Serena Williams takes on fellow former French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in the Internazionali BNL d'Italia quarterfinals and Williams will be looking for revenge after Kuznetsova upset Williams in the fourth round in Miami.
How they got here
Williams is playing her first clay court tournament in Rome before she defends her French Open championship in Paris and she had to withdraw from Madrid due to illness. The world number one is playing in her first tournament since that defeat to Kuznetsova at the end of March. Williams had a first round bye and in her first match back defeated Anna-Lena Friedsam 6-4, 6-3, a player who gave her problems at the French Open on Court Suzanne Lenglen last year in Paris. In her third round match, Williams had a slow start against her compatriot Christina McHale going down an early break but during the latter part of the set, Williams regained the break and took the opening set 7-6 in the tiebreak and breezed through the second set to record a 7-6, 6-1 victory, which was a milestone in Rome for her as it is Williams' 40th win in the Italian capital.
On the other side of the net to Williams will be Svetlana Kuznetsova. Kuznetsova has earned the right to be in the quarterfinals in Rome after she defeated Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia 7-5, 6-4 in the first round. She defeated a former grand slam champion in Sam Stosur 6-4, 6-4 in the second round and she defeated another Australian and last year's surprise semifinalist in Rome, Daria Gavrilova 6-2, 2-6, 6-3. Kuznetsova has benefitted from Gavrilova's victory over Mutua Madrid Open champion Simona Halep in the second round.
Williams due a title
Serena Williams has not won a title since she defeated Halep at the 2015 Western & Southern Open back in August and since she suffered a devastating defeat at the hands of Roberta Vinci at the US Open in the semifinals to end her hopes of completing a calendar grand slam, the world number one decided to shut down her season early to nurse some niggling injuries.
In 2016, Williams has a 13-3 win-loss record and she failed to retain her Australian Open championship losing it to Angelique Kerber in the final. The world number one lost to Victoria Azarenka for the fourth time in a final which allowed the Belarusian to become the only player to defeat Williams in four finals at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. Williams' most recent loss was to Kuznetsova in Miami.
Williams will need to be cautious about her game breaking down because it crumbled in Miami against Kuznetsova and the Russian did not hesitate to take advantage and win the match and Kuznetsova is more than capable of doing it again.
Williams and Kuznetsova have met each other 11 times and it is Williams who leads their head-to-head 8-3. They have played each other three times on clay which Williams leads 2-1. Seven times they have played on hard court which Williams leads 5-2 on hard court and they have met once on carpet which Williams leads 1-0 over the veteran Russian.
The first time they played was in the quarterfinals in Rome in 2004 and the American prevailed 7-5, 6-0. Later that year Williams won their second meeting 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 in the final of Beijing. Kuznetsova halved the deficit in their meetings by winning in the quarterfinals of Stuttgart 6-3, 6-3 in 2007.
Williams won their only meeting on Carpet in 2007 in the Russian's hometown of Moscow 7-6, 6-1 to reach the final. The pair have met three times in Miami and Williams was victorious in their meetings in 2008 and 2015 but Kuznetsova won this year 6-7, 6-1, 6-2. They met in three times in 2009, Williams defeated Kuznetsova 5-7, 7-5, 6-1 in the quarterfinals en route to winning her fourth title in Melbourne. They played at the WTA finals which Williams won again in a close contest 7-6, 7-5.
They have played each other twice at the French Open in the quarterfinals and both of the matches have been played on Court Suzanne Lenglen. Kuznetsova gained revenge for her loss to Williams at the Australian Open earlier that year by defeating Williams 7-6, 5-7, 7-5 en route to winning her second grand slam title and in 2013, Williams avenged that loss by winning 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 en route to winning her second French Open championship.
Williams and Kuznetsova have put on some good matches in the past and tomorrow promises to be another good one. They both know their way around a clay court, Williams' serve is a powerful weapon when it is firing on all cylinders and Kuznetsova is a good returner and she can track down a lot of balls as she is very fast and has good endurance in long matches which is needed on a clay court.
The former three-time champion is due to win her first title in nine months before she defends her French Open title in Paris and since Azarenka, Halep, Kvitova and Kerber have all fallen and with Muguruza in the bottom half of the draw, it is a golden opportunity for Williams to prevail in the Eternal City once again for her 70th WTA career title.
Prediction: Williams in straight sets