With 16 of the Top 18 players on the WTA tour including world No. 1 Serena Williams and surprise Madrid winner Petra Kvitova, and more floating upset-makers meeting seeds in the first round than you can shake a racquet at, this year’s Italian Open will be telling leading into the French Open in a couple weeks.
Storylines that could be answered this week in Rome:
Can world No. 1 Serena Williams take a figurative punch in the face and get right back in the fight after tamely exiting Madrid in her first loss of the year?
Is Petra Kvitova the real deal on clay after Madrid, or was it just a fluke week for the hot-and-cold former Wimbledon champ?
Is Maria Sharapova done collecting clay court titles after her inexplicable “Queen of Clay” run the last couple years?
Are Genie Bouchard and Simona Halep ready to pull out of their slumps and step up on the dirt?
Here is a look at the field this week:
Seeds: Serena Williams, Simona Halep, Maria Sharapova, Petra Kvitova, Caroline Wozniacki, Eugenie Bouchard, Ana Ivanovic, Ekaterina Makarova, Angelique Kerber, Carla Suarez Navarro, Karolina Pliskova, Lucie Safarova, Sara Errani, Venus Williams, Madison Keys, Jelena Jankovic
Floaters: Sam Stosur, Timea Bacsinszky, Sloane Stephens, Sabine Lisicki, Belinda Bencic, Alize Cornet, Victoria Azarenka, Zarina Diyas, Camila Giorgi, Francesca Schiavone, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Garbine Muguruza
Notes: The Top 8 seeds receive opening-round byes, with potential tough starts for (1) Serena vs. the Slam champ Stosur, (11) Pliskova vs. the en fuego Bacsinszky (winner to meet the Stephens-Lisicky victor), (7) Ivanovic vs. Bencic, (9) Kerber vs. the upset specialist Cornet, (5) Wozniacki vs. Azarenka in a battle of former No. 1s, (6) Bouchard vs. the riser Diyas, (16) Jankovic vs. the homer Giorgi, (4) Kvitova vs. the former French champ Schiavone, (8) Makarova vs. the hot-handed Kuznetsova, and (14) Venus Williams vs. the Spaniard Muguruza…
Wildcards went to Italians Nastassja Burnett, Karin Knapp and Schiavone…
Serena’s draw to the semifinals could go through Stosur, last year’s finalist Errani then the former French champ Ivanovic to meet either Sharapova or Wozniacki in the semis…
The No. 2 seed Halep’s draw to the semis could go through Americans Alison Riske or Varvara Lepchenko, then Venus Williams, Safarova, and Kvitova or a surprise Suarez Navarro in the semis…
Pulling from the event were Peng Shuai, Andrea Petkovic and Agnieszka Radwanska (arm injury)…
Serena Williams is the two-time defending champion, last year beating Errani 6-3, 6-0 in the final…
Former champs in the field are Serena Williams (2014-13,’02), Sharapova (2012-11), Jankovic (2008-07), and Venus Williams (1999).
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