Welcome to Road to Rogers Cup, the regular roundup of all the action on the WTA Tour ahead of the 2019 Rogers Cup presented by National Bank at Aviva Centre from August 3 to 11.
Today, we’ll preview this week’s Internazionali BNL d’Italia taking place in Rome, which is the last WTA Premier 5 tournament before the French Open kicks off on May 26.
The two-time Rogers Cup champion Simona Halep came close to replacing Naomi Osaka as the number one ranked player in the world – but Halep ultimately failed to do so when she lost to Kiki Bertens in the Madrid Open final this past weekend.
However, by winning her first ever Internazionali BNL d’Italia title, Halep could still overtake Osaka. She’ll just need some help from the 21-year-old. Osaka controls her own destiny. She can secure the number one seed at Roland Garros by advancing to the quarter-finals – something she has never done before in Rome.
Still, the reigning US Open and Australian Open Champion managed to reach the quarter-finals in Madrid before losing to Belinda Bencic 3-6, 6-2, 7-5. Thanks to a bye into the second round, Osaka is set to face Dominika Cibulkova in her opening match in Rome.
Halep also has a bye into the second round. She’ll look to improve her record on clay in 2019 to 8-1 when she faces either Marketa Vondrousova or Barbora Strycova.
For the first time in nearly 17 years, the three-time Rogers Cup champion Serena Williams will face-off against her sister on European clay, after both players won their opening matches in Rome.
Serena opened the clay-court season by dispatching Swedish qualifier Rebecca Peterson in straight sets 6-4, 6-2. While, Venus took more than three hours and required nine match points to defeat Elise Mertens 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (4).
Setting up the first showdown on red clay between the Williams’ sisters since the 2002 French Open final – which Serena won, earning the first of her three career titles at Roland Garros. The two have also previously met in Rome. Back in 1998, Venus edged her sister in the quarter-final 6-4, 6-2 before ultimately losing in the final to Martina Hingis.
Venus, whose only title in Rome came 20 years ago, will try and repeat that result. Serena leads the career series 18-12.
After reaching their first final of the season in Madrid, Gabriela Dabrowski and her long-time doubles partner Xu Yifan will look to build off that success in Rome.
The No. 11-ranked doubles pair in the world lost in straight sets to Hsieh Su-wei and Strycova 6-3, 6-1 in the Madrid Open final. They enter Rome once again as the sixth seeds and will kick off the Internazionali BNL d’Italia by facing a pair of Italians, Deborah Chiesa and Jasmine Paolini.
And although she is inching closer to a return to the court, Bianca Andreescu remains sidelined with a right shoulder injury and will not play in Rome this week.
Missed the clay 😋😍 pic.twitter.com/V84mryDCfE
— Bianca (@Bandreescu_) May 10, 2019
She has, however, continued to train on the red clay at the Rafa Nadal Academy in Mallorca, Spain in preparation for this year’s French Open. If she does in fact make it to Roland Garros, it will mark the first time in her career she will be seeded at a Grand Slam event.
(Feature Photo: Susana Vera/Reuters)