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.
Aryna Sabalenka vs Zhang Shuai preview
Third seed Aryna Sabalenka will begin her 2022 Italian Open campaign against World No. 42 Zhang Shuai on Wednesday.
After hitting new heights with a couple of Grand Slam semifinal appearances last season, Sabalenka has failed to kick on this year. The World No. 8 has made the quarterfinals or better just twice in 10 events, with her best performance coming in Stuttgart, where she finished as the runner-up to Iga Swiatek.
Her resurgence was brief as she lost in the first round of her very next tournament in Madrid last week.
The Belarusian has arrived in Rome with a disappointing 10-10 win-loss record in tow and will be eager to turn her fortunes around in the Italian capital.
Former Wimbledon and Australian Open quarterfinalist Zhang Shuai has also had an inconsistent season so far. She won her third career title in Lyon in March, but has managed just seven victories in 11 other tournaments combined ahead of the Italian Open.
Her 6-4, 6-2 first-round win over Martina Trevisan in Rome on Monday was just her second victory on clay this season.
With Sabalenka still struggling for form, the Chinese will fancy her chances of springing an upset.
Aryna Sabalenka vs Zhang Shuai head-to-head
Sabalenka has a 2-1 lead in the head-to-head against Zhang Shuai. After losing her first encounter with Zhang in Tokyo in 2016, the Belarusian emerged victorious in their next two clashes in Hobart in 2018 and Stuttgart in 2021.
Aryna Sabalenka vs Zhang Shuai odds
All odds sourced from BetMGM
Aryna Sabalenka vs Zhang Shuai prediction
Although Sabalenka is the higher-ranked player in this clash, she cannot afford to take her opponent lightly.
The veteran Chinese has solid groundstrokes and a decent serve to go with it. Being an expert doubles player who has won a couple of Grand Slam titles, Zhang is extremely proficient at the net. The 33-year-old will look to move forward as often as she can to disrupt Sabalenka's rhythm.
The Belarusian, on her part, must serve well and control her aggression, something she has struggled with this season. But if she gets going, she can be a tough player to contain.
The World No. 8 might take some time to adjust to the slower conditions in Rome, but once she hits her stride, she should be able to douse the challenge of the Chinese.
Prediction: Sabalenka to win in three sets.