The WTA moves to Rome for the second WTA 1000 clay court tournament. Top seed Ashleigh Barty, Madrid champion Aryna Sabalenka and defending champion Simona Halep will be on the hunt in Italy. Can they hold off French Open champion Iga Swiatek, two-time Italian Open champion Elina Svitolina, World #2 Naomi Osaka or the always-threatening Serena Williams? There is no shortage of clay court talent. Who will make it through the first round? In addition to this article, we also predict the rest of the day’s matches in two articles. One features Angelique Kerber vs Alize Cornet and the other features Johanna Konta vs Jelena Ostapenko.
WTA Rome Day 2 Predictions
Kristina Mladenovic vs Belinda Bencic
Head to head: Tied 3-3
Certainly Kristina Mladenovic presents a predictor’s challenge. Only she can lose a number of first round matches and then out of nowhere, upset a seeded opponent at the very next tournament. It’s hard to know what level of consistency the Frenchwoman will bring with her. Or, how her serve will hold up.
Belinda Bencic is not without her ups and downs. The Swiss has yet to return to the form which catapulted her up the rankings in 2019. Last week in Madrid, the World #11 started to regain the solid groundstrokes and consistent ball striking, along with a run to the quarterfinals.
If last week is any indication, Bencic should breeze through this opener. But when Mladenovic plays, it’s always dangerous to count her out. This should be a close contest, with Bencic carrying the bigger bag of tricks.
Prediction: Bencic in 2
Bernarda Pera vs Tamara Zidansek
Head to head: Pera 1-0 Zidansek
Tamara Zidansek’s creativity is well suited to clay. You can expect the Slovenian will take full advantage of her favorite surface, mixing in drop shots and slices. It should provide a frustrating matchup for Bernarda Pera. While the American is ranked a wee bit higher than her Columbian born opponent, it’s really Zidansek’s variety which will interrupt Pera’s rhythm. Look for Zidansek to push Pera back, then put the next ball just out of reach.
Prediction: Zidansek in 2
Marketa Vondrousova vs Ajla Tomljanovic
Head to head: Tied 1-1
Obviously, Marketa Vondrousova like this surface. Her 2020 semifinal run in Rome confirms that. In fact, some of the Czech’s best performances have come on clay. Remember Roland Garros 2019’s finalist? It’s hard to deny that lefty turns in some of her best performances on the red clay. Ajla Tomljanovic is fighting an uphill battle in this one. And, I don’t expect she’ll be able to keep up with Czech’s clay court prowess.
Prediction: Vondrousova in 2
Garbine Muguruza vs Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
Head to head: Muguruza 6-1 Pavlyuchenkova
Is this really what an opening round match looks like? A clash of this caliber usually occurs in the quarters or semis, but in Italy, it starts with the first round – and it’s a definite must-watch match.
It will be interesting to see if the injury-prone Spaniard is back to full health. Her only clay court appearance of the year saw her retire in the second round in Charleston. It will take Muguruza some time to find her footing on the red clay. Potentially a challenge after a year away from the surface. Her best chance is to extend rallies and hope for her rhythm to return quickly.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is coming off a semifinal run in Madrid. Look for the Russian to try to shorten the rallies using her forehand to power past the 12th seed. Once Pavlyuchenkova finds her range, sheer power puts her opponents at a disadvantage. Yet, a 6-1 head to head clearly demonstrates Muguruza’s superiority in this matchup.
If Muguruza is not 100%, it may take the Spaniard three sets. But the champion in her will know how to move past Pavlyuchenkova.
Prediction: Muguruza in 3
Main Photo from Getty.