WTA Tour: Italian Open Round of 64 Selected Fixtures Preview

Tennis player stands with racquet in hand

Our tennis writer looks at the WTA Tour's Italian Open and previews three selected matches from the Round of 64. 

Ashleigh Barty 14/10 | Maria Sharapova 5/10
Ashleigh Barty’s year has been the definition of middling, with a host of steady performances under her belt, never really threatening a big breakthrough. She reached the final in Sydney before the trend of mediocrity set in, particularly disappointing after a decent run in Melbourne hinted at a positive season. She had decent Round of 16 runs in Charleston and Miami, and her performance on the clay of Madrid was encouraging. She won her first match against Sara Errani before losing a pulsating three set thriller to Aussie Open Champion Caroline Wozniacki.

Maria Sharapova’s comeback from a drugs-related ban has certainly had its ups and downs, perhaps more downs than ups. That victory in Tianjin at least showed that she still has the propensity for challenging at the highest level. But since then we have only really seen shades of her at her best. Madrid did seem to indicate that she may actually take to the clay in her search to reclaim her former glory. She broke a streak of four consecutive losses with a quarterfinal run that included victories over Mladenovic and Buzarnescu. So it seems as if the serene Russian could be about to turn a corner that has taken some time to navigate.

While Sharapova’s form has resembled a yo-yo this year, she has shown the ability to go deep on occasion. And she has a deep reservoir of clay-court expertise, including two Roland Garros titles. I have to side with the Russian in this encounter.

Anastasija Sevatsova 6/10 | Kristina Mladenovic 12/10
Latvian Anastasija Sevatsova has had a quietly effective season thus far, building incrementally as the season has gone on. She reached the Round of 16 in Doha before a reasonable ‘Sunshine Double’ saw her register victories against the likes of Julia Goerges and Alize Cornet. But the clay of Charleston really showed what the Latvian is capable of. Wins over Krystina Pliskova and Ashleigh Barty showed helped her on her way to a highly credible semi-final run.

French Davis Cup starlet Kristina Mladenovic is one of those players who is either hot, or not. She is either on a remarkable unbeaten streak on battling to win a point anywhere. She has certainly had some highlights this year, with a run to the final in St Petersburg perhaps only bettered by her heroics in the Davis Cup. After consecutive first round losses in Stuttgart and Lugano, Mladenovic found some decent form in Madrid, with a Round of 16 run that included a win over Coco Vandeweghe.

Sevatsova leads the head-to-head between the two players at 1-0, though that victory did come all the way back in 2010. So there’s little to really work with on that front. I would say that it’s about time for the Frenchwoman to go on one of those positive runs, especially at 12/10.

Daria Katsatkina 4/10 | Ajla Tomljanovic 33/20
Daria Kasatkina, along with perhaps Elise Mertens, is perhaps the breakthrough player on the WTA Tour this year. A semi-final appearance in St Petersburg was followed by an appearance in the finals in Dubai. Then there was her monstrous run to the final in Indian Wells, where she really proclaimed her emergence as a force to be reckoned with. While her clay-court season hasn’t quite caught fire in the same way, quarterfinal appearances in both Madrid and Charleston do indicate that it won’t be too long until we see that form transition to clay.

Ajla Tomljanovic has been one of the busier players on tour thus far this season, with stats of 15-9 reflective of that. But it certainly has been a positive year for the Aussie, with that recent final appearance in Marrakech the summation of that improvement. Making the quarterfinals in Monterrey was a big step for her, but she really needed that experience at the pointy end to give her the confidence to make that next step. That bodes well for her on clay this week, as she has also battled through two qualifiers to set up this match.

While the two have never played, I can’t look past Kasatkina, despite the unfavorable price.

Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets.net

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