Today is the beginning of main play in Rome, the third biggest clay court event of the year. There were three matches played yesterday but today is the beginning of the majority of the seeds campaigns. Venus Williams is going into her match against Yaroslava Shvedova as the favourite despite her not having the best record on clay.
Venus Williams hasn’t played too many tournaments recently but she has been posting good results at the tournaments she’s played. In Indian Wells, she reached reached the quarterfinals before falling in three sets to the eventual champion Elena Vesnina. She then reached the semifinals of the Premier Mandatory event in Miami before falling again to eventual champion Johanna Konta with a run that included a victory over Angelique Kerber. In her only match on clay she had match points before losing to Laura Siegemund in three very tight sets. Yaroslava Shvedova hasn’t had the best time recently in her tournaments since the beginning of the year. She took to first round losses in Dubai to Monica Puig and Indian Wells to Varvara Lepchenko. She reached the second round of both Miami, before falling to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, and in Rabat, before falling to Tatjana Maria. She then lost in the first round of Madrid last week to Svetlana Kuznetsova, who ended up reaching the semifinals.
Venus Williams has played at the Rome tournament all throughout her career as she made her debut in 1998 and has played at the tournament 12 times since. Her best result came in 1999 when she won the tournament with wins over Martina Hingis and Mary Pierce. Her worst result was in in 2013 when she fell in straight sets to Laura Robson in the first round. Last year she reached the second round before falling to Timea Babos which means she has very few points to defend. Yaroslava Shvedova has played Rome five times since her debut 2008 with her best results coming in 2009 and 2010 before falling to Flavia Pennetta and Elena Dementieva respectively. Her worst result came in 2008 as well as last year when she fell in the first round of qualifying to Kaia Kanepi in 2008 and Ana Konjuh in 2016. This means that she has no points to defend and no pressure to put on a good performance tonight.
Head to Head Record
These two have played each other once before but that was on the grass courts so we don’t have too many stats on how their clay court games match up. The one time they played was last year in the quarterfinals of Wimbledon the grass courts, which is the surface they both prefer. Venus Williams ended up getting the better of Yaroslava Shvedova at Wimbledon in a 7-6(7-5), 6-2. Williams is very hard to beat on the grass and after she got past a tough first set it looked like Shvedova tired out and wasn’t able to do much after that, which Williams will have in mind when she’s thinking of tactics against her opponent.
I think that this match will be quite straight forward because Shvedova hasn’t been playing very well recently and can’t play on clay very well. I think Williams will start well and get out to an early lead and she will ride that break to a 6-3 opening set. I think Shvedova will start to fall away in the second set, like she did at Wimbledon, and then she Williams will finish at 6-3, 6-2. This will be a good first win for Venus and give her confidence heading in to the rest of the clay court tournament.