After an exceptional week of tennis in Rome, just two women remain in the hunt at the WTA Italian Open, the first big title of this year’s abbreviated European clay-court swing. But who will claim the title in the Eternal City?
WTA Italian Open Final Prediction
Simona Halep vs Karolina Pliskova
Head-to-head: Halep 7-4 Pliskova
This will be a final of contrasting styles, with Karolina Pliskova an aggressive baseliner, more than capable of firing winners off both wings, whilst Simona Halep is one of the finest counter-punchers in the game. She will also arguably come into this match as the favourite thanks to her stellar record on the clay, with the Romanian having won eight titles on this surface, including the French Open in 2018 and back-to-back Madrid Opens in 2016 and 2017.
After a relatively straightforward run to the semifinals, which saw Halep pick up straight-sets wins over Jasmine Paolini, Dayana Yastremska and Yulia Putintseva, Halep was put to the test by Garbine Muguruza in the last four. But the Romanian, who arrived in the semifinals having won her last 12 matches, was not to be denied. She edged out Muguruza, winning 6-3 4-6 6-4 and she is now just one win away from her third title of the season after triumphs in Dubai and Prague.
Coincidentally, this is also the third time she has reached the Italian Open final. But Halep is yet to win in Rome, having been beaten in the final in 2017 and 2018 by Elina Svitolina. She will be hoping for a different result in 2020, but to stand a chance of winning the title she will need to defend her serve effectively. She will need to be particularly accurate with her second delivery, to avoid simply rolling it over the net and right into Pliskova’s hitting zone.
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Particularly as the defending champion has found some form. Pliskova endured a miserable summer in North America, crashing out in the first round at the Western and Southern Open to Veronika Kudermetova, before suffering another shocking reverse, this time at the hands of Caroline Garcia, in the second round at the US Open. But back on the clay, a surface she once struggled on, the big-hitting Czech has looked revitalised.
She has been finding the mark both from the line and off the ground, with Pliskova hammering winners with both her forehand and backhand whilst also maintaining a relatively low unforced error count. That has seen her past Barbora Strycova, Anna Blinkova, Elise Mertens and Marketa Vondrousova, with the Belgian Mertens the only player to take a set off her so far. But Halep will almost certainly present Pliskova with a sterner test than any of the players she has beaten thus far.
Pliskova will need to maintain a high first-serve percentage and keeping the points short will be vital to her chances. If she becomes predictable, Halep, who is a superb timer of the ball, will not be slow to take advantage. Variety, then, will also be key. But this is clearly a matchup that favours Halep, with the Romanian having won seven of their 11 previous encounters. She is also the better player on clay. It should be close, but expect the more consistent Halep to have the edge.
Prediction: Halep in 3
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