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 Amanda Anisimova at 2017 French Open is 17 now and playing in the Italian Open.
Amanda Anisimova at 2017 French Open is 17 now and playing in the Italian Open.|Sportsfan77777 on Wikimedia Commons
Tennis

Thursday Italian Open Women’s Tennis: Abrams’ looks at Bertens v Anisimova, Stephens v Konta, Osaka v Cibulkova, Muguruza v Collins & more

Matches begin at 5 am EDT.

Neal Abrams

Neal Abrams

Internazionali BNL d’Italia
Rome, Italy
Wednesday, May 15, 2019
Women’s Singles Round of 32

Kiki Bertens over Amanda Anisimova
Kiki Bertens is coming off probably the best week of her career after taking the title in Madrid. There in the last three rounds she beat Kvitova, Stephens and Halep, a murderer’s row as it is in women’s tennis, to take the title, the 1,102,520 Euros, and the 1,000 ranking points that go with it. The ranking points have moved Bertens up to a career high world ranking of No. 4, and considering that last week she beat No. 2 and No. 5, that seems about right. Amanda Anisimova has been playing qualies the past few months and after announcing her presence in Melbourne back in January, she has fallen back to still trying to make it – standing outside looking in. She got into the main draw here as a lucky loser, when Donna Vekic pulled out with a right hip injury, and Vekic has since been joined on the sidelines by Serena Williams, Caroline Wozniacki, and Jelena Ostapenko. Anisimova’s loss in the qualies to Kristina Mladenovic 1 and 4 was not a bad loss, but if she wants to play with the big girls full time, she’s going to have to figure out how to beat players like that. Anisimova, whose older sister played collegiately at the University of Pennsylvania, in the Ivy League, has all the physical gifts necessary to make this her career. She’s just 17-years-old, and is already 5’11”, and given some time I think she’ll probably grow another inch or two. But to expect her, at this point in her budding career, to beat the No. 4 ranked woman in the world is asking too much. Bertens will take this, and we’ll await Anisimova’s real coming-out party, as it is sure to come shortly.

Sloane Stephens over Johanna Konta
Sloane Stephens is still an enigma to me. As I explained about Fabio Fognini and Nick Kyrgios, when she plays in “the zone,” that 15% of the time where she is a genius with a racket, she almost can’t be beat. The 15% of the time when she’s horrible, she can (and does) lose to almost anyone. It’s the remaining 70% of the time that is of concern with Stephens. Last week she was closer to the bottom 15% than the top, yet still managed to get to the semis in Madrid. Here in Rome, she seems about the same, which could mean almost anything. And that could spell trouble for Stephens. These two played back in January in Brisbane, and the Brit (by way of Australia) came through in two easy sets. That could happen again here. But, interestingly, the slow clay gives the Yank a bit more time to play her shots, and that can tend to help her. I would normally think it would be a detriment to her game, seeing that she’s so athletic and has the ability to hit hard, deep, and strong, but more and more, she’s leaning toward just putting the ball back in play, rather than going for it . . . especially on her serve, which is more a point-starter than an offensive shot. I guess I’m saying that this match is up for grabs and I’m picking Stephens because her mediocre game is better than Konta’s mediocre game. If Konta is on and Stephens is mediocre, this match will go the way of the last one these two played.

Garbine Muguruza over Danielle Collins
Nothing bothers me more than seeing a player enter a tournament, go out and play, and retire because they say they were injured. For the second week in a row, the dashing Dane, Caroline Wozniacki, did just that. Last week she retired after just three games against Alize Cornet, and yesterday she pulled out of her match with Danielle Collins after dropping the first set, 7-5 in a first set tiebreaker. Her excuse this time was a left lower leg injury, while her excuse last week was a low back injury. Maybe next week it will be a frontal cortex brain injury. WTA---let’s get serious about this crap, huh? Anyway, that’s why Collins, the pugnacious American, is in this match, and the match is shaping up to be a dogfight. Muguruza, a former Wimbledon champion, is still not back to snuff, after injuries and layoffs, so this match will be very competitive. It’s a tossup, but I’m going with the Spaniard, because she’s taller—6’0 to 5’10”. Just kidding. I’m going with Muguruza because she has more experience in tournaments like this. One interesting stat: these women are the same age, 25, but the Spaniard has won 10 times the prize money: $18,729,692 to $1,868,108. That’s probably just a reflection of one player being on the Tour for seven years, and the other for just two, but it’s still an interesting side note.

Naomi Osaka over Dominika Cibulkova
Naomi Osaka almost gave up her No. 1 world ranking by losing last week. But Simona Halep had to win Madrid to move ahead of Osaka in the rankings, and she didn’t. So for at least one more week, Osaka holds the top spot. She shouldn’t have much trouble with Cibulkova, as she holds a career 3-0 record against the Slovak, but Osaka’s grip on that No. 1 spot is shaky, at best. If Halep wins the French, it’s all over for Osaka . . . at least temporarily. There’s still a lot of tennis to be played this year, and with Wimbledon only a month after Stade Roland Garros, it’s a couple more big chances for Japan’s top woman player to assert her control over the sport. Time will tell.

Julia Gorges over Mihela Buzarnescu
Julia Gorges, the 5’11” German, holds a 2-0 record against 31-year-old Mihela Buzarnescu, from Bucharest, Romania. Gorges overcame Su-Wei Hsieh 3 and 4 in the first round, while Buzarnescu took a first round match from the injured Jelena Ostapenko, who has found it very hard to piece together wins of late. I think this match will go quick and smooth for Gorges, as she has yet to lose a set to the Romanian.