Fixture: (8) Serena Williams vs Nadia Podoroska
Date: 12 May 2021
Tournament: Internazionali BNL d'italia 2021
Round: Second round (Round of 32)
Venue: Rome, Italy
Category: WTA 1000
Surface: Red clay
Prize money: €1,577,613
Match timing: Not before 2 pm local time, 5.30 pm IST
Live telecast: USA - Tennis Channel | UK - Amazon Prime Video
Serena Williams vs Nadia Podoroska preview
Serena Williams makes her long-awaited return to the WTA tour at the Italian Open on Wednesday.
The 23-time Grand Slam champion hasn't played any event since the Australian Open. In fact, three of her last four tournament appearances have come at Grand Slam level.
Williams is, however, coming into Rome on the back of a positive hardcourt season in Australia. After reaching the semifinals of the Yarra Valley Classic, the 39-year-old defeated Aryna Sabalenka and Simona Halep back-to-back at the Australian Open. She then bowed out in the last four to eventual champion Naomi Osaka.
Last year at Roland Garros, Williams played just one match before being forced to withdraw due to injury. She will be keen to get some claycourt matches under her belt this week as another French Open looms ahead.
Nadia Podoroska, on the other hand, made her breakthrough in the fall of 2020. She became the first qualifier ever to reach the Roland Garros semifinals, a feat that earned her the 2020 WTA Newcomer of the Year award.
Podoroska then reached the quarterfinals at both Linz and the tune-up event in Melbourne, and jumped to No. 44 in the rankings. However, the 24-year-old lost both of her matches at the Billie Jean King Cup before coming into the Italian Open.
Podoroska has now picked up a confidence-boosting first-round win over Laura Siegemund on Tuesday to set up the meeting with Williams. The Argentine overturned a one-set deficit against Siegemund before eventually taking the match 2-6, 7-6 (3), 6-1.
Serena Williams vs Nadia Podoroska head-to-head
The second-round match in Rome is the first professional encounter between Serena Williams and Nadia Podoroska, so their head-to-head currently stands at 0-0.
Serena Williams vs Nadia Podoroska prediction
Given her stature in the game and her superior ranking, Serena Williams comes into this match as the heavy favorite on paper. The American is looking to acquire some much-needed match sharpness heading into Roland Garros, and the Italian Open presents the perfect opportunity to do that.
Although clay is not her strongest surface, Williams' aggressive baseline style of play has worked well at Rome in the past. The 39-year-old is a four-time champion in the Italian capital.
Nadia Podoroska, on her part, will look to use her baseline consistency to frustrate her legendary opponent as much as possible. Williams has a tendency to leak errors on slower surfaces when she rushes her shots, and the Argentine will try to make full use of that.
Podoroska has deep and heavy groundstrokes, coupled with an accurate serve - exactly the kind of game that can trouble Williams following her three-month sabattical. However, the American's experience and power from the baseline might eventually prove to be a little too much to handle for Podoroska.
Prediction: Serena Williams to win in three sets.