WTA Italian Open 2024 Draw Preview 

by Faizan Chaudhrey
sabalenka clay

The fever pitch around the Rome Masters is at an all-time high; Swiatek and Sabalenka battled out one of the best, if not the best WTA match of the year for the Madrid final and we want more! 

The top two seeds will be present again in Italy and with Elena Rybakina in the mix it sets up arguably the most anticipated tournament of the year. Rybakina had an epic with Sabalenka in the Madrid semi-finals and is the defending champion in Rome. She completes a newly slated WTA “Big 3”. The top 3 players in the world have established themselves as the front runners in the women’s game with consistent deep runs at the most important events on the calendar.

The Italian Open provides players with similar conditions to Roland Garros; providing them with perfect conditions to fine tune their match skills before the impending grand slam. 

Major Names Miss Out on Wildcards 

The wildcards for the Rome Masters are dominated by Italians as expected. However, there is not a single non-Italian in the wildcard list; that means grand slam champions Caroline Wozniacki, Simona Halep and Emma Raducanu are some of the big names who have missed out. I am sure they will be disappointed to not get the chance to add to their clay court preparations in Rome before Roland Garros.  

Favourites 

Aryna Sabalenka 

Sabalenka had three championship points in the Madrid Open final vs Iga Swiatek in what turned out to be an epic. Being the fierce competitor she is, the razor thin loss will have lit a fire under her to go one better in Rome. She will have extra motivation after her shocking opening match loss in last year’s edition to Sofia Kenin. If she were to take the title it would be her first win at the Italian Open. Sabalenka will know that this tournament provides a fantastic opportunity to gear up for a deep run at Roland Garros.

If she were to win in Paris; it would mean she back-to-back grand slams in 2024; she defended her Australian Open title earlier in the year. Her quarter for Rome consists of five qualifiers and I see her making the quarter final stage relatively easily. The only players I can see potentially stopping this from happening are former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko and Tunisian star Ons Jabeur. 

Iga Swiatek 

The world number one won the back-to-back titles in Rome in 2021 and 2022 and will be looking to regain the title. She bowed out to eventual champion Elena Rybakina last year; retiring in a deciding set at the quarter final stage. The slow conditions in Rome suit the Polish stars game to a tee.

Iga will dictate with her heavy forehand and fall back on her rock-solid defence when needed. She is the best player on the women’s tour at taking the ball at higher contact points and Rome; like Roland Garros seems to feel like home for her. She will be tough to stop; Madrid was the only big clay court tournament to allude her and after winning it will increase her confidence even further for the rest of the clay court swing.

Marketa Vondrousova or Beatriz Haddad Maia could pose viable threats in quarter final match ups, but it is hard to see Iga not going deep at the Italian Open. 

Elena Rybakina  

The defending champion may have looked at the Madrid final and thought; that should have been me as Swiatek and Sabalenka battled in what will go down as an all-time classic. The Kazakh was so close to defeating Sabalenka in the semi-finals and competing in the final, but it was not to be. She will have renewed energy for Rome where no doubt she has fond memories. Her big serving and powerful ground stroke game does not have quite the same pop on the slower courts at the Italian Open but one thing that does get diminished is her tennis IQ.

Rybakina is one of the smartest players on tour and knows how to adapt no matter the conditions she faces. The fact she has won Wimbledon and Rome in her career; two tournaments that could not be any different, should highlight the tactical aptitude the star possesses. She should make it through her quarter unscathed, but I am sure Maria Sakkari, Jasmine Paolini and Anhelina Kalinina will have other ideas. 

Anhelina Kalinina 

Underdogs 

Anhelina Kalinina 

Kalinina had a fairytale run at the Italian Open last year as she made the final. The Ukranian did get a favourable draw as she did not face a top 10 player until the final but that does not take away from the level of tennis she showcased. She lost the first set to Rybakina in the final and had to retire early in the second set. Kalinina is an extremely proficient clay court player and most recently made the semi-finals of Open de Rouen; beating Andreeva, Trevisan and Cornet enroute.  

Mirra Andreeva 

The teenage star continues to impress. She made the quarter finals of Madrid beating the likes of Paolini, Vondrousova, Noskova and Townsend; as she eventually fell to eventual finalist Sabalenka. The young Russian seems to like the red dirt. Although the conditions in Madrid are very different to Rome; I get the feeling that if the young star can navigate her way through a tough 1st round vs Paula Badosa, we could see yet another deep run. 

Notable 1st Round Matches 

  • Mirra Andreeva vs Paula Badosa 
  • Amanda Anisimova vs Sara Errani 
  • Naomi Osaka vs Clara Burel 
  • Leylah Fernandez vs Ana Bogdan 

Projected Quarter Finals 

  • Iga Swiatek vs Marketa Vondrousova 
  • Coco Gauff vs Qinwen Zheng 
  • Maria Sakkari vs Elena Rybakina 
  • Ons Jabeur vs Aryna Sabalenka 
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My Predictions 

Quarter Finals: 

  • Iga Swiatek vs Beatriz Haddad Maia 
  • Coco Gauff vs Qinwen Zheng 
  • Elena Rybakina vs Jasmine Paolini 
  • Aryna Sabalenka vs Elena Ostapenko 

Semi Finals: 

  • Iga Swiatek vs Qinwen Zheng 
  • Elena Rybakina vs Aryna Sabalenka 

Final: 

  • Iga Swiatek vs Elena Rybakina 

Winner: 

  • Iga Swiatek 

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