Iga Swiatek (L) and Ons Jabeur.
While the Madrid Open is still ongoing as Ons Jabuer takes on Jessica Pegula in the final on Saturday and the men’s side play the semifinals, the Italian Open is set to begin over the weekend as well.
The performances by most players in the top 10 who participated in Madrid were rather disappointing. Except for Ons Jabeur, the rest failed to make it past the second round.
Aryna Sabalenka was the defending champion and she lost in the first round. Garbine Muguruza, Paula Badosa and Danielle Collins lost quite easily as well. With Roland Garros on the horizon, they will need to step up their game considerably to have a deep run in the tournament.
Naomi Osaka kicked off her clay season with a commanding 6-3, 6-1 win over Anastasia Potapova, but lost to Sara Sorribes Tormo in the second round. The four-time Grand Slam champion knows she’s yet to prove herself on clay, but she’s determined to do so. She reached the quarterfinals at the Italian Open in 2019 and will aim to better that result this time around.
Emma Raducanu and Bianca Andreescu will be making their debuts in Rome as well. The two have had some success during the clay season, but will be keen to improve and make a deep run here. Iga Swiatek is the defending champion and the World No. 1 is the obvious favorite to win consecutive titles at the Italian Open.
Even with Swiatek being a cut above the field at the moment, there are a few other players who could rise to the occasion and lift the trophy next week. So here’s a look at the players who could win the Italian Open.
#5) Paula Badosa
Paula Badosa at the 2022 Stuttgart Open.
Paula Badosa’s enjoyed considerable success this year, but there have been a few disappointing results as well. The Spaniard started her clay season by reaching the quarterfinals of the Charleston Open, losing to eventual winner Belinda Bencic in a tight three-set contest.
Badosa then reached the semifinals of the Stuttgart Open, falling to Aryna Sabalenka in straight sets. Nevertheless, she reached a career-high ranking of World No. 2 because of it. After a convincing 6-3, 6-0 win over Veronika Kudermetova in the first round of the Madrid Open, she lost to Simona Halep in straight sets in the next round.
Badosa has bounced back strongly in the past after disappointing results and she has enjoyed plenty of success on clay in the past. She’ll look to have a memorable debut at the Italian Open.
#4) Simona Halep
Simona Halep at the 2020 Italian Open.
After runner-up finishes in 2017 and 2018, Simona Halep finally laid her hands on the Italian Open trophy by winning the title in 2020. The former champion is one of the best clay court players of her generation and is always a threat to make a deep run if she’s in the draw.
After losing in the semifinals of the Indian Wells Open, Halep was sidelined due to an injury for a few weeks. During this time, she hired Patrick Mouratouglou as her full-time coach. She returned to action at the Madrid Open, where she made it to the quarterfinals.
Halep won her first match of the clay season by defeating Zhang Shuai in the opening round. She followed it up with a 6-3, 6-1 win over second seed Paula Badosa in the second round and defeated Coco Gauff in straight sets afterwards. The Romanian fell to eventual finalist Ons Jabeur in the last eight. The Romanian has been pretty consistent all season and will aim for another good showing in Rome.
#3) Jessica Pegula
Jessica