Victoria Azarenka and Venus Williams headline one of the most anticipated first-round clashes at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.
It will be their ninth career clash, and a rematch of last month’s Lexington opener, which saw Venus thrash Azarenka in straight sets, 6-3, 6-2. Venus owns the head-to-head advantage, 6-2, although one of Azarenka’s victories came on clay in Madrid.
Since her match against Venus, Azarenka has gone on to lift the Premier 5 trophy at the Western & Southern Open and reach her first Grand Slam final in seven years at the US Open on Saturday.
Two-time champion Elina Svitolina kicks off her Rome campaign on Wednesday, with the Ukranian contesting her first tournament since March. Svitolina had just lifted the 14th trophy of her career in Monterrey, when the tour was put on a five-month pause due to COVID-19.
Svitolina, the No.4 seed, takes on Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the second round after a bye. She trails the Russian 1-3 in their head-to-head record - but the pair haven’t played each other since 2017 and have never previously played on clay.
Second round action rules at Stadio Pietrangeli with top seed Simona Halep back in action after her Prague Open victory. The former World No.1 had opted out of the abbreviated American swing and didn’t play the US Open with an eye on another victory in Roland Garros.
A two-time finalist here, Halep will face Italian wildcard Jasmine Paolini as she seeks to win her first Rome title.
No.2 seed Karolina Pliskova will face fellow Czech player Barbora Strycova in another intriguing second-round battle. It will be their sixth career meeting but the first on clay, with Pliskova owning the 4-1 lead over Strycova.
Pliskova had made the perfect start to the season lifting the trophy in Brisbane in her first tournament of the year. But the former World No.1 has yet to return to a semifinal since, and notched back-to-back second-round exits at the Western & Southern Open and US Open leading up to Rome.
Strycova has continued to dominate in doubles alongside partner Hsieh Su-Wei, winning in Brisbane, Dubai and Doha and reaching the Australian Open final. But in singles, the 34-year-old Czech is looking to make it past the second round for the first time this year
Also in action are No.6 seed Belinda Bencic, No.10 Elena Rybakina and No.11 Elise Mertens, while Dayana Yastremska and Amanda Anisimova are set to meet for their first WTA-level clash on Wednesday as well.
ORDER OF PLAY
All courts start at 11 am
After 2 ATP matches
Victoria AZARENKA (BLR) vs. [WC] Venus WILLIAMS (USA)
Not before 7 pm
After 1 ATP match
Anatasia PAVLYUCHENKOVA (RUS) vs.  Elina SVITOLINA (UKR)
 Belinda BENCIC (SUI) vs. [Q] Danka KOVINIC (MNE)
 Simona HALEP (ROU) vs. [WC] Jasmine PAOLINI (ITA)
Not before 7 pm
Barbora STRYCOVA (CZE) vs.  Karolina PLISKOVA (CZE)
GRAND STAND ARENA
After 2 ATP matches
Dayana YASTREMSKA (UKR) vs. Amanda ANISIMOVA (USA)
Magda LINETTE (POL) vs.  Elise MERTENS (BEL)
[Q] Aliona BOLSOVA (ESP) vs. [Q] Anna BLINKOVA (RUS)
 Elena RYBAKINA (KAZ) vs. Marie BOUZKOVA (CZE)
After suitable rest - [WC] Giulia GATTO-MONTICONE (ITA) / Jasmine PAOLINI (ITA) vs. Oksana KALASHNIKOVA (GEO) / Laura SIEGEMUND (GER)
After 3 ATP matches
After suitable rest - Magda LINETTE (POL) / Bernarda PERA (USA) vs. Alexa GUARACHI (CHI) / Desirae KRAWCZYK (USA)
Ellen PEREZ (AUS) / Storm SANDERS (AUS) vs. Lucie HRADECKA (CZE) / Andreja KLEPAC (SLO)
Anna-Lena FRIEDSAM (GER) / Raluca OLARU (ROU) vs. Miyu KATO (JPN) / Sabrina SANTAMARIA (USA)
Asia MUHAMMAD (USA) / Arina RODIONOVA (AUS) vs. Sharon FICHMAN (CAN) / Vera ZVONAREVA (RUS)
After suitable rest - Lyudmyla KICHENOK (UKR) / Nadiia KICHENOK (UKR) vs.  Kirsten FLIPKENS (BEL) / Elise MERTENS (BEL)