Serena Williams will make her return to the WTA Tour on Monday afternoon, facing Rebecca Peterson in the opening round of Rome. It will be her first match since Miami and her first on the clay since Roland Garros last year, where she made the fourth round before withdrawing before a much anticipated clash against Maria Sharapova.
Serena has often performed well in Rome and has four titles to her name at the event, last winning in 2016. It is her most prolific tournament on the surface, bettering the three she has at Charleston and the French Open. However, it may be a tough ask for her to adapt to the surface again with very little match practice recently. She retired due to illness in Indian Wells before giving a walkover in Miami.
Peterson is someone who has remained on the fringes of the tour over the past year. Ranked just outside the top 50, the Swede often has to qualify for the bigger tournaments but is generally quite consistent in doing so. Of the six qualifying draws she has played over the past year, she has been successful in five of them including this week in Rome. She beat Samantha Stosur in the final qualifying round, defeating the former French Open finalist in straight sets to earn the clash with Serena.
Williams’ last match in Miami was against Peterson, where she won a topsy turvy clash 6-3 1-6 6-1. The 37 year-old is struggling to get a long enough run of matches together to totally play herself into form but can never be written off as long as her body holds up. It won’t be an easy ask for her with tough opponents all the way through the draw. She would play either Elise Mertens or her sister Venus in round two while Sloane Stephens is a possible opponent in the third round.
Prediction – Serena Williams in straight sets