As Elena Rybakina clash looms, Iga Svitek gives way

As Elena Rybakina clash looms, Iga Svitek gives way

Iga Swiatek In Action

If World No. 1 Iga Switek is to successfully defend her Italian Open crown, she will have to do things the hard way as her path to glory is difficult.

The top seed – fresh from a runner-up finish to Aryna Sabalanka in the Madrid Open final on Saturday – is welcome into the second round but could face former world No. 11 Anastasia Pavlychenkova in the second round.

Pavlyuchenkova has fallen to No. 46 in the WTA rankings as she struggles with injury but has used her preserved ranking to enter the WTA 1000 tournament and will open her campaign against winner Swiatek against Sara Irani.

World No. 16 Lyudmila Samsonova could be a fourth-round opponent, and even if Sviateck is this far, World No. 6 Elena Rybakina could be a major obstacle in the quarter-finals.

Rybakina will face Italy’s Jasmine Paolini or Xinyu Wang in her opener, but the Wimbledon champion has some dangerous players as she could face ninth seed Maria Saccharin in the quarterfinals or 24th seed Bianca Andreescu in the fourth round.

If the form bookends, Swiatek and Rabakina will meet for the third time this year with the former winner at the Australian Open and Indian Wells.

Last year’s runner-up Ons Jaber is tipped to be a semi-finalist, but the fourth-seeded Spaniard will face Paula Badosa in the second round after qualifying in her opening match.

World No. 22 Ekaterina Alexandrova is a likely fourth-round opponent, with eighth seed Daria Katkina advancing to the quarter-finals. Katkina, however, could face Barbora Krejcikova in the fourth round.

The bottom half of the draw is dominated by Sabalenka, and the Australian Open and Madrid Open champion will face either Sofia Kenin or Christina Buksa in the second round.

Sabalenka could face 14th seed Victoria Azarenka in the fourth round, although the likes of Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys are also in the division.

WTA Finals champion Caroline Garcia is set to face Jessica Pegula in the semi-finals if the Belarusian reaches the quarter-finals.

Third seed Pegula will face 31st seed Irina-Camelia Begu in the third round, while 13th seed Karolina Pliskova could be drawn after that.

If the American can reach the quarter-finals, she will face her doubles partner Coco Gauff in the semi-finals. Sixth seed Gauff is tipped to face either Yulia Putintseva or qualifier Veronika Kudermetova in the fourth round.

Read more: ‘WTA has big three’ – women’s tennis as Iga Switek, Aryna Sabalenka, Elena Rybakina dazzle

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