Simona Halep will be seeking out her first win over Venus Williams when the pair play in the most visually engaging of the third round matches from Rome. After a surprising early loss in Madrid to Alize Cornet, Halep got her clay court season back on track with a comfortable 6-3 6-0 second round victory over Alison Riske. Halep lost just four points on her first serve during the match and only ten points in a one-sided second set. Halep will be eager for matches to prepare fully for the French Open, which starts in just ten days time. Playing against Venus will be a pretty substantial test. Venus’s clay court form has never been anything to write home about, but she has begun this tournament in impressive form.
Venus backed up her victory over Katerina Siniakova in the first round with a straight sets win over Elina Svitolina, 6-4 6-3. Venus was majestic on serve in the first set, dropping just four points in five service games. It got a little scratchy in the second set as Svitolina competed well. However, Venus’s power always looked to be too much for the 20-year-old. Svitolina will need to improve her serve if she’s going to keep moving up the rankings as it was butchered at times by Venus.
Venus has won all three previous matches against Simona. Venus won back-to-back matches on clay in 2012 with victories in Madrid (6-1 4-6 7-6) and Rome (6-3 6-4), and then won their most recent encounter in Tokyo, another three setter where Halep led by a set before falling, 4-6 7-5 6-3. Since that last match in 2013, I think both players are at a higher level but particularly Halep, who has gone up, up and UP to the number two spot in the rankings. Venus’s power can trouble Simona, but the Romanian player has shown on many occasions this year that she can keep a cool head if things aren’t going exactly to plan. Halep’s versatility and shot selection will be crucial if she is to come through this match and reach the quarters…
Prediction: Halep d. V.Williams in 3 sets