER 1 - S.Williams (1) v A.Kerber (6)
Serena Williams
Serena Williams won her first title on red clay since 2002, defeating Maria Sharapova, 6-1 6-4 in the final of Madrid.  It is a quick turnover to Rome where she faces the winner of the top first round match between Venus Williams and Laura Robson.  Venus has been struggling with a back injury and Robson played really well in Madrid so I am going for Robbo to get a shot at both Williams sisters.   Ekaterina Makarova and Dominika Cibulkova are the other dangers in this section for Serena; Cibulkova pushed her to three sets in Miami and Makarova earnt a shock win at last year's Aussie Open.  It is certainly a much tougher draw than Madrid...

Angelique Kerber headlines the section rooting to meet Serena in the quarters.  The German number one will face the winner of a battle-of-the-Belgians first rounder between Kirsten Flipkens and Yanina Wickmayer.  Flipkens has never beaten Wicky, but has overtaken her as the number one Belgian and is playing much more consistent tennis right now.  Kerber could meet Nadia Petrova in the third round, who has always done well on the clay.  First up for Petrova is the talented, Carla Suarez Navarro; their head-to-head has seen a range of different scorelines, but Petrova did thrash Suarez earlier this year in Dubai.  Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is also lurking and faces an Oeiras semi-final rematch with Romina Oprandi in R1.

1st Round Predictions - Robson to beat V.Williams in 2 tight sets, Cibulkova to beat Mladenovic in 2 sets, Petrova to beat Suarez Navarro in 3 sets, Pavlyuchenkova to beat Oprandi in 2 tight sets and Flipkens to beat Wickmayer in 3 sets

Moo's Quarter-Final Prediction - S.Williams v Kerber

QUARTER 2 - A.Radwanska (4) v L.Na (5)
Svetlana Kuznetsova
Agnieszka Radwanska had a torrid time in Madrid where she was bundled out in round two to Laura Robson.  Following a bright start in Australia, her season has rather stuttered somewhat and clay is definitely not her best surface.  The draw has not been kind as Aga could face Svetlana Kuznetsova in the second round, who won their last encounter handily at last year's French Open.  The winner of Aga/Sveta is projected to meet Roberta Vinci in the third round.  The Italian faces a very testing opener against Elena Vesnina, who has won four of their last five matches.  They have never played on clay though and I think the Italian may have the edge in that one on home soil.

Li Na suffered a shock early exit in Madrid to Madison Keys, but I put that down to just a bad day at the office.  Her first match will be against either Zheng Jie or Magdalena Rybarikova.  Her third round opponent could be the winner of a potential clash of former world number ones between Caroline Wozniacki and Jelena Jankovic.  Wozniacki has not yet won on clay in 2013, but will fancy her chances of getting past Bojana Jovanovski.  JJ lost early in Madrid, but she has always done well in Rome and I would back her to break a five match losing streak to the Dane.

1st Round Predictions - Vinci to beat Vesnina in 3 sets, Wozniacki to beat Jovanovski in 2 tight sets, Jankovic to beat Pironkova in 2 sets and Zheng to beat Rybarikova in 3 sets

Moo's Quarter-Final Predicton - Kuznetsova v Li

QUARTER 3 - P.Kvitova (8) v V.Azarenka (3)
Victoria Azarenka
One of the match-ups on the WTA tour that I have really wanted to see more of is Petra Kvitova against Victoria Azarenka and that is a possibility this week as they have been drawn in the same quarter.  Kvitova suffered a very surprising defeat to Daniela Hantuchova in Madrid; following a hot patch in the Middle East, her season has tailed off a little bit.  Her first match will be against either Sabine Lisicki or Mallory BurdetteSam Stosur could await in round three although the Aussie has struggled for form since picking up a calf injury in Indian Wells.  I think this could be her tournament to shine and her first two matches are both winnable and give her a chance to work her way into the tournament on one of her favoured surfaces.

Victoria Azarenka will want to get some matches under her belt after losing to Ekaterina Makarova in an ill-tempered second round exit in Madrid.  She takes on Julia Goerges or Andrea Hlavackova in round two and may need to be close to her best to get past Ana Ivanovic, who she is seeded to meet in the third round.  Ivanovic, who made the semi-finals in Madrid, will play Urszula Radwanska in the first round.  Azarenka has won her last two matches against Ivanovic, but on the clay, I would actually give the edge to Ana...

1st Round Predictions - Lisicki to beat Burdette in 3 sets, Stosur to beat Hsieh in 2 tight sets, Ivanovic to beat U.Radwanska in 2 tight sets and Goerges to beat Hlavackova in 3 sets

Moo's Quarter-Final Prediction - Stosur v Ivanovic

QUARTER 4 - S.Errani (7) v M.Sharapova (2)
Francesca Schiavone
Maria Sharapova suffered another shattering loss to Serena Williams in Madrid and she will need to pick herself up again for the defence of her Rome title in a section dominated by Italians.  First up will be either Garbine Muguruza or Mathilde Johansson.  In the third round, her opponent is certainly up in the air.  It is seeded to be Sloane Stephens, but the American has failed to string a pair of wins together since Melbourne.  She faces Flavia Pennetta in the first round, who has beaten her twice before on the clay.  It is possible the home crowd could get an all-Italian second rounder as Pennetta could meet Francesca Schiavone if the French Open champion can get past Kiki Bertens in round one.

Sara Errani continues to compile an excellent year together as she made the semi-finals in Madrid.  Her draw looks extremely favourable in Rome and a quarter-final place is well in her grasp based on recent form.  She will play Karin Knapp or Christina McHale in the second round.  In the third round, she could meet Maria Kirilenko, who has always struggled against the diminutive Italian.  Varvara Lepchenko is also in this section, as is the ball-fluffing, Anabel Medina Garrigues who came through a titanic final qualifying match with Yulia Putintseva, recovering from a 5-1 third set deficit to book a first round meeting with Kirilenko.

Moo's Quarter-Final Prediction - Errani v Sharapova

Final Prediction - Sharapova d. Li
This week I don't fancy another Serena-Sharapova final.  I think Serena will pull up somewhere as she did last year and often does when there are two big tournaments back-to-back.  I think Madrid was a blip for Li Na and she will capitalise on Serena's space in the draw.  I think Sharapova has a better chance of going all the way here and she should be relatively fresh having played a string of straight setters in Madrid.  Stosur is my dark horse, which is a punt based on her poor recent form, but I think she is fully recovered from her calf injury and ready to wreak havoc on the clay courts of Rome.

You can view my FULL predictions for WTA Rome HERE

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