On Wednesday, at the Internazionali BNL D’Italia, this is happening:

  • Nine of the top 10-ranked WTA players are scheduled for second-round action, weather permitting; nine of 10 in the Porsche Race to Shenzhen, too.
  • Coincidentally – or perhaps not – there are nine 2021 title holders in play as well.
  • Grand Slam champions are a rare breed, but 10 of them will take the courts in Rome. They represent a total of 40 titles, 23 of them belonging to Serena Williams.

This should be good, really good. Click here for the full Order of Play. 

Let’s break down these 16 savory matches by quarter:

First quarter

No.1 Ashleigh Barty vs. Yaroslava Shvedova

The Barty road trip continues. The world No.1 is 25-4 and has won titles in Miami and Melbourne and on the red clay in Stuttgart. Until her first-round match against wildcard Martina Trevisan, Shvedova hadn’t won a main-draw match since 2017, but she also took two years off to have twins, Mirka and Stan. Shvedova (ranked No.665) dropped the first set, then hung on to win two tiebreakers. First meeting.

Veronika Kudermetova vs. Caroline Garcia

Kudermetova, who knocked off No.14 seed Elise Mertens 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, has a sparkling 23-10 for the year and a Volvo Car Open title on green clay. Garcia beat fellow wildcard Elisabetta Cocciaretto 7-6 (8), 6-2. First meeting.

No.17 Maria Sakkari vs. Cori Gauff

A Miami semifinalist – where she beat world No.2 Naomi Osaka – Sakkari is 16-8 in 2021. The 17-year-old Gauff is 15-8 and has already reached two quarterfinals and a semifinal. Gauff came through a thrilling three-setter in her opening win over Yulia Putintseva.

Sakkari has won both of their encounters, in straight sets.

No.7 Aryna Sabalenka vs. Sara Sorribes Tormo

These are two extremely fit competitors. Sabalenka just won six matches to take the Mutua Madrid title last week, capped by a satisfying win over Barty in the final. Sorribes Tormo needed 3 hours, 51 minutes to close out Italian favorite Camila Giorgi in the first round, coming back from 0-4 in the third set in the longest match of the season. The one meeting went to Sabalenka, last year in the Ostrava quarters, with this crazy score line: 0-6, 6-4, 6-0.

Second quarter

No.4 Sofia Kenin vs. Barbora Krejcikova

She’s ranked No.5 in the world, but Kenin is 2-5 after reaching the quarterfinals in Abu Dhabi and the Yarra Valley Classic to begin the year. Krejcikova, ranked No.40, won five matches in Dubai before losing to Garbine Muguruza in the final, the biggest singles result of her career. Krejcikova dropped only two games to Zheng Saisai in the first round. First meeting.

Read: In the midst of a dream season, Krejcikova revels in her small-town roots.

No.15 Iga Swiatek vs. Madison Keys

The 19-year-old reigning French Open champion is 14-5 for the year after advancing past Alison Riske, who retired in the first set. Keys beat fellow American Sloane Stephens in a rousing three-set match. A win for Swiatek could mean a rematch of the 2020 Roland Garros final against Kenin in the next round. First meeting.

Keys wins latest edition of Stephens rivalry in Rome opener: Highlights

No.12 Garbine Muguruza vs. Bernarda Pera

After a leg injury forced her to pull out of Madrid, this is Muguruza’s first match on red clay this season. The 2016 French Open champion has a 22-6 record after handling lucky loser Patricia Maria Tig 6-1, 6-2. First meeting.

No.5 Elina Svitolina vs. Amanda Anisimova

Svitolina reached the semifinals in Stuttgart – beating two Grand Slam champions to get there – but fell to Barty in three sets. Nineteen-year-old Amanda Anisimova, a 2019 semifinalist at Roland Garros, has struggled to find form this year.

Third meeting, with Svitolina winning in Cincinnati three years ago and Anisimova taking their 2020 Doha encounter.

Petra Kvitova and Vera Zvonareva shake hands after their last match at the 2011 WTA Finals in Istanbul.

Getty Images

Third quarter

No.9 Karolina Pliskova vs. Anastasija Sevastova

Pliskova moved into position for a bye when Bianca Andreescu pulled out due to travel restrictions. She’s a middling 10-8 for 2021, but has a way with clay in Rome as the 2019 winner and a 2020 finalist. Sevastova, ranked No.47, got past Jil Teichmann in three sets in the first round.

Head-to-head: 2-all, with Pliskova winning earlier this year in Dubai in three sets.

No.11 Petra Kvitova vs. Vera Zvonareva

They’ve played six times, winning three apiece, but the last one was nearly a decade ago – when Kvitova won their WTA Championship round-robin match in straight sets. Zvonareva, now 36 and continuing her comeback after maternity leave, is ranked No.113 but a two-time Grand Slam finalist.

Jelena Ostapenko vs. Ajla Tomljanovic

Ostapenko defeated No.16 seed Johanna 6-3, 6-1 after a long rain delay. It was all over in 70 minutes. After defeating Marketa Vondrousova 6-4, 6-2, Tomljanovic is now 10-9 for the season. She recently qualified for Madrid but lost in the first round to Elena Rybakina. First meeting.

Read: See what Serena, Halep, Osaka, and Kenin had to say at Rome Media Day

No. 3 Simona Halep vs. Angelique Kerber

Halep, the two-time Grand Slam champion, is 4-2 on red clay so far, but would have liked to progress further in Stuttgart and Madrid. Kerber defeated Alize Cornet 6-2, 7-5 after the rain delay.

Halep holds a 6-5 head-to-head edge over Kerber, a former World No.1, but they haven’t played in nearly two years.

Fourth quarter

No.8 Serena Williams vs. Nadia Podoroska

This is a tough way to end 10 weeks away from play. Williams draws Podoroska, a surprise semifinalist at last year’s French Open. Podoroska got past Laura Siegemund in three sets. Williams turns 40 this fall but is a four-time Rome champion and a three-time winner at Roland Garros. First meeting.

Petra Martic vs. Kristina Mladenovic

Mladenovic was the only lucky loser to advance to the second round, surprising No.10 seed Belinda Bencic in straight sets. Martic beat Shelby Rogers and holds a 5-2 head-to-head advantage. Mladenovic, however, won the most recent match, earlier this year in Dubai.

No.13 Jennifer Brady vs. Ekaterina Alexandrova

Brady, a finalist at the Australian Open back in February, looked good on the red clay in Madrid, winning two matches and extending Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to three sets in the Round of 16. Alexandrova crafted wins over Karolina Muchova and Bencic in Stuttgart before falling to Simona Halep in the quarterfinals. First meeting.

No.2 Naomi Osaka vs. Jessica Pegula

This is only Osaka’s third event since winning the Australian Open. She’s 1-1 on clay, losing to Karolina Muchova a week ago in Madrid. Pegula is ranked a career-high No.31 and having a terrific season. She’s 19-7 after advancing past Daria Kasatkina. Second meeting. The first, in 2019 at Beijing, went to Osaka.

Read: Osaka wins Sportswoman of the Year, King honored at Laureus Awards

Porsche Race to Shenzhen, The Grid: May 10, 2021