Match Points: Highlights from the 2016 Internazionali BNL d’Italia, Rome

And that’s it for Rome! The Internazionali BNL d’Italia concluded on Sunday as Serena Williams won her first title of 2016. I can’t believe that the French Open starts this time next week. Just to let you all know that my coverage for the French Open will be muted this year. I’m actually going on holiday in the middle of the tournament, which will be weird but i’m looking forward to a family holiday! I’ll be blogging non-stop though for all five weeks of the grass court season including pictures and live reports from Eastbourne and Wimbledon. Read on for Match Points from Rome.. 

Match Points

Singles Champion

Serena Williams won Rome for the fourth time, defeating Madison Keys in the final, 7-6(5) 6-3. Keys had started well, serving brilliantly to go up 3-1. However, the wind disrupted her rhythm with two consecutive double faults before she lost that early break. Serena kept lifting up on her forehand but the set meandered into a tiebreak. On the rally of the match, Keys unleashed a thunderous forehand down-the-line winner. However, Serena played a great point at 5-5 in the tiebreak to get Keys out wide and then finished with an excellent serve.

Serena scrapped her way to the early break in the second set, which was swiftly followed by the double break. The world number one stuttered twice on serve, but broke for the victory.

Doubles Champions

Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza won their fifth doubles title of the year but first since St. Petersburg in February, defeating Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina in the Rome final, 6-1 6-7(5) 10-3.

Completed Singles Draw

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Tennis worth catching up with…

Muguruza d. Bacsinszky (7-5 6-2, QF)

No doubt for me, the best WTA match of the week was the first of the quarter-finals. There was a nice contrast in styles between Muguruza and Bacsinszky which helped to produce high-quality tennis with some wonderful rallies.

Babos d. V.Williams (6-7(5) 7-5 6-4, R2)

The quality may have been dicey at times, but I loveedd this match. It was great to see such fighting qualities from both players, going hammer and tongs. While there were quite a few one-sided scorelines about, this was a great battle.

Kuznetsova d. Gavrilova (6-2 2-6 6-3, R3)

A cracking clay court battle on one of the most beautiful courts in the world.

Bouchard d. Kerber (6-1 5-7 7-5, R2)

The first two sets were an absolute mess but for the third set alone, the Bouchard-Kerber second round match deserves a mention. Bouchard showed a great deal of resilience to seal the win in the third set having led by a set and a double break during the second set.

Ivanovic d. Pavlyuchenkova (6-4 6-4, R1)

This was a decent opener for Ivanovic who continued her excellent record over Pavlyuchenkova, winning her 8th match against the Russian player. It was good match with many of the points being won rather than lost.

Tweets I liked

Stats

Garbiñe Muguruza was ON IT in her second round match against Ekaterina Makarova, dropping just one game.

Wednesday opened with a plethora of one-sided matches. Jelena Ostapenko didn’t drop a point behind her first serve in a 6-1 6-1 thrashing of Monica Puig.

Serena Williams was brilliant in her 6-2 6-0 quarter-final victory over Svetlana Kuznetsova… and the stats show this.

Johanna Konta was producing winners galore in her second round win over Roberta Vinci.

Pictures

Funny moments and GIFs

Best points/shots

Tough to beat this rally in the second set of Muguruza v Bacsinszky.

This was a great set point in the second set of Kerber-Bouchard. This final overhead was not easy!

This was a fantastic shot from Timea Babos to bag the second set against Venus Williams… Timea was pumped!

Here’s a nice angle of Key’s soaring backhand winner to set up set points in the first set tiebreak against Muguruza.

Memorable handshakes

Loved this. You can hear Irina saying to Serena at the net “it was a pleasure”.

And there was great respect between Serena and Madison at the end of the final.

Press Conferences and Interviews

Victoria Azarenka sounded dejected in press… French Open in doubt?

Timea is awesome.

This makes sense from Garbiñe… I don’t think she’s far off her best, but the results and consistency haven’t been there so far this year.

Loved this interview with Lucie in preparation for the Aegon Classic in Birmingham.

Favourite articles

This was a good read about Bouchard who was honest about her disastrous 2015 season.

Enjoyed this piece from Agnieszka Radwanska for The Strait Times explaining why she chose not to play Rome.

