It would be a battle between two former Top 10 players as home favourite Roberta Vinci faces two-time Grand Slam semifinalist Ekaterina Makarova in a blockbuster first-round clash at the Internazionali BNL D’Italia. With both players having a lackluster season thus far, a win here could be very morale-boosting for either.
Both players, who coincidentally also achieved much success on the doubles court, will face off for the eighth time in their careers. They have met twice on clay courts in the past, with both players splitting the wins between them as Vinci won their most recent clay-court clash in Stuttgart last year. However, Makarova has triumphed over Vinci in Rome just a few years back in 2014, with the conditions being totally different from Stuttgart.
Ever since suffering from some terrible injury problems just when she was at her peak level in 2015 when she was in the Top 10 of the rankings, Makarova went nowhere but down in the rankings as she never ever managed to find the essence to her success from then on. Never ever returning to her best form since then, she has been lingering outside the Top 30 and in the unseeded positions of big events.
Her recent clay court tournaments saw her win no more than two matches at each of them, losing to the resurgent Maria Sharapova in the second round of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, and also faced a tough draw in Rabat as she fell in the second round to top seed and eventual champion Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. At the Mutua Madrid Open last week, Makarova fell in the opening round to eventual quarterfinalist Kiki Bertens.
After reaching the US Open final in 2015, Vinci finally entered the Top 10 for the first time in her career a few months later after winning the title in St. Petersburg. However, everything can be considered a downfall from then on as she failed to back up her performances and fell out of that elite batch when she failed to defend her finalist points. A couple of good wins here and there managed to keep her in the Top 20, but she recently fell out of the Top 30 as she started to lurk in the draws as an unseeded player.
Her first clay court tournament this year was at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix where she faced the comeback player in Maria Sharapova, eventually falling in straight sets. She showed some signs of improvement at the Mutua Madrid Open last week as she defeated the rising star in Daria Kasatkina and owned a formidable 5-2 lead in the final set against Simona Halep. However, she failed to find a match point and eventually choked the huge advantage to fall in three sets.
It looks like a clash of two players who has been long past the primes of their careers, but in fact, there is still a lot in store for all tennis fans. Makarova has been occasionally solid in her groundstrokes in her recent matches, dictating play successfully and looks to be in red-hot form. However, consistency continues to pose a huge obstacle for the Russian as she often failed to maintain the high level of play throughout the match.
Meanwhile, Vinci has been working that forehand well as they often won points for her, outhitting her opponents in that aspect. The slow surface may benefit Vinci as she does not control play as often as Makarova, who would require more patience than needed to get past the stubborn Vinci defence. It might be a battle of net points as both players are experienced doubles players, with some spectacular points waiting to be played.