WTA Rome, 1st Round Previews: Pennetta v Svitolina, Stephens v Lisicki

1. Flavia Pennetta v Elina Svitolina (Rome, R1)

Flavia PennettaIn a menacing section of the draw, Flavia Pennetta takes on Elina Svitolina with the winner set to play Venus Williams or Garbine Muguruza in the second round.  Both players suffered early exits in Madrid; Pennetta lost in the first round to Andrea Petkovic in straight sets, while Svitolina fell in the second round to Ana Ivanovic.  Pennetta’s loss wasn’t a great surprise since she hasn’t won a match in Madrid since 2010.  After a ropey start to the year, Pennetta has really picked up her form.  Through Doha, Dubai, Indian Wells and Miami, Pennetta won nine matches, of which seven were against top 50 opposition.

Svitolina has had some good results this year, but is yet to have that really big breakthrough on tour that makes everyone sit up and take notice.  Svitolina won Marrakech a few weeks ago which was her third WTA title.  In their only previous match, Pennetta beat Svitolina in Strasbourg on clay in 2013, 6-4 6-2.  Just four places separate the pair in the rankings and this should be a close match between two players who operate similar game styles.  Svitolina has only played Rome once before and never won a match here and i’d fancy Pennetta’s experience on this surface, along with some help from the home crowd, to see her through this match.

Prediction: Pennetta d. Svitolina in 2 tight sets

2. Sloane Stephens v Sabine Lisicki (Rome, R1)

StephensIn a third career match-up, Sloane Stephens and Sabine Lisicki will meet in the first round of Rome.  The pair have split their two previous matches, but haven’t played since 2012 or on clay.  Sloane and Sabine are two players that continue to PUZZLE.  Both players had superb runs in America through Indian Wells and Miami, each winning seven matches.  Stephens, guided by Nick Saviano’s wise words, reached the quarter-finals of Indian Wells and the 4th round of Miami with wins over Angelique Kerber and Madison Keys.  Even in a second round loss to Mona Bathel in Charleston, Sloane was surprisingly resilient and seems to be much more focussed and driven this year.

Lisicki looked to be a different player, reaching the semis of IW and quarters of Miami and showing a little more margin for error in her shots.  Her match against Errani in Miami was sensational and showed what she can really do.  Confidence is a big factor for tennis players but more so than anyone for Sabine.  After losing a Fed Cup rubber to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova where she had match points, Lisicki has lost her last two matches, including a 6-0 6-0 drubbing to Zarina Diyas in Stuttgart.  Lisicki has shown that she can perform away from Wimbledon this year but her consistency and mindset continues to fluctuate rather wildly.  Stephens’s level has been much more sustained during the year and on clay, i’d fancy her to prevail over Lisicki.

Prediction: Stephens d. Lisicki in 2 tight sets

Photos in this post by Jimmie48 Tennis Photography and Moo’s Tennis Blog

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