Podcasts

Loved the WTA Insider podcast this week including an interview with Barbora Strycova.

I thought I was going to hate this, but the No Challenges Remaining take on Eurovision with tennis songs was actually quite fun. I’ve got “Vamos Rafa” going through my head now…

Fantasy Games

Racket Rally: I’m losing interest fast to be honest with the lack of updates from the game. Bosiddon and Sergeus are the clear leaders in the Moo’s Tennis Blog league. To join RR or update your team, click HERE.

Tennis Draw Challenge: Congrats to panmich for winning WTA Rome. I was doing pretty well in the WTA draw until my choice of Kuznetsova over Williams came back to bite me! It’s a given… whenever I go against Serena, she always comes good. More details on how to join the league can be found HERE.

Screencap for this post by Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

16 thoughts on “Match Points: Highlights from the 2016 Internazionali BNL d’Italia, Rome

  1. Isn’t this a familiar story. Azarenka, Radwanska, Kerber all scrambling to overtake Serena as world #1 only for Miss Williams to hit her stride and leave them in her wake once again. If she plays like this at the French then I think her #1 ranking is solid for the rest of the year barring any injury.

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    • Andrew, is something bothering Novak? He seems too easily frustrated this clay season, souring his mood. Is it fatigue, or the French Open pressure building up. I assumed the little break he had after the earlier shock loss was going to set him off on a run again. Maybe, it’s much ado about nothing. Kudos to Andy anyway once bitten twice shy it seems.

      I think Azarenka and Radwanska would love the number 1 ranking. Well Kerber would be delighted but she doesn’t seem to me as someone chasing the top rank. Most likely a slam chaser now, should the ranking present itself as a consequence, then good. Best for Aga to get the slam first, it will be bigger than the #1 spot, imo. I had Madison Keys in the top 12 by years end in my predictions in Jan. Fingers crossed this is the start of something good.

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      • Well between you and me, I didn’t expect him to play through Rome. I don’t feel like he needed the practise and could do with the rest. So it was surprising to me he did play. Then against Belluci he seemed to really not care in that first set and I wondered if he was going to purposefully throw the match in a bid to ease off some of the expectation against him next month. Colour me surprised when he turned it round and won. So I thought maybe he wants to throw it to Nadal so that Rafa goes into RG top dog. But he pulls out a win. Then again against Kei. Today I feel like he just ran out of gas and needs some time off.
        Murray was great. He served big, changed up play and was aggressive from the get go. But anybody who thinks he won this match is kidding themself because Novak was well below 50% his usual brilliance.

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    • Yes, Serena ‘s about 2500 points ahead of Aga and Angie now, who are very close together in the rankings. Either one of them could catch her up if she played badly in both of the next two slams and they won one and did well in the other, or even came runner up in two of them (2×1300 = 2600 points), but I don’t think it’s very likely. IMO, Serena’s poised to do very well at RG now and will most likely to keep her No. 1 rating throughout this year.

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      • Serena has 4000 points to defend over the rest of the clay and grass court seasons, which obviously is a lot. But what folks don’t seem to be taking into consideration when they claim Serena’s spot is in danger is that the others have points to defend too.
        Azarenka is 4700 points behind Serena with 615 points to defend. Kerber is 3300 behind Serena and has 840 points to defend. Radwanska is 3200 points behind Serena and has 1200 points to defend. So for any of them to be a serious threat they’d need Serena to bomb at BOTH slams and do much better than they did last year themselves. Kerber has the best chances, really, but I just can’t see her doing better in 3 consecutive Grand Slams than Serena.

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  2. I do not enjoy the clay court season a lot but this was a much better tournament than Madrid in my opinion and it is one worth watching every year. Some exciting and interesting matches with the only downside being that some of the best players did not compete or withdrew. This was Serena’s first WTA title since last August and it will give her a boost before the French Open where she will be difficult to beat. I’m trying to think of another player who could cause an upset as we have experienced surprise winners in the last two Grand Slams but I am struggling.

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    • Upsets, I think Simona, Garbine, just to mention a few. I think several players will be up for this slam, and they all seem to play well against Serena at the slams for one reason or the other. hoping conditions at the French are similar to Rome as well. Anyway, Serena seems to be peaking at the right time for the right tournament. I did enjoy both tournaments though, especially both semifinals, finals opponents from both Madrid and Rome have played some pretty good tennis. It’s been a clay season for base line players so far.

