Taking its place as the biggest clay court tournament outside the Grand Slams in 2020 after the cancellation of the Mutua Madrid Open, the Internazionali BNL d’Italia will be the final Premier 5 event of the season on the women’s tour, after the Qatar Total Open, back in February, and the recently-concluded Western & Southern Open last month.
Defending champion Karolina Pliskova, one of six top 10 stars featured in this year’s edition, will return as she attempts to defend her title in the Eternal City. Other past winners in draw this year include Venus Williams (1999) and most recent repeat champion, Elina Svitolina.
Focus on Rome
The Internazionali BNL d’Italia, also known as simply the Italian Open, began in Milan in 1930 and stayed put in the north of the country until 1934. It then moved to a then-three-year-old Foro Italico in Rome. The women’s event would then shift locations a couple more times in the following decades before settling in the Foro once more in 1987 where it has remained since. Since the 1987 relocation, only one Italian player has made it to the championship round, Sara Errani, in 2014 where she lost to Serena Williams.
Tournament winners here in the previous decade began with the surprise win of María José Martínez Sánchez over two-time champion Jelena Jankovic in the 2010 final. Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams would then go on to split three title wins between them, and Williams’ title in 2016, her most recent one here, saw the American tie Conchita Martínez for most title wins here since the tournament moved back to Rome.
Svitolina became the fourth name to be added to the trophy in the 2010s after lifting titles in 2017 and 2018 before Pliskova scored her biggest title on clay to date here last year. The tournament format will see the top eight seeds receive byes into the second round.
The venue, the Foro Italico (translates into Italian Forum), once known as Foro Mussolini, and is located in the vicinity of Monte Mario in Municipio XIV, on the western bank of the Tiber River, across the Villaggio Olimpico. Built during the Fascist era initially as part of Italy’s bid to secure its place to host the 1940 Summer Olympics, the sports complex is situated a little to the northwestern side of the city centre and boasts various sets of historical architecture.
The Foro was one of the sporting venues when Rome finally hosted the Olympic Games in 1964. Not far from the tennis facilities on the grounds is the Stadio Olimpico which now serves as the home ground of football clubs Roma and Lazio.
Two-time runner-up Simona Halep opens the draw, the top seed with a first-round bye, and is due to face one of Anastasija Sevastova or local girl Jasmine Paolini in her opener. Also present in the Romanian’s eighth of the draw is 16th seed Donna Vekic, who opens against Amanda Anisimova, the winner taking on the either Italian Camila Giorgi or Dayana Yastremska, both of those opening round clashes promising to be big-hitting affairs.
Across Halep’s quarter sits eighth-seeded Petra Martic. The Croat’s first opponent of the week will be Yulia Putintseva or Rebecca Peterson, the former whom she recently lost to at the US Open. 10th seed Elena Rybakina is drawn to clash with Martic in the third round, the Kazakh facing Ekaterina Alexandrova in her opener, with one of Marie Bouzkova or Ajla Tomljanovic looming next.
Prediction: Halep d. Martic
Third seed and reigning Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin heads this quarter, and the American number one’s first task of the week will not be an easy one as she meets the winner of a blockbuster opening round match between former world number ones Victoria Azarenka, and wildcard Venus Williams.
Azarenka and Williams had just met in the first round of Lexington last month. Another wildcard in Vera Zvonareva sits in this eighth and she meets a qualifier in her opener and should the Russian advance, one of 15th seed Angelique Kerber or Katerina Siniakova will be her next opponent.
Last year’s runner-up Johanna Konta bookends the quarter and the Briton takes on either a qualifier or wildcard Elisabetta Cocciaretto in her opener. Across the seventh seed's eighth is a stacked section which sees ninth seed Garbiñe Muguruza and Sloane Stephens face off in the first round, the winner of that clash going up against Coco Gauff or Tunisian Ons Jabeur next.
Prediction: Muguruza d. Kerber
Fifth seed Kiki Bertens opens this quarter, the Dutchwoman being one of three top eight seeds who will resume their 2020 season this week. The two-time semifinalist’s first opponent here will be either Polona Hercog or a qualifier. Also in Bertens’ eighth are 12th seed Marketa Vondrousova and Pole Iga Swiatek, the latter two due to face each other in the second round, but must be move past a qualifier in their respective openers first.
Two-time winner Svitolina, seeded fourth this year, is the highest seed of this quarter. The Ukrainian won the Monterrey title back in March, which was one of two tournaments played on the final week before the tour was suspended, and her eighth sees 14th-seed Anett Kontaveit drawn to meet her in the third round.
Kontaveit gets Caroline Garcia in her opener, and the Estonian will face the winner of the opener between Bernarda Pera and Svetlana Kuznetsova after that. Meanwhile, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Zhang Shuai meet in their opener, the winner due to face off against Svitolina next.
Prediction: Bertens d. Kontaveit
Defending champion Pliskova’s first match of her title defence could be against a familiar foe in compatriot Barbora Strycova but the latter would firstly need to move past Veronika Kudermetova in the first round. Meanwhile, 13th seed Alison Riske and Jil Teichmann have drawn a qualifier in their respective openers, and should both win, they are due to clash in the second round, the winner of that match then taking on Pliskova next should the Czech win her opening match.
Sixth seed Belinda Bencic will be playing her first tournament post-suspension since the Qatar Open in February. The Swiss, who is yet to make the third round in Rome, will meet German Julia Goerges or a qualifier in her first match. Her path to the last eight does not get any easier as 11th seed and in-form Elise Mertens is drawn to face her in the third round. However, the Belgian needs to fend off Hsieh Su-wei first, and one of Magda Linette or Jelena Ostapenko next.
Prediction: Pliskova d. Mertens