Wozniacki attempts to stop recent woes
Just when it looked like Petra Kvitova might be fading, the tall, power-hitting Czech baseliner reminded us she's a threat as the French Open approaches. Kvitova ended Victoria Azarenka's impressive streak with a straight-sets win in Sunday's Madrid Open final. Thankfully -- for her opponents -- Kvitova chose not to play at this week's Italian Open. Azarenka, Caroline Wozniacki and local darling Francesca Schiavone will all be around, though.
Here's a breakdown of the draw.
No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki
Analyzing it simply, Wozniacki was outhit in a loss yet again. And while falling to Julia Goerges in Stuttgart might not have hurt much as the Dane was apparently more focused on her fitness regime, her defeat to Goerges in Madrid had to sting.
The second serve was there to attack, which Goerges did, and Wozniacki can't match the German's power.
Wozniacki was fortunate on the eve of Rome. Madrid quarterfinalist Dominika Cibulkova, who's always tough, and guess who -- Goerges -- withdrew with injuries, and they were both in Wozniacki's section.
No. 2 Francesca Schiavone
Schiavone said recently she'd love to win in Rome. Having already won the French Open and Fed Cup, it would complete a nice triple crown.
But Schiavone won't be dreaming of this weekend yet; she has to focus on winning a round or two.
Schiavone's slump continued in Madrid, where U.S. No. 1 -- in the absence of the Williams sisters -- Bethanie Mattek-Sands bludgeoned nearly every ball in a straight-sets victory.
Schiavone next faces Christina McHale, who beat Peng Shuai in a nearly three-hour opener.
No. 3 Victoria Azarenka
Azarenka has turned things around since rallying against Cibulkova in Miami. It took an in-form Kvitova to snap Azarenka's 20-match winning streak in matches in which she hasn't retired.
When Azarenka says she's more composed on the court, she means it. Azarenka's notorious temper showed no signs of surfacing even after she dropped the second set to Lucie Safarova at the Magic Box on Friday.
The highest seed in her quarter is Maria Sharapova.
No. 4 Li Na
Madrid came at exactly the right time for Li. The faster conditions, coupled with a nice draw, helped the Chinese baseliner reach the semifinals.
Not since Melbourne had Li won back-to-back matches at a tournament.
Things are slower in Rome, and Li's path is fraught with roadblocks. Up first could be Czech Barbora Zahlavova Strycova. If she advances, her next opponent is likely either home-grown Flavia Pennetta, back from injury, Jarmila Gajdosova or a confident Mattek-Sands.
Mattek-Sands failed to seal the deal against Li in the Madrid quarterfinals after being ahead by a break deep in the third set.
No. 5 Jelena Jankovic
Jankovic, like Wozniacki, can be overpowered, and Czech Lucie Safarova, one of the purest ball-strikers in the women's game, edged the Serb in three sets in Madrid.
Given she lost in the second round in Stuttgart and in the third in Madrid, Jankovic needs a boost with the French Open two weeks away. Rome holds fond memories for Jankovic, twice a champion and last year's finalist in the Eternal City.
Jankovic probably encounters Safarova in her opener. Goerges' absence aided Jankovic, too.
No. 6 Samantha Stosur
Stosur is one of those who'll like the return to more traditional clay-court settings. Her kick serve, for one, will function better.
And Stosur must back up her performance in Stuttgart, where the Aussie landed in the semis to end her funk.
It'll be tough from the outset, though, where Stosur meets the unpredictable Iveta Benesova.
No. 7 Maria Sharapova
Sharapova didn't disgrace herself in Madrid, losing to Cibulkova in the third round. While double faults weren't really an issue (she hit five) she didn't win many free points.
If Sharapova, who made strides on clay last year, can triumph in her opener versus Ekaterina Makarova, it's on to the quarterfinals. Sharapova and Makarova went to three in Madrid.
No. 8 Agnieszka Radwanska
It's not often that Radwanska throws away substantial leads. But the Pole, noticeably more aggressive from the baseline, wasted a 3-0 lead against Gajdosova in Madrid.
Elena Vesnina poses a threat to Radwanska should they face off in the second round, but there's little else to worry her prior to the quarterfinals.
Semifinal predictions: Azarenka def. Wozniacki, Stosur def. Radwanska.
Final: Azarenka def. Stosur.
London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com. You can follow him on Twitter.
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