A first-time match-up would occur in the first round of the Internazionali BNL D’Italia as the talented Barbora Strycova goes head-to-head against the young rising star in Daria Kasatkina, who is tipped to take over the number one spot in the next generation. It would be an interesting match-up between these two players, with the winner earning a spot in the second round to face either Timea Bacsinszky or Timea Babos.
Strycova had a mixed season thus far, progressing to a total of four quarterfinals this year as she solidified her ranking in the Top 25, and some consistent play certainly helped in the process. The Czech has played three clay court tournaments in this year, losing in the second round of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix to eventual semifinalist Simona Halep before making a semifinal appearance at her home tournament in Prague as she lost to the eventual winner Mona Barthel.
It was particularly disappointing as she was the favourite to win the title after most of the seeds had fallen earlier. Moving on to the Mutua Madrid Open last week, Strycova claimed an excellent victory over compatriot Lucie Safarova in the opening round but shockingly fell to home favourite Lara Arruabarrena in three tough sets.
Kasatkina had a poor five months to start the year with despite winning her first ever WTA title. A season in which she defeated the world number one Angelique Kerber twice should be a good one, but it is not the case for Kasatkina. In the first quarter of the year, Kasatkina claimed nothing but disappointment other than those two wins as she only managed to reach two quarterfinals within that span of time, which is considered a poor performance in many’s standards.
She finally achieved her best result of the year, reaching her first ever WTA final in Charleston and winning it to claim her first ever title on the tour. However, she is now currently on a two-match losing streak, having fallen in the first round of both the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix and the Mutua Madrid Open.
Without a doubt, this is one of the many mouth-watering clashes in the opening round with Kasatkina being a very dangerous floater in the draws. Kasatkina tends to be on the defense more often and is perfect for the slow clay courts in Rome as she has more time to prepare for her shots. Her forehand has to be very consistent to be able to earn some winners for her, coupled with her famous powerful backhand shots. However, the Russian has to beware of not overdoing the offense as it might backfire on her, resulting in countless unforced errors.
Meanwhile, it is Strycova’s game which will trouble Kasatkina the most as her variety of shots would force the Russian to scramble all around the court, with this tactic being proven effective against other players. The Czech will go up to the net very often especially when she is an accomplished doubles player, with most of her winners coming from those points. Both players will try to serve out wide, causing each other to find it even more difficult to return them. A win for either would be a boost to their confidence and morale and do not be surprised if this match goes the distance.