Caroline Wozniacki in April in Charleston, S.C. Today she’s in Rome.
Caroline Wozniacki in April in Charleston, S.C. Today she’s in Rome.|Mic Smith | Associated Press

Tennis Tuesday: At Italian Open, Abrams picks 7 women’s matches with Wozniacki, Bencic, Azarenka, Svitolina, Barty, Vondrousova, more

Play begins at 5 am EDT

Neal Abrams

Neal Abrams

Internazionali BNL d’Italia
Rome, Italy
Tuesday, May 14, 2019
Women’s Round of 64 and 32

Alize Cornet over Aryna Sabalenka
France’s Alize Cornet qualified for the main draw here in Rome by beating both Magda Linette and Krystina Pliskova (the little sister of 4th seeded Karolina Pliskova) in straight sets in the qualies. Now, in the first round, she drew the Warrior Princess, Bulgaria’s Aryna Sabalenka. Sabalenka is a hard hitter who likes to wail on most of her groundies, but when playing a true baseliner she is prone to overhit and eventually make enough mistakes that the match gets away from her. Until I see otherwise, that’s what I will assume will happen here. Sabalenka is probably a better all-around athlete than Cornet, but Cornet can be very patient and professional, and I think that’s what it will take to win this match. Notch this one in the Frenchwoman’s column and we’ll have to see how Sabalenka’s slow court game progresses over the next year.

Vika Azarenka over Elina Svitolina
Azarenka is now starting to show that she got her old game back. Last week in Madrid she took out Daria Kasatkina before she matched up against eventual semi-finalist Sloane Stephens, who is a Top Ten player. After splitting sets, Stephens brought the house down on Vika, a former world No. 1 player, and walked away with a tight 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory that showed that Vika is improving, but not quite back to her pre-pregnancy self. This match against Elina Svitolina means a lot, though. Svitolina is a terrific athlete, a wonderful tennis player, and she’s in a very good frame of mind, playing in the same tournament as her boyfriend, France’s Gael Monfils. Svitolina, the 5th seed here, has played Vika twice and lost to her both times, way back in 2015, which has meaning, but since it’s 2019, it doesn’t mean much now. In my opinion, this match will really come down to who is the healthier of the two. The player who needs the physio first will lose. Mark my words.

Ash Barty over Viktoria Kuzmova
Ash Barty has been one of the highlights of the WTA Tour year-to-date. She is boasting a 23-4 2019 record, and hasn’t suffered a bad loss yet. Kuzmova, for her part, is starting to show her potential. In the first round here she took out Sara Errani 6-1, 6-0, and last week in Madrid she had two straight wins over Julia Georges and Carla Suarez Navarro before she simply surrendered to Simona Halep 0 and 0. But if there ever was an “associative property” that reflected on tennis loses to the same opponent, it would favor Ash Barty. Whereas last week Kuzmova didn’t win a game against Halep, Barty fell to the Romanian in the quarters 7-5, 7-5, and the outcome was always in question. With this in mind, I like Barty in a potential romp.

Caroline Wozniacki over Danielle Collins
Caroline Wozniacki is a former world No. 1 player, and a Grand Slam champion having won the Australian Open in 2018, and reached the finals in the 2009 U.S. Open and the 2010 WTA Tour Championships to Kim Clijsters, and the 2014 U.S. Open to Serena Williams. Collins’ only claim to fame are her two NCAA Women’s singles championships, but nothing of note on the pro Tour. They’ve played once, in the first round of last year’s French Open when Wozniacki handled the American 7-6, 6-1. Wozniacki is not as sharp as she has been as she’s been having her share of injuries and comebacks. In fact, just last week she was pushed into retiring from her match with Alize Cornet while down 3-0 because of the aggravation of a pre-existing low back injury. Ranked No. 12 currently, Wozniacki is the better player, but if the Dane is the least bit injured, Collins, a true fighter, will sense blood and bring out all the guns in her arsenal. Should Collins play a wounded warrior, the American will win. If Woz is healthy, Collins stands very little, if any, chance.

Belinda Bencic over Anastasija Sevastova
Belinda Bencic entered Rome with a YTD 26-9 record while 12th seeded Anastasija Sevastova is 13-11. Last week on her way to the semis in Madrid, Bencic beat Alison Van Uytanck 4 and 3, Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3 in the third, Kateryna Kozlova 0 and 2, and world No. 1 Naomi Osaka 7-5 in the third. By reaching the semis and falling to Simona Halep in three, Bencic took home 312,215 Euros along with the all important 390 ranking points that pushed her up to No. 15 in the world. Sevastova, on the other hand, is ranked No. 13 after a week in which she took out Kristen Flipkens and Mihaela Buzarnescu before falling to eventual champion Kiki Bertens in the Round of 16. Based on YTD records, momentum, and intuition, I like Bencic to take out Sevastova and leapfrog her in the rankings.

Marketa Vondrousova over Barbora Strycova
Marketa Vodrousova, the 19-year-old from the Czech Republic, has a 3-0 record over Barbora Strycova, her 33-year-old countrywoman who now lives in Dubai. They’ve even played twice this year, both on clay and hard courts, with Vondrousova winning both without dropping a set. Just as important, or perhaps more importantly, Vondrousova is 19-5 YTD, while Strycova sports a 2019 record of only 10-10. If all these numbers speak, they say that Vondrousova will take this match.

Daria Kasatkina over Irina-Camelia Begu
You probably don’t know either of these players, so there’s only one fact that means anything when picking this match. Kasatkina, a 22-year-old Russian, holds a 6-1 record over Begu, a 28-year-old Romanian. That says all that needs to be said.

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