Schedule of play:
Jelena Jankovic vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova
It's a very difficult task to predict Kuznetsova's matches as you just don't know which Svetlana will show up. The Russian can be dominating and close to winning in one moment, and can barely win points the next. Based on recent form, Kuznetsova is slowly getting back to form, but it remains to be seen if she can replicate that success with top 10 players. Jelena suffered an early exit in Madrid, and will be eager to erase that memory off with a good showing here in Rome. She has won here before, so I think the familiarity will get her the win. Kuznetsova will always find a way to lose a match despite having a big lead.
Pick: Jankovic in 3 sets
Belinda Bencic vs. Flavia Pennetta
Bencic shows that she's ready for the top with an impressive win over Pavluychenkova. Can she replicate the success against Flavia? Firstly, she has to contend with the crowd being on Pennetta's side. This will be a good experience for the youngster to cope with a partisan crowd. Flavia's clay game is much more established than Pavlyuchenkova, so I think she has the edge here. I wouldn't be surprised if Bencic wins here though, as this girls has some nerves of steel.
Pick: Pennetta in 3 sets
Venus Williams vs. Carla Suarez Navarro
One of Carla' first big wins of her career came against Venus Williams in Australian Open, when Venus was playing well. Now, struck by her autoimmune disease, Venus is the underdog while Carla is the favorite. Nevertheless, one should never count Venus Williams out as she's a true champion and can spring surprises every now and then. What Venus needs to do is to protect her serve well, and pounce on any short balls that Carla gives her. It will be a tough match, but I think Carla is playing very well at the moment and will win this by a close margin.
Pick: Suarez Navarro in 3 sets
Sure win bets: Agnieszka Radwanska, Samantha Stosur, Maria Sharapova
Upset alert: Garbine Muguruza, Sloane Stephens