1. Angelique Kerber v Alize Cornet (Rome, R1)
The last time Angelique Kerber and Alize Cornet met on the WTA tour, fun was had by all. Kerber saved match points to beat Cornet in a quality contest in Eastbourne. It also delivered on the drama front thanks to Alize. The Frenchwoman hadn’t beaten a top 30 player all year until Madrid but conjuring up her best performance of 2015 and by quite some distance, Cornet stunned the world number two, Simona Halep with a straight sets first round victory. However, she was unable to back up the victory in Madrid, going down in straight sets to Roberta Vinci in the second round. It has kind of been the story of Cornet’s year, who has won back-to-back matches at just three tournaments this year.
This was proving to be a problem for Kerber as well, but she did a pretty sudden u-turn on her year, winning Charleston and Stuttgart back-to-back and more than doubling her wins this year in the space of two tournaments. Kerber is also in the top eight for the Race to Singapore which is very surprising considering she barely won a match between the Australian Open and Miami. Cornet is probably the more comfortable player on clay, but Kerber is much the more consistent right now. Kerber lost her first match in Madrid last week to Sam Stosur but that wasn’t a big surprise considering the calibre of opponent and the amount of tennis she had played. I’d take Kerber to get back to winning ways in what should be a competitive affair.
Prediction: Kerber d. Cornet in 3 sets
2. Jelena Jankovic v Camila Giorgi (Rome, R1)
Jelena’s back… and she probably won’t be too thrilled about her first round match in Rome against Camila Giorgi. The engimatic Italian hasn’t won a match since losing in her third WTA final in Katowice. I’ve always thought of Giorgi as a fearless player, both ball striking and mentally. However, she has shown some signs of fragility, particularly her showings in WTA finals. As ever, her groundstrokes have the potential to be world class, but there are no signs yet that she has the capability to find some kind of middle ground.
Jankovic is playing her first tournament since Charleston where she was forced to pull out of her third round match due to a foot injury. Jankovic’s year would have been completely forgettable had it not been for her run to the final in Indian Wells where she should have won the title. Of all the first round matches, this is the one where i’m struggling to pick a winner. Giorgi loves upsetting the seeds and beat Dominika Cibulkova in the first round of Rome last year. On the other hand, Jankovic loves Rome. Her record at this tournament speaks for itself… two titles, one semi-final appearance (last year) and four quarter-final showings. I’m on the fence…
Prediction: Jankovic d. Giorgi in 3 sets