Elina Svitolina begins her chase for a third straight Rome title in the night session at Rome, playing Victoria Azarenka for a spot in the third round. Curiously, the Belarussian is actually the bookmakers favourite for the match despite very few notable wins since her full return to the tour.
Svitolina has been suffering with a knee injury for a while now and finally took a break after Miami to do some rehabilitation. She returned in Madrid but it may have been too soon as she was defeated fairly easily by a lowly Pauline Parmentier 6-4 7-6, in the opening round. “It’s not ideal to play in general, but I took this chance,” Svitolina said before her opener in Madrid. “I really want to play those tournaments and I’ll try and give it my best shot. It’s important to listen to my body and if I cannot go any further than it happens and you have to take the time to recover and come back again and try again.”
Azarenka lost early again in Madrid, suffering defeat to Sloane Stephens once more in three sets. She bounced back with a strong win over Shuai Zhang in her opener here, dropping just three games to ease into the second round. “I was quite consistent. It was not easy conditions, you know, it was cold and we had to wait to play our match.” she said. “But I’m happy with my focus, I took control of some of the points early in the match and I kept the pressure on her.”
Azarenka does lead the head to head 2-0 and should be looking to make that three against a player who may not be taking to the court if she weren’t defending a title. “I’m sure it’s going to be a tough battle. She plays amazing here, winning two times in a row. So it’s going to be fun, I think. We’ll also play at night tomorrow so hopefully we can get a good crowd and make things exciting.”
Prediction – Victoria Azarenka in three sets