Sunday, 12 May 2013

Rome day 1: Passing of the torch?

Schedule of play:

Venus Williams vs. Laura Robson
Francesca Schiavone vs. Kiki Bertens
Su-Wei Hsieh vs. Samantha Stosur
Jelena Jankovic vs. Tsvetana Pironkova
Sabine Lisicki vs. Mallory Burdette
Nastassja Burnett vs. Alize Cornet
Monica Niculescu vs. Peng Shuai
Ekaterina Makarova vs. Melanie Oudin
Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. Simona Halep
Sorana Cirstea vs. Ayumi Morita
Garbine Muguruza vs. Mathilde Johansson

Match focus:

Venus Williams vs. Laura Robson

The most interesting first round match of this tournament. Venus Williams is coming back from another injury but she faces the young star Laura Robson. The winner of this match will face the ever formidable Serena Williams. Laura had a good tournament in Madrid and should be brimming with confidence. Venus is another unknown. You'll never know which Venus appears on the court. That said, Venus Williams is a better clay courter than everyone gives her credit for and should have the experience to beat Robson. Laura's game is not very clay oriented and on the slow clay courts of Rome, her movement might be exposed. While I would love to see Venus vs. Serena again, I believe Laura will take out the weakened Venus Williams. Let's just hope Venus makes it to Paris in one piece.

Pick: Robson in 3 sets

Francesca Schiavone vs. Kiki Bertens

Aging veteran Schiavone must have played her for almost 20 years. Playing for her country transform the wily Italian into another player and let's hope she can do the same in Rome. The former French Open champion refuses to retire and might be hitting another late surge of form, winning a title a few weeks ago. Can she take out the young Kiki Bertens? Kiki burst out of nowhere last year to clinch her first WTA title and is making in-roads to the top 30. She needs to be patient and not try to outhit Schiavone as the Italian will make her hit a lot of balls. I always value experience more than pure talent, so I believe Schiavone will triumph on her home soil again.

Pick: Schiavone in 3 sets

Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. Simona Halep

Last chance to try to grab that seeding in Paris for Kuznetsova here in Rome. She's currently at 37, only 5 spots away from a seed. If she misses it, she will be a name which everyone wants to avoid, even Serena. Simona Halep is no slough on clay, having reached the finals of Brussels last year. However, Kuznetsova is of another league and should take out the Romanian easily. Let's hope Kuznetsova advances far enough to warrant her a seed as she's too good to be unseeded.

Pick: Kuznetsova in 2 sets

Sure win bets: Samantha Stosur, Jelena Jankovic, Alize Cornet

Upset alert: Peng Shuai, Sabine Lisicki, Mathilde Johansson

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