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WTA Rome preview: Rome takes focus as French Open looms

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 Iga Swiatek 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.

What

WTA Rome

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

Swiatek out to make history in Italian capital 

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 13/2

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.

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Sabalenka ready to pounce if Swiatek falters 

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 Sabalenka, 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.

Pegula and Kasatkina could offer outside value 

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 French Open in 2022.

Jabeur unlikely to replicate 2022 success in Rome 

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 22/1 to take the tile in Rome. 

Petra Kvitova and Belinda Bencic, meanwhile, have both withdrawn from the WTA Rome due to injury.

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