With the French Open a matter of weeks away, the women's clay-court season is approaching its climax and players continue their preparations this week with the return of the WTA Rome.
Taking place at the Foro Italico in the heart of the capital, the WTA Rome features an expanded field this year with the event set to take place over nearly two weeks.
Two-time defending champion is once again the player to watch out for but there are plenty of players looking to make an impression before the WTA Tour turns its attention to the second Grand Slam of the season.
|Where||Foro Italico, Rome|
|When||Tuesday 9th May 2023 - Sunday 21st May 2023|
|How to watch||Amazon Prime|
|Odds||Iga Swiatek 1/1, Aryna Sabalenka 13/2, Jessica Pegula 14/1, Barbora Krejcikova 16/1, Elena Rybakina 18/1|
In last year's WTA Rome, Polish sensation Swiatek managed to defend her title with a 6-2 6-2 defeat of Ons Jabeur in the final and she followed that title triumph with victory at the subsequent French Open.
It was at that stage of the campaign that Swiatek was in the middle of putting together an eye-watering 37-match unbeaten streak and she has looked pretty capable on the clay courts this year too.
Swiatek is 9-1 on the surface in 2023, having won the recent Stuttgart Open before finishing runner-up at the Madrid Open and she faced new nemesis Aryna Sabalenka in both of those finals.
A fine rivalry is brewing between the top two on the WTA Tour and they also lead the way in the betting with Swiatek 1/1 to win the WTA Rome and Sabalenka priced at .
If Swiatek were to win in Rome, she would become only the third ever female player to win the event in three consecutive years, so there is plenty of incentive for her to rise to the top in Rome.
Top seed Swiatek has not really done anything of late to suggest she will struggle in Rome but there are a few potential banana skins in her section of the draw.
There is a good chance Swiatek's opener in the second round will be against former French Open finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova while another player with a protected ranking, Elina Svitolina, could await her in the third round.
At the prices, Swiatek could be worth taking on and the most likely to topple her is , who is stationed in the opposite half of the draw as tournament second seed.
As mentioned, Sabalenka clash with Swiatek in each of the Madrid Open and Stuttgart Open finals and she was a semi-finalist in Rome last year. There are worse bets than Sabalenka at 13/2 to win the WTA Rome.
There will be no easy matches in the latter stage of the WTA Rome but avoiding the big guns in the early rounds at least gives some players an edge and Jessica Pegula has been dealt a relatively soft draw to begin with.
Pegula is in the bottom half of the draw away from Swiatek but with Sabalenka, while her specific section does not feature any major dangers beyond 13th seed Karolina Pliskova.
Given her commitment to her doubles campaigns with Coco Gauff, Pegula cannot have too many complaints about her recent performances in the singles on clay, having reached the semi-finals of the Miami Open and the Charleston Open before making the quarter-finals of the Madrid Open.
The tournament third seed can be a dangerous operator on clay - she made the last eight of the French Open last year - and she offers outside value at 14/1. An even bigger price to consider is Daria Kasatkina at 50/1.
Kasatkina is seeded eighth in Rome and made the semi-finals of both the WTA Rome and the in 2022.
Tunisian ace Jabeur would have been another to monitor in Rome but she is fighting to be fit for the event after tearing her calf in a clash with Swiatek in Stuttgart recently.
That put an abrupt halt to her strong start to the clay season - she had picked up the Charleston Open title - and she is out to to take the tile in Rome.
Petra Kvitova and Belinda Bencic, meanwhile, have both withdrawn from the WTA Rome due to injury.