The last-16 in contention for the Premier Mandatory Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome are in action on Thursday at the Foro Italico.
And we head there in decent shape after a profitable day on Wednesday thanks to a comfortable 2.5 winner in the form of Varvara Lepchenko, who swept Sloane Stephens aside in straight sets on a gusty day in the Eternal City.
Unfortunately, my gamble on the fitness and readiness of Serena Williams in this event backfired, as she bludgeoned her way past Andrea Petkovic for the loss of just four games.
The wind has died down after yesterday’s gales blew a few players off their stride and out of the tournament and Maria Sharapova can count her blessings that the wind had calmed considerably before her match with Monica Puig, given her regular struggles on serve.
Play starts at 10am on Thursday, with a fascinating clash between a former French Open winner and runner-up.
Samantha Stosur vs Na Li
The Aussie holds a remarkable 6-0 head-to-head record over the Chinese and that has clearly affected the layers’ decision-making process ahead of this seventh career meeting between the pair and it provides a chance to back Li.
That head-to-head is clearly relevant, but it does date back to 2007 and they haven’t met since 2011, at which point they were the numbers seven and five in the world respectively.
Li has moved on since then and so has Stosur, but in the opposite direction down the rankings, and since linking up with Carlos Rodriguez Li has the benefit of significant tactical assistance.
I’m sure Carlos will have had something to say about the match-up and it will be very interesting to see how his charge approaches this one today.
It’s certainly a challenge for Li, with Stosur having started her Rome campaign impressively with wins over Sabine Lisicki and Elena Vesnina, although yesterday’s win over the Russian was perhaps aided by Vesnina’s failure to cope with the wind.
Li will want to make a statement here and in calmer conditions she should progress at around 1.50.
Petra Cetkovska vs Sara Errani
Hopefully I won’t be writing about another questionable medical timeout from Errani tomorrow and she’ll actually get through this match fair and square.
It won’t be easy for the Italian though, facing an opponent of the variety that is very dangerous to her – one with the power to hit her off the court.
The tall Czech has beaten the tiny Italian in both of their previous career meetings, both of which were very tight three set affairs, although they were back in 2011 and aren’t overly significant today.
Cetkovska is one to keep on your side when she’s in a rich vein and form and not suffering with one of her regular injuries and she certainly has it in her to cause another ‘panic attack’ for Errani.
Conditions today will help Errani to produce her looping top spin and it will also aid Cetkovska to get the ball through the court and she’ll be confident, having already beaten Angelique Kerber here this week.
The over 19.5 games looks very likely here and the +4.5 on Cetkovska, who could easily win a set by a wide margin, but it unlikely to win 2-0, is also a decent option.
Elsewhere, Aga Radwanska should end Fran Schiavone’s good run here this week, and Jelena Jankovic looks decent to beat Flavia Pennetta if a little short in price, while the most vulnerable favourite could be Sharapova, who plays Ana Ivanovic.
Serena Williams shouldn’t have much difficulty with Lepchenko, while Christina McHale has a decent chance to back up her win over Camila Giorgi by beating Shuai Zhang.
Back Li to beat Stosur at 1.50
Back Cetkovska +4.5 games to beat Errani at 1.92
Bet on WTA Tennis now.