Will Serena Williams, Simona Halep or Maria Sharapova rebound from Madrid losses to conquer Rome? Ravi Ubha, wtatennis.com contributor, is picking someone else to go all the way - who is it?
WTA Staff

ROME, Italy - A couple of imposing streaks came to an end at the Madrid Open, both revolving around Serena Williams. Out went her 24-match winning streak to begin 2015, and it was the 19-time Grand Slam champ's first loss in the Spanish capital since 2010. Thank Petra Kvitova for that.

Serena is back in action at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia as the defending champion, joined by two others who suffered surprising losses in Madrid, Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep.

What will Rome hold for the trio? Let's take a closer look at the draw.

First Quarter: A New Streak For Serena?
Williams said she was out of sorts physically against Kvitova in Madrid but vowed to get things right sooner rather than later.

"It's really good to be really exhausted now going into another tournament and then getting ready for Roland Garros," she said. "This is all great preparation that I actually really, really needed. It's perfect timing."

Williams, mind you, uttered something similar when she came close to losing to Sara Errani in the Fed Cup in April, calling the tight three set win in Brindisi an "eye opener."

Williams' first match brings a familiar foe, either the slumping Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova - the World No.1 and the Russian have trained in the off-season together in the past through links to Patrick Mouratoglou's academy - or Samantha Stosur.

Stosur, reunited with coach David Taylor, has topped Williams three times, including on clay at the French Open in 2010. Their last clay court meeting, however, was a 6-1, 6-1 thrashing by Williams in Charleston in 2012.

Home favorite Errani and Williams tangled in last year's finale - this year a third round match looms.
A pair of enticing first round matches feature lower down in the quarter: Karolina Pliskova versus Timea Bacsinszky and Sloane Stephens versus Sabine Lisicki.

Pliskova suffered a rare early loss in Madrid, but it was to fellow WTA Rising Star Caroline Garcia. Perhaps it wasn't unexpected, since the tall Czech had a long and emotional week in Prague. She'll be better prepared for Rome.

Prediction: Pliskova def. Williams

Second Quarter: A Trio Of Former No.1s
Yes, Svetlana Kuznetsova is a two-time Grand Slam winner, with one of those victories coming on the clay at Roland Garros. But did anyone think she'd upset Sharapova in Madrid after playing roughly a combined six hours the previous two days? Kuznetsova also faced a quick turnaround from her quarterfinal.

Sharapova, too, seemed to have done the harder part by ousting Bacsinszky, Garcia and Caroline Wozniacki. Given her clay court record in recent seasons, not winning either Stuttgart or Madrid (that hasn't happened since 2011) is certainly eye-catching.

Sharapova, if she is to grab a third Rome title, might need to navigate past Garcia again. Before then, Garcia, though, has a difficult assignment in the second round if she gets there, up against one of the American 'Madisons,' Brengle or Keys. Recall that Brengle ousted Garcia in Stuttgart.

The bottom half of the section is stacked: 2013 finalist Victoria Azarenka, Wozniacki, Angelique Kerber and Alizé Cornet all surface.

Can Azarenka recover, mentally, from not converting three match points against Serena in Madrid?
Wozniacki and Azarenka appear destined for a blockbuster in the second round, where the Dane would attempt to end a three match losing streak against her pal. In those three head-to-heads, Wozniacki didn't win a set.

Kerber, seeking to return to winning ways, starts against Cornet, Halep's conqueror in Madrid. Settle in for that one.

Prediction: Azarenka def. Garcia

Third Quarter: Can Petra Keep It Up?
Kvitova sparkled in Madrid, particularly in her last four matches. She wasn't attempting to repeatedly paint the lines - which can be an issue for her. Instead, Kvitova reigned in her effortless power, giving herself plenty of room to work with. Kvitova admitted she was unsure of what to expect after her self-imposed break from tennis, so winning on Saturday had to have been a pleasant surprise.

The faster conditions in Madrid are gone, however, and Rome hasn't been as kind to the Czech. Kvitova has managed one quarterfinal in four tries, exiting last year in her opener following a similarly successful spell in Madrid (semifinals).

As likeable as Kvitova is, the crowd will surely be rooting for her opponent in the second round because it's an Italian, either wildcards Karin Knapp or Francesca Schiavone, possibly in her Rome farewell.

Someone who thrives in Rome, on the other hand, is Jelena Jankovic, a possible challenger to Kvitova in the third round. In her last nine visits, the bubbly Serb has won the title twice, reached another final and only failed to make the quarterfinals once.

One good tournament might be enough to kickstart Eugenie Bouchard, who lies at the top of the section. For now she'll take a win - any win. Trying to stop a six-match losing streak, in the second round she'll confront either Zarina Diyas (she of the 6-0, 6-0 win in Stuttgart over Sabine Lisicki) or the tricky Tsvetana Pironkova.

It's difficult, meanwhile, to envisage Carla Suárez Navarro, on a roll and a two-time reigning Rome quarterfinalist, not making another quarterfinal at the Foro Italico.

Prediction: Suárez Navarro def. Jankovic

Fourth Quarter: Tough For Simona
Halep has proved she can flourish in Rome, advancing to the semifinals as a qualifier - she won't be playing qualies anytime soon - in 2013 before granting Suárez Navarro a walkover in the round of 16 last year.

We know for sure that Halep won't be bounced in the first round in consecutive weeks, since she is the beneficiary of one of eight byes. But her potential third round opponent will be dangerous since it will probably be either Venus Williams or Flavia Pennetta. It would have been harder if Garbiñe Muguruza - who has two wins over Halep - didn't withdraw.

Venus owns a 3-0 record against the Romanian, and yet another home favorite, Pennetta, is 2-0 against Halep on clay.

If Halep progresses, a quarterfinal could result against Ekaterina Makarova. Is it time for Makarova to find form? Even if Makarova prefers faster surfaces, she handed Halep a heavy loss in Melbourne and stretched her to 7-5 in the third in Dubai.

Prediction: Halep def. Makarova

Semifinals: Azarenka, Suárez Navarro

Winner: Azarenka