The 2021 Internazionali BNL d'Italia draw has been released, and potential quarterfinal clashes include No.2 seed Naomi Osaka against No.8 seed Serena Williams, and a rematch of the Stuttgart and Madrid finals between No.1 seed Ashleigh Barty and No.7 seed Aryna Sabalenka.

Serena, a four-time champion in Rome in 2002, 2013, 2014 and 2016, will be competing for the first time since her Australian Open semifinal loss to Osaka. The American opens against either Roland Garros semifinalist Nadia Podoroska or a qualifier, before a projected third-round meeting with No.10 seed Belinda Bencic.

Osaka, whose best showing at the tournament was a quarterfinal run in 2019, faces a tough test from the off. She will begin her campaign against either Daria Kasatkina, a two-time titlist at the Phillip Island Trophy and St. Petersburg this year, or the surging Australian Open quarterfinalist Jessica Pegula.

This week in Madrid, Barty and Sabalenka became the first players to meet in multiple claycourt finals ahead of Roland Garros since 2009, when Dinara Safina and Svetlana Kuznetsova contested both the Stuttgart and Rome finals. The two form players will be unable to set a third title match in Rome, though, as they are projected to clash in the last eight.

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Before that, Barty faces a projected third-round match against No.14 seed Elise Mertens. Sabalenka, meanwhile, has stumbled upon one of the toughest sections of the draw. The Belarusian could open against the indefatigable defense of Sara Sorribes Tormo in a rematch of their memorable Ostrava tilt last autumn.

Sabalenka's last-16 opponent will be the survivor of two of the most exciting first-round matchups in the draw. A battle of former champions will find 2019 winner Karolina Pliskova, the No.9 seed, take on 1999 titlist Venus Williams. The victor will face either Coco Gauff or Yulia Putintseva in the second round.

UPDATE: No.6 seed Bianca Andreescu and Venus Williams withdrew from Rome. No.9 seed Pliskova moves to the No.8 seed position and has a bye into the second round. 

Elsewhere, there could be a rematch of last year's Roland Garros final as early as the third round, with No.4 seed Sofia Kenin projected to clash with No.15 seed Iga Swiatek. Madrid quarterfinalist Karolina Muchova lurks as a potential dark horse in this section, though.

Defending champion Simona Halep, the No.3 seed, will open against either former World No.1 Angelique Kerber or a qualifier. Potential third-round opponents including 2019 runner-up Johanna Konta, 2017 Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko and 2019 Roland Garros finalist Marketa Vondrousova.

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No.12 seed Garbiñe Muguruza was forced to withdraw from her home tournament in Madrid due to a left thigh injury, and her draw is studded with landmines from the get-go. Muguruza will open against Madrid semifinalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, with No.5 seed Elina Svitolina looming as a potential opponent in the third round.

2021 Internazionali BNL d'Italia: Projected third round
[1] Ashleigh Barty vs. [14] Elise Mertens
[17] Maria Sakkari vs. [7] Aryna Sabalenka
[4] Sofia Kenin vs. [15] Iga Swiatek
[12] Garbiñe Muguruza vs. [5] Elina Svitolina
[9] Karolina Pliskova vs. [11] Petra Kvitova
[16] Johanna Konta vs. [3] Simona Halep
[8] Serena Williams vs. [10] Belinda Bencic
[13] Jennifer Brady vs. [2] Naomi Osaka

Click here to view the full draw.

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