On the WTA side, my predictions have been reasonable this week. By all accounts, Serena Williams came out and performed well, beating Andrea Petkovic in straight sets, 6-2 6-2. Sloane Stephens was the only seed to fall, on Wednesday, losing to Varvara Lepchenko, 6-2 6-2. Remarkably, Lepchenko has lost just 5 games in 2 matches. Varvara is a good player, but has always been so erratic so these one sided scorelines are a surprise. Simona Halep beat Madison Keys, 5-7 6-0 6-1; she has since, pulled out of Rome with an abdominal injury giving Carla Suarez Navarro a walkover into the quarter-finals. Strange circumstances, but Halep has now secured a top 4 seeding for Roland Garros.
1. Sam Stosur v Li Na
There are some puzzling head-to-heads on the WTA tour and one of those features Sam Stosur and Li Na. Stosur has never lost to Li in 6 previous matches, winning 12 sets and dropping just 1 back in Cincy in 2011. Stosur is the kind of player who can be a real thorn for some with her powerful game, driven by the kick serve. We saw that just last week in Madrid with Dominika Cibulkova, who probably wishes she could hire a pair of stilts everytime she has to return Stosur’s serve, particularly on clay.
After a worrying first round loss to Timea Bacsinszky in Oeiras, Stosur has settled very nicely. She beat Cibulkova and Garbine Muguruza in Madrid before falling in a competitive two setter with Maria Sharapova. In Rome, she knocked out the number 15 seed, Sabine Lisicki and then eased past Elena Vesnina, 6-2 6-3. Li played a very clean match against Casey Dellacqua on Tuesday evening. The match was most noteworthy for some swirling gusts of wind that saw much of the clay get blown off the court. Under the watchful gaze of Carlos Rodriguez, Li has progressed mentally since their last matches; however I believe that Stosur will be the favourite to prevail. The head-to-head doesn’t lie.
Prediction: Stosur d. Li in 3 sets
2. Maria Sharapova v Ana Ivanovic
In a rematch of the Stuttgart final from a few weeks ago, Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic are scheduled to meet in a blockbuster third round clash in Rome. Both had tricky second round matches; Sharapova was a break down in both sets of her second round match to the tenacious Monica Puig, but she pulled through as champions normally do, 6-3 7-5. Ivanovic had a marginally tougher match, eeking out a very tight two setter with Alize Cornet, 7-6(1) 7-5. The match wasn’t streamed, but it sounded like a great contest. I’ve already discussed in detail the head-to-head when I previewed the Stuttgart final here. My recap of that Stuttgart final can be found here. Ana played some stunning tennis for a set and a half; however when Maria found her mojo, she cruised to victory. This match-up has a mental edge although the conditions and circumstances will lend Ana a helping hand. Sharapova will be tired after her Madrid exploits. Still, it would take a pretty substantial performance, both physically and mentally, for Ivanovic to crack the code…
Prediction: Sharapova d. Ivanovic in 2 sets (1 easy, 1 tight)
WTA Rome 3rd Round Predictions
Serena Williams d. Varvara Lepchenko in 2 sets
Christina McHale d. Zhang Shuai in 3 sets
Jelena Jankovic d. Flavia Pennetta in 2 tight sets
Agnieskza Radwanska d. Francesca Schiavone in 2 sets
Sara Errani d. Petra Cetkovska in 2 sets