Top seed Serena Williams is through to the third round of the Italian Open, where she will face fellow American Varvara Lepchenko for a spot in the quarter-final round. Williams leads the head-to-head series 1-0, with a victory in Brisbane last season.
The world No. 1 was en route to another title in Madrid, when just hours ahead of her scheduled quarter-final match-up against Petra Kvitova, she was forced to withdraw from the contest with a left thigh injury. She suffered the injury during the Belinda Bencic match-up and has been recovering ever since. While she had refused to confirm her participation in the event until yesterday, many wondered if she was healthy enough to take part in the event, or if she would not take the risk to ensure her fitness ahead of the French Open, where she is the defending champion.
Williams would quickly put the rumours to bed when she took to court against Andrea Petkovic, as she stormed to a 4-0 lead before closing out the set 6-2. The second set was not much different, as Williams took early breaks before closing out the set 6-2 to reach the third round of the tournament.
Her upcoming opponent, Varvara Lepchenko, defeated Shuai Peng 6-1, 6-0 in the first round and then followed up with a surprising upset over fellow American Sloane Stephens, where she lost only four games in the match. Now she will face her toughest task to date in world No. 1 Serena Williams.
This is the second time these two competitors will cross paths on the professional tour, with their first encounter taking place over a year ago in Brisbane. Williams won that encounter 6-2, 6-1 to reach the second round of the event. While this is set to be their first meeting on clay, it is one that Williams is still heavily favoured to dominate.
Prediction: Serena Williams in Straight Sets