Even with a week full of upsets, the Internazionali BNL d’Italia has produced an excellent line up with No.2 seed Karolina Pliskova taking on Elina Svitolina.
(8) Elina Svitolina [No.11] vs (2) Karolina Pliskova [No.3]
Overview: Even with her best Grand Slam appearance being a quarterfinalist at the 2015 French Open, it didn’t seem like Elina Svitolina’s best surface was the clay. However she has turned heads around this year, bringing her hard court form to the dirt. Starting the year with a third round performance at the Australian Open, Svitolina went on a 15 match winning streak with titles in Taipei City, Dubai and two Fed Cup wins to help Ukraine have a chance to get into the World Group. (they didn’t though) Dropping back to the International tier once more, Svitolina won her second title on clay in Istanbul, beating Elise Mertens in the final. A loss to Zheng Saisai in Madrid seemed to buoy the Ukranian, with wins over Alize Cornet (having saved set point in the second) and Mona Barthel, where she trailed by a break and won the next 12 games of the match.
Karolina Pliskova has been outstanding in Rome. Having came into the tournament with ‘no expectations’ after a miserable run of form on the clay, having been 2-3 on the surface with losses to Laura Siegemund, Camilia Giorgi and Anastasija Sevastova. Her Rome campaign has been so much better, starting with a 6-1 6-1 demolition of Lauren Davis where she only lost one point on first serve! That trend continued, winning 80% of first serve points over Timea Bacsinszky in the third round. Pliskova has mentioned that it’s not that she doesn’t like the clay, it’s just that the results have not come on it. Well with an opponent where she has not lost to before (we’ll come to that shortly) the results could certainly come, with a second Premier Mandatory semifinal and first on the clay on the line.
Head to head: Between offence and defence, the former has always emerged victorious in their previous meetings – Pliskova actually leads the HTH 5-0!
Random stat: With a win over Svitolina, Pliskova will climb into No.2 on the rankings and secure her No.1 spot on the Porsche Road to Singapore leaderboard.
Thoughts: The clay is a good surface for Svitolina to stop the losing record against the Czech as Pliskova’s not that good on it and will neutralise the Czech’s weapons. Svitolina has the game to force Pliskova into errors but if she plays the way like she played against Bacsinszky – 27 winners to 14 unforced errors, it’ll be tough to do so. The odds seems stacked against Pliskova with the previous record and form, and I’ll stick with Pliskova to record her sixth straight win over the Ukranian.
Check out my other Rome predictions here
Follow me at @WTA_Fanatics on Twitter here