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WTA Rome Internazionali BNL d’Italia 2020: Women’s singles draw analysis, preview and predictions

hannahwilks in WTA Italian Open Rome 13 Sep 2020
Karolina Pliskova is the defending champion at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in 2020 (Foto Antonietta Baldassarre / Insidefoto/Sipa USA)

Six of the WTA’s top 10 highlight an Internazionali BNL d’Italia draw which will be electric from the word go, with Victoria Azarenka vs Venus Williams among first-round clashes.

We break down the women’s singles draw, analyse the contenders and predict the semifinalists and champion as world no. 2 Simona Halep, defending champion Karolina Pliskova and two-time winner Elina Svitolina lead the field at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.

WTA Rome Preview

Usually played in May but rescheduled to September in 2020, the Internazionali BNL d’Italia is among the most prestigious clay-court tournaments on the WTA Tour and is a key battleground ahead of the French Open.

Many of the top players who chose not to travel for the US Open will be playing the first big event of their comebacks to competition, including Halep, Svitolina and Belinda Bencic, while defending champion Pliskova, Sofia Kenin and Garbine Muguruza are among those looking to improve on early US Open exits.

WTA Rome Draw Analysis

Top Quarter

Simona Halep is a two-time Rome runner-up (PA Images)

Projected quarterfinal by seeding: Simona Halep (1) vs Petra Martic (8)
Halep has already picked up a title post-shutdown on clay in Prague, but elected not to travel to the USA.

A Rome finalist in 2017-18, Halep will open against Anastasija Sevastova – who is not in great form, and has lost her last five vs Halep – or Italian wildcard Jasmine Paolini; her third opponent will be one of a cluster of unpredictable power players, with big servers Donna Vekic and Amanda Anisimova facing off in the first round and Camila Giorgi or Dayana Yastremska awaiting the winner.

Martic did play the US Open, and could have a chance to avenge her fourth-round defeat in New York to Yulia Putintseva in the second round. Her projected third-round opponent is Elena Rybakina, who impressed so much in the early part of the year, but has yet to regain that form post-shutdown and will probably go out in the first round to Ekaterina Alexandrova, who leads their head-to-head 2-0. Alexandrova has never had particularly strong results on clay but she’s always a danger at the moment.

Predicted semifinalist: Halep

Second Quarter

Projected quarterfinal by seeding: Sofia Kenin (3) vs Johanna Konta (8)
Konta reached the Rome final and the French Open semifinals last year, proving (including to herself) that she could play on clay, but is having some mixed results at the moment. She could open against Elisabetta Cocciaretto, an Italian wildcard having some good wins recently, but it’s the third round where things get dangerous. Konta’s projected third-round opponent is Garbine Muguruza, who looked so resurgent when she made the Australian Open final but lost early at the US Open to Tsvetana Pironkova; Muguruza faces Sloane Stephens in the first round, with the winner to take on either Ons Jabeur or Coco Gauff.

Australian Open champion Kenin played well at the US Open before losing to Elise Mertens, but she’s got a tough draw: Her first opponent will be either Venus Williams or Victoria Azarenka, although the latter will surely pull out after reaching the US Open final. Angelique Kerber could await in the third round, although clay is probably Kerber’s worst surface. In a quarter full of inconsistent shotmakers, I trust counterpunching consistency.

Predicted semifinalist: Kenin

Elina Svitolina won back-to-back Internazionali BNL d’Italia titles in 2017-18 (PA Images)

Third quarter

Projected quarterfinal by seeding: Kiki Bertens (5) vs Elina Svitolina (4)
A quarterfinal between 2019 Madrid champion Bertens and two-time Rome winner Svitolina would be a real treat, but will we see it?
Svitolina is playing her first tournament since Monterrey in Rome, and she has a hell of a tough draw, with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova a probable opening opponent and Anett Kontaveit, who plays very well on clay, likely to await in the third round if she can get past former French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in the second.

Bertens’s draw is not so tough – she’ll probably open against Polona Hercog and could face 2019 French Open runner-up Marketa Vondrousova, who is really not on great form at the moment, in the third. I anticipate a powerhouse quarterfinal battle between Bertens and Kontaveit.

Predicted semifinalist: Bertens

Fourth quarter

Projected quarterfinal by seeding: Belinda Bencic (6) vs Karolina Pliskova (2)
Defending Rome champion Pliskova was the only WTA top-10 player based in Europe to make the trip to the USA, and she was not well rewarded, going 1-2 in New York. Pliskova could face Veronika Kudermetova, who beat her in ‘Cincinnati’, as her first opponent and while Alison Riske, on clay, is not a very dangerous opponent, Jil Teichmann could be. Teichmann is 13-8 in 2020 and won two WTA clay titles in 2019.

Bencic, playing her first tournament since February, could face hard-hitting Julia Goerges in the second round – not an easy task – while Elise Mertens, who played very well at the US Open on her way to the quarterfinals, could be a real threat in this section if she’s able to bring that same form to clay.

Semifinalist: Mertens

WTA Internazionali BNL d’Italia Prediction

Semifinals:

Halep d. Kenin
Mertens d. Bertens

Final:

Halep d. Mertens