Fixture: (14) Elise Mertens vs Veronika Kudermetova
Date: 11 May 2021
Tournament: Internazionali BNL d'italia 2021
Round: First round (Round of 64)
Venue: Rome, Italy
Category: WTA 1000
Surface: Red clay
Prize money: $1,835,490
Match timing: Approx. 12 pm local time, 3.30 pm IST
Live telecast: USA - Tennis Channel | UK - Amazon Prime Video
Elise Mertens vs Veronika Kudermetova preview
Mertens has picked up from where she left off last year. The World No. 16 began the 2021 season in strong fashion, winning the title at Gippsland Trophy. She then carried that momentum into the clay swing, reaching the final in her first tournament of the year on the red dirt at Istanbul.
A straight-sets loss to lower-ranked Sorana Cirstea in the summit clash couldn't deter the Belgian, as she bounced back in Madrid. On the back of a thrilling marathon win over former French Open champion Simona Halep, Mertens made the quarterfinals in the Spanish capital.
A thigh injury eventually cut short her journey, but Mertens will be looking to return at Rome with renewed vigor.
Veronika Kudermetova, meanwhile, has put together a consistent season of her own, as is evident from her 22-9 win-loss record for the year.
Having kicked off 2021 with a runner-up finish at Abu Dhabi, Kudermetova took it up a notch at Charleston, where she won the first WTA title of her career. The Russian continued to impress in the clay season with a semifinal showing at Istanbul and a run to the Round of 16 at Madrid.
Kudermetova will hope to bring all that confidence into Rome as she faces familiar foe Mertens in a tough opener.
Elise Mertens vs Veronika Kudermetova head-to-head
Elise Mertens has a flawless 4-0 lead over Veronika Kudermetova in their head-to-head.
Their last meeting took place in April at Istanbul, where the Belgian blew Kudermetova away 6-1, 6-4.
Elise Mertens vs Veronika Kudermetova prediction
Having played each other four times, Elise Mertens and Veronika Kudermetova know each other's game inside out. But with Mertens winning all their encounters so far, the onus is on Kudermetova to find a way to challenge the Belgian.
Kudermetova needs to put in a high percentage of first serves and use her first-strike tennis to keep the ball away from Mertens. If she can consistently strike her forehand flat and deep, she might be able to keep the World No. 16 at bay; anything short, and Mertens will be ready to swat it away for a winner.
An aggressive counterpuncher, Mertens likes to take the ball on the rise while also throwing in the occasional drop shot to disrupt her opponent's rhythm. But her serve can be wobbly at times, and she can cough up a high number of double faults when put under pressure.
If the Belgian has one of her bad serving days, she might leave the door open for Kudermetova to make this a tight contest.
It also remains to be seen if Mertens has fully recovered from the thigh injury she suffered at Madrid. If her fitness remains compromised, Kudermetova could well take the World No. 16 the distance.
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Prediction: Elise Mertens to win in three sets.