Third seed Garbine Muguruza starts her campaign in Rome against former top ten player Ekaterina Makarova in a tough second encounter. Muguruza suffered another early exit in her hometown event in Madrid last week at the hands of Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu. Unfortunately for the Spaniard, she could be sent packing early again this week. Makarova won her first round match against Montenegrin Danka Kovinic 6-2, 6-2.
The Russian is ranked in at 29 in the world after she was suffering from niggling injuries towards the end of 2015 and The Russian lefty is very consistent at Grand Slam tournaments. At Wimbledon in 2014, she reached the quarterfinals and made back-to-back Grand Slam semifinals at the US Open in 2014 and Australian Open in 2015.
Muguruza desperately needs wins
Last year's Wimbledon finalist Muguruza has a 12-8 win-loss record on the WTA tour, which is very poor for her standards. She has only made two quarter-finals this year at the Qatar Total Open losing to Andrea Petkovic and at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix losing to two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.
Muguruza usually blossoms around this time of year as she made a name for herself on the clay court season and at the French Open two years ago she handed Serena Williams her worst defeat at a grand slam by beating her with the loss of four games.
The Spaniard has reached the quarterfinals at Roland Garros for the past couple of years and she will need some wins here as she was part of the seeds exodus in her home event in Madrid last week. Losing to Begu in three sets which would have been a tough pill to swallow for her.
At least Muguruza is not showing suffering from second season syndrome that Eugenie Bouchard suffered in 2015 after having a breakthrough season in 2014 but Bouchard was unable to backup her 2015. Muguruz
Makarova and Muguruza have played each other four times on the WTA tour and they have split their meetings with 2 wins apiece. All of their matches have gone the distance to three sets except their most recent meeting in Sofia which Muguruza won 6-2, 6-1. The tall Spaniard won their first meeting at the BNP Paribas Open in the second round with a 6-3, 1-6, 6-4 scoreline. Makarova won their next two meetings with the first victory for the Russian coming at Wimbledon in 2013 6-2, 6-7, 6-4 and another close match-up in Beijing with the Russian prevailing 6-7, 6-4, 6-4.
Both players know how to play on a clay court as Makarova has won the French Open in doubles with compatriot Elena Vesnina back in 2013 and has reached the round of 16 at Roland Garros on two occasions and Muguruza is a two-time quarterfinalist at Roland Garros.
Muguruza will need to win this match as she will need some more matches under her belt to build her confidence for another strong showing at the French Open and the conditions here at the Foro Italico are similar to those in Paris.
Makarova has played a match here already and she will be used to the conditions in Rome.
Prediction: Muguruza to steady the ship and win the match in straight sets.