Rome Monday: Venus To Vie With Robson
Published May 12, 2013 12:00
ROME, Italy - A couple of former Rome champions, Venus Williams and Jelena Jankovic, are among those in action as first round play gets underway at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia.
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Monday, First Round
Venus Williams (USA #24) vs. Laura Robson (GBR #39)
Head-to-head: first meeting
Venus Williams would be wise not to look ahead toward a potential second round match-up with sister Serena, as first round opponent Laura Robson is unlikely to be intimidated by squaring off with the WTA legend and seven-time Grand Slam champion. The Brit ended the career of four-time Grand Slam champ Kim Clijsters at the 2012 US Open. And she has since beaten Grand Slam winners Li Na and Petra Kvitova and World No.4 Agnieszka Radwanska, the latter her best win in terms of ranking and coming just last week in Madrid.
Williams has had plenty of success in Rome in the past, highlighted by a title in 1999, a runner-up showing in 1998 and two semifinal appearances. Having pulled out of Madrid with a low back injury, she is playing just her second clay court event of the season - the first being a semifinal showing last month in Charleston. Interestingly enough, the 32-year-old Williams is the oldest player in the draw and the 19-year-old Robson is the youngest and the highest-ranked teen on the WTA.
Jelena Jankovic (SRB #18) vs. Tsvetana Pironkova (BUL #51)
Head-to-head: Jankovic leads 4-0
This will be Jelena Jankovic's 11th straight appearance in Rome, and she has plenty of good memories - most notably titles in 2007 and 2008 and a run to the final in 2010. She is also having her best season in years, with a title in Bogotá, runner-up showing in Charleston and semifinal showing in Miami already on her 2013 résumé. And while she will be trying to shake off her first round loss last week in Madrid, she should have plenty of confidence against first round foe Tsvetana Pironkova - as she is undefeated in their series with their one meeting on clay being the most lopsided one.
Since her quarterfinal appearance in Hobart to kick off 2013, Pironkova has just one win to her credit. And while she has been beyond the first round just once in Rome, it was a memorable experience. During her quarterfinal run as a qualifier in 2008, she defeated Ana Ivanovic and Victoria Azarenka - both of whom would go on to reach World No.1. Pironkova is looking for her first Top 20 win since topping No.13 Dominika Cibulkova in the first round of the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS #37) vs. [Q] Simona Halep (ROU #64)
Head-to-head: Tied 1-1
After starting the year at No.85, it has been a steady ascension up the rankings for Svetlana Kuznetsova. Though she has yet to go beyond a quarterfinal this season, the Russian has lost in the first round just twice and is up to her highest ranking since last July. A two-time finalist here, Kuznetsova is trying to end a stretch that has seen her lose her Rome opener three straight years.
Simona Halep has not been beyond the third round of an event in 2013 and is trying to rediscover her form of 2012 that saw her climb to a career-high No.37 and make one final, one semifinal and two quarterfinals. The Romanian does her best work on clay, as all three of her WTA runner-up showings and her one semifinal appearance have occurred on the dirt.
Around the grounds…
Former Rome finalist Samantha Stosur takes on Hsieh Su-Wei and former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone squares off with Kiki Bertens.