Italian Open 2019: Women's singles draw analysis
The main highlight within the women's section of this year's Italian Open draw is the clay court return of one of the game's greatest in Serena Williams - her last game was a retirement in the Miami Open second-round, where she was unable to continue with a knee injury. Other than that, all those who participated in the Madrid Open will feature in Rome and there are likely to be repetitive encounters too.
Naomi Osaka, who is seeded number one, features in the top half alongside the likes of Kiki Bertens, Simona Halep, Sloane Stephens and the Williams sisters. Osaka could potentially face 2017 French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko, as she's aiming to emerge in the big league after a decent display at Wimbledon last summer, where she lost in the semi-finals.
Osaka could face a tough fight from the former French Open champion, while the possibility of a tussle between the Williams sisters is likely to occur in the second-round. The winner of that might face another American in Sloane Stephens afterwards, which is remarkable given their distinct age difference.
The bottom half of the draw includes last year's winner Elina Svitolina, Karolina Pliskova, Ashleigh Barty and Petra Kvitova. Svitolina has been performing fairly well on clay this year but thus far failed to break deep in any of the tournaments and she could face former world number one Victoria Azarenka in an intriguing second-round encounter.
An interesting first-round affair is scheduled between former world number one Caroline Wozniacki and the impressive American Danielle Collins. Although the 25-year-old's talent on clay is yet to be proven, it'll be interesting to see how Wozniacki performs against an intense opponent in her first matchup.
Belinda Bencic, a semi-finalist in Madrid, might have the toughest draw as she faces Anastasija Sevastova in her first-round match. Should she survive and progress another round, she could potentially face Barty. Elsewhere Kvitova - a second seed for this tournament - could face Anett Kontaveit for a quarter-final place, should the pair win their respective knockout matches.
Potential encounters to look out for in the initial rounds are as follows:
- First Round, confirmed: Caroline Wozniacki vs Danielle Collins
- Elina Svitolina vs Victoria Azarenka
- Serena Williams vs Venus Williams
- Belinda Bencic vs Anastasija Sevastova
- Sloane Stephens vs Johanna Konta
Potential quarter-final matches:
- Naomi Osaka vs Kiki Bertens
- Simona Halep vs Sloane Stephens
- Elina Svitolina vs Karolina Pliskova
- Ashleigh Barty vs Petra Kvitova
Youth over experience?
In this predicted quarter-final lineup, almost all eight players have been consistently performing well recently - although a lot depends on how some, like Bencic or Serena perform in this tournament.
For example, if Bencic defeats Sevastova and Barty, she could be in for a quarter-final against Kvitova. Should Serena prevail over Stephens, she might face Halep in the last-eight.
The main attraction of the women's draw is just how well this generation of young players have become the sport's torch bearers after their older counterparts almost vanished from tennis completely due to persistent injuries and inconsistency.