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Sabalenka vs Cornet tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Ninth seed Sabalenka opens against former finalist Cornet in Rome

Hannah Wilks in WTA Tour 13 May 2019
  • Ninth seed Aryna Sabalenka faces Alize Cornet in the first round of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia
  • Sabalenka vs Cornet is live from Rome on Tuesday at 11am local/10am BST
Aryna Sabalenka (PA Sport)

Aryna Sabalenka is still looking for her first win on red clay for 2019 as she takes on the dangerous veteran Alize Cornet in the first round of WTA Rome.

Ninth seed Aryna Sabalenka begins her Internazionali BNL d’Italia against qualifier and former finalist Alize Cornet on Tuesday.

Sabalenka is actually looking for her first match win on European clay of the season in Rome. The Belarusian did win a match on green clay in Charleston at the Volvo Car Open, beating Kateryna Kozlova in three sets before falling to Monica Puig, but prioritized playing Belarus’s Fed Cup semifinal against Australia on the hard courts of Brisbane over playing the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix. Starting her European clay season in Madrid, Sabakenka had the misfortune of drawing French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in the first round and fell 5-7, 4-6 to the Russian.

The 21-year-old Sabalenka was a runner-up in Lugano in 2018, but otherwise has few points to defend on European clay, having lost in the first round of Istanbul, the French Open, Madrid and Rome (after qualifying at the latter two events). It was only after last year’s Roland Garros that Sabalenka’s season took off, kickstarted by that run to the Eastbourne final after which she would go on to win her first titles in New Haven and Wuhan and reach the semifinals in Cincinnati, not to mention the round of 16 at the US Open (where it took eventual champion Naomi Osaka to stop her run). 

Sabalenka is currently 16-9 in 2019 and, after starting her season in the best way possible by winning her third WTA Tour title in Shenzhen, hasn’t made too much of an impression since, only winning back-to-back matches at three of the nine events she’s played (the Australian Open, Indian Wells and St Petersburg, where she made the semifinals). She hasn’t had many what I would call bad wins, mainly facing quality opponents like Kuznetsova, but there’s no denying she doesn’t have a lot of recent wins to build on coming into the French Open – and doing well in Paris would do her the world of good heading into the grass and American hard-court seasons.

Sabalenka needs wins, in other words, and I’m not sure she’s going to get them in Rome, because clay is not her best surface and she’s up against an opponent who is very experienced and savvy on the stuff.

Alize Cornet (PA Sport)
Alize Cornet had her breakthrough run in Rome 11 years ago, when the French player, then ranked world no. 34, qualified for the main draw before beating Svetlana Kuznetsova and Anna Chakvetadze on her way to the final, which she lost to Jelena Jankovic. Cornet would go on to reach a career-high ranking of world no. 11 in February 2009 and has made the second week at majors a few times, but although she has picked up six WTA Tour titles over the years (most recently Budapest in 2008), she’s never really been a threat for the biggest titles – although she’s remained a constant threat to upset higher-ranked players (her upset win over Serena Williams in the third round of Wimbledon 2014 springs to mind).

Currently ranked world no. 53, Cornet started her season by making the semifinals of Hobart but has only won back-to-back matches once since, in Miami where she made the third round before losing to Karolina Pliskova. With an overall 11-9 record in 2019, Cornet got her first win on clay of the season over Caroline Wozniacki in Madrid last week, but it wasn’t one to shout about, because it came via retirement from Caroline Wozniacki who pulled the plug after just three games.

Cornet has already played two matches in Rome where she had to qualify for the main draw at the Internazionali BNL D’Italia via victories over Magda Linette and Kristyna Pliskova to set up this first-round clash with Sabalenka.

It will be their first career meeting, and if you like a clash in styles, should be an interesting one. Sabalenka hits hard and flat (not the best match for clay) and is a streaky confidence player who looks to win points with first-strike tennis; Cornet is a retriever and counterpuncher who relies on outlasting and grinding players down with her loopy forehand, beautiful backhand and a fair amount of variety. In almost any other tournament I’d be confident in picking Sabalenka to overpower Cornet, but the ninth seed is so short on wins lately, and the slow clay of Rome won’t help her. Still, Cornet has a fairly miserable record in Rome since her run to the final in 2008 – she’s gone 3-7 in subsequent years – and Sabalenka should be able to battle through to the second round.

Sabalenka vs Cornet Internazionali BNL d’Italia tennis is live from Rome on Tuesday at 11am local/10am BST

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Sabalenka vs Cornet tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Ninth seed Sabalenka opens against former finalist Cornet in Rome

Aryna Sabalenka vs Alize Cornet live streaming, preview and predictions for the WTA Rome Internazionali BNL d’Italia first-round match on Tuesday 13 May: Sabalenka looks for her first win on European clay for 2019 but will have to battle for it against tricky Cornet

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