The second round of the WTA Internazionali BNL d’Italia completes on Wednesday, with a star-studded line up at the Foro Italico today.
Those with tickets will see, weather permitting, both Williams sisters, Maria Sharapova, Simona Halep, Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic and Aga Radwanska as the top seeds make their debuts this week.
Tuesday’s bet was unfortunate, as Chanelle Scheepers raced out into an early 3-0 lead over Sara Errani needing just the one set for my wager to be a winner, but a highly questionable medical timeout from the Italian put an end to that at five games all.
In another glaring example of why MTOs should be removed from the game, or at least penalised, Errani appeared to be struggling for breath so called the physio for what turned out to be nothing more than nerves.
Predictably, there was nothing physically wrong with Errani, who equally predictably won the next few games to take the set and a grip on the match.
No one wants to see injured or sick players worsen an injury or illness, but the choice should be simple – play on or retire – unless a compromise can be found relating to a one game penalty for MTOs and not before the opponent’s serve.
That’s that rant over (for the time being) and on to Wednesday, where play starts at 10.00 UK time with Radwanska, who has a poor record here, facing Paula Ormaechea in what might well be Aga’s only win here this year.
We had a good winner with Sam Stosur the other day, but she looks awfully short at 1.33 against Elena Vesnina, while Fran Schiavone against Garbine Muguruza will be interesting in what are set to be windy conditions today.
Varvara Lepchenko 2.60 Sloane Stephens 1.48
For my money Lepchenko is a better player on clay than her compatriot Stephens and it’s worth taking the much-hyped youngster on here in conditions that she isn’t familiar with.
Lepchenko may have been a little flattered by her crushing win over Shuai Peng in the first round here, as the Chinese has never done well in Rome, but she has wins over a peak Errani and Vinci to her name on dirt in Italy and also over Jelena Jankovic, Schiavone and Flavia Pennetta on clay in the last couple of years.
With more rain around overnight in Rome the courts will be on the slow side and I suspect that Stephens’s as yet undeveloped clay skills will be given a real test here.
She certainly has the power to hit through a lifeless court, but whether the ball lands in between the white lines today, who knows?
Sloane has only played one match against a leftie on clay on the tour and just three as a pro at any level and it’s worth taking a chance that Lepchenko will make her much greater experience count, with her in confident mood after that win over Peng and the 2.5 is worth a look today.
Serena Williams 1.20 Andrea Petkovic 4.40
This is a simple one to weigh up. It’s a case of how fit Williams is after quitting Madrid with a thigh injury and Petko certainly has the skills to take Serena out of this tournament if the American is below par.
Indeed, Petko did give Serena a good test here way back in 2010 when she took a set and the German has been showing signs in recent weeks that she’s on her way back up the rankings.
A title winning run in Charleston on green clay put her back in the spotlight and she then had to fly to Australia to play Fed Cup, where she beat Sam Stosur on hard.
That exertion put paid to her chances in Stuttgart and she had a tough draw against Errani last week in Madrid, but now well rested she can make life tough if Williams is not at the races.
The 2.33 about Petko to win a set looks the one here, with the 4.25 about a Petko win and 3.65 about the German winning set one also tempting.
Elsewhere, I said yesterday that Kate Makarova had a decent chance against Roberta Vinci and that proved to be the case and hopefully a little bit of karma will see the Russian defeat Vinci’s mate Errani today as well – she has every chance.
Carla Suarez Navarro looks a decent choice in windy conditions against Venus Williams, while I would give the edge to Jelena Jankovic over Sveta Kuznetsova in the late match.
Back Lepchenko to beat Stephens at 2.50
Back Petkovic to win set one vs Williams at 3.65