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  3. What a positive turnaround for Serena Williams! She definitely got herself back on the winning track at the right time, especially one week right before the French Open starts. After winning the title in Rome without dropping a set, I feel like she will be able to tie Steffi Graf’s record of 22 Grand Slam titles now. Serena’s definitely 100% healthy now, despite having to withdraw from Dubai, Doha, and Madrid with the flu. To me, it seems like she realized that she didn’t want to have slow starts like she did last year. Having a clay court title under her belt will be a big boost in confidence for her. Ever since Serena and Patrick Mouratoglou teamed up together back in June 2012, her game has gotten so much better. When she took home the title in Rome without losing a set, her serve was extremely clean. Against Friedsam, McHale, Kuznetsova, Begu, and Keys, Serena averaged 9 aces to 2 double faults, despite the windy conditions that she had to deal with. To me, it seems like taking the rest of the year off after the US Open last year was the best decision she made. She definitely realized that she wants to amend her game, not abandon it.

    After seeing that Radwanska and Kerber are in contention with Serena for the #1 ranking, I feel like they both can push Serena. But, I don’t think either one of them has enough of what it takes to be #1. Serena hasn’t lost the top spot since February 18, 2013. She’s been very careful in managing her tournaments, schedule, and is aware of her ranking. In other words, she knows how many points she is defending each year. I’m extremely concerned that Kerber will not be 100% healthy in time for the French Open, especially now that she’s nursing a shoulder injury that she picked up in Rome. For Radwanska, even though she pushed Serena to two tough sets in Indian Wells earlier this year, she already lost to three people outside of the top 10 in Miami, Stuttgart, and Madrid: Bacsinszky, Siegemund, and Cibulkova.

    Lots of people did say that Azarenka will be the one to push Serena after she completed the Indian Wells-Miami double and won in Brisbane this year. But after hearing that she got injured in Madrid and her back injury is not 100% healed yet, I’m not so sure if she can beat Serena at the French Open now.

    As for Halep, Muguruza, and Kvitova, none of them have been wow this year. Halep was able to win Madrid this year. But as tradition has it, she got sent packing her bags in the second round by Russian-born Australian WTA Rising Star Daria Gavrilova and dropped out of the top 5. Muguruza seems to be playing very well at sometimes. But, her serve fell apart when she lost to Madison Keys in two close sets in Rome. Like Halep and Muguruza, Kvitova seems to be struggling with her fitness and game big time. Ever since she got diagnosed with mononucleosis, her serve has just gotten terrible! She has more double faults than aces in her matches now. As of this point, her serve stats are matching Sharapova’s serve stats!

    Currently, Serena is my pick to win Roland Garros. She will reach the final without dropping a set and win the title in three sets. Or, she will win the title without dropping a set. No doubt about it, she will tie Steffi Graf’s record. And even after that, she’ll pass Steffi Graf and break Margaret Court’s record.

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    • I think Serena winning the French does depend on the draw. Not because there’s anybody good enough to beat her, but because she needs to be challenged in every match. When she thinks she has it in the bag that’s usually when she starts slow or loses concentration mid match.

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      • Everything depends on the draw! I think that’s a fair point about Serena staying focused. Shame to see that Bencic has pulled out but i’m kind of glad as grass is her surface and hopefully she’ll be fully fit for then. Also hoping Wozniacki doesn’t bother playing the French too.

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      • Yep, not surprised and seems a very wise decision. Wozniacki is scheduled to play Nottingham, Birmingham AND Eastbourne so she’s gearing up for the grass. I wonder if Nottingham might still be too soon but we’ll see.

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      • I don’t see it affecting Bencic too much because, as you say, clay isn’t really her thing and she’ll be refreshed and raring to go on the grass courts. She only has 4th and 3rd round points to defend at Wimbledon & US Open so she has plenty of opportunity to gain ranking points there.

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  4. Caroline Garcia quietly finding some form again, into the semi finals of Strasbourg after Stosur walkover. Could she finally be over her fear of playing on home soil? She’s up to #31 on the Road to Singapore and she has barely anything to defend over the coming months since she fell first round at Roland Garros and Wimbledon.

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