World No.1 Simona Halep opens play on Pietrangeli court on Wednesday morning, facing Naomi Osaka for a spot in the third round of the Italian Open. Halep will be hoping to avenge her loss from Indian Wells, where the eventual champion dropped just three games in a dominant performance.
Halep has begun her clay season with two quarter finals, something that has to be considered a disappointment for the player considered amongst the best on the surface. She was outplayed by Karolina Pliskova in Madrid, losing 6-4 6-3 to the Czech. “I think I worked really hard since I started to play on clay this year. I’ve trained different things, which is good for my game for the future, not just for this season. I always love to be on clay. I slide. I feel different, the game, which is much better. So, I’m not focusing on the surface that much. I’m just trying to get better in my game and to bring something, like, different.” she said of her preparation to date.
Osaka picked up another statement win in the opening round, beating former No.1 Victoria Azarenka 6-0 6-3. While Azarenka has never been amazing on clay, the manner and ease of victory is still has to be considered mightily impressive. “I’m not really that comfortable on clay yet. And I know there’s a lot of people that grew up on red clay, so just hopefully to be on the level of comfort as them.” she said afterwards. “There’s different clay courts, so one can be faster and one can be slower. So, I think [it’s] just finding out how to figure out the difference between them.”
Prediction – Simona Halep in straight sets