Tournament: Italian Open 2022.
Date: 11 May 2022.
Round: Second round (Round of 32).
Venue: Rome, Italy.
Category: WTA 1000.
Prize money: €2,527,250.
Live telecast: USA - Tennis Channel | UK - Amazon Prime Video.
Simona Halep will begin her quest for a second Italian Open title against seventh seed Danielle Collins on Wednesday.
Halep has had a decent campaign so far this year. She began her season with the title at the Melbourne Summer Set 1 before making the fourth round and the semifinals at the Australian Open and Dubai respectively.
After an unexpected early exit from Doha, the former World No. 1 made it all the way to the last four at Indian Wells.
A thigh injury then reared its ugly head, keeping Halep out of her subsequent three tournaments. The two-time Grand Slam champion then returned to action in Madrid last week, where she fell to eventual champion Ons Jabeur in the quarterfinals.
Halep began her campaign in the Eternal City on Monday with a 6-4, 6-4 win over veteran Frenchwoman Alize Cornet. Having avenged her 2022 Australian Open loss to Cornet, the 2020 Rome titlist will fancy her chances of a win against Collins.
Collins, meanwhile, made a dream start to the season with a run to her maiden Grand Slam final at the Australian Open. The spectacular campaign catapulted the American to the top 10 in the world rankings.
However, she hasn't been able to build on those performances due to her health issues. The 28-year-old even had to retire from her first match in Dubai due to dizziness.
Collins made her comeback in Miami, where she fell to eventual runner-up Naomi Osaka in the last eight.
The 2020 Roland Garros quarterfinalist then played her first clay tournament of the year in Madrid last week. After an impressive win over Rio Olympic gold medalist Monica Puig, Collins was annihilated by 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu in the second round.
The World No. 9 will be keen to push that setback aside and make a fresh start in Rome.
Halep and Collins are tied at 1-1 in their head-to-head, with both their meetings so far going the distance. While Halep earned a 6-7 (2), 6-1, 6-2 win in their first showdown at the 2014 US Open, Collins avenged that loss with a gritty 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 win in Montreal last year.
All odds sourced from BetMGM
This match will pit Collins' pace and power against Halep's exceptional court coverage and defense.
The Romanian generally struggles against uber-aggressive players. Collins falls within that category and can put the two-time Major winner in a spot of bother by planting herself inside the baseline and taking the ball early.
However, Halep could get some help from the slow clay of Rome. The surface might give her enough time to find her strike zone and even engage Collins in long rallies in order to break down her game.
Halep's relentless retrieval skills and her superb ability to convert defense to offense are likely to come in handy on this surface.
However, the former World No. 1 needs to serve decently to have any advantage against the American. She coughed up four double faults and landed just 62% first serves in her first-round match against Cornet.
Clearly, those numbers need a massive improvement if Halep is to beat Collins, but she will go into this contest as a marginal favorite.
Prediction: Simona Halep to win in three sets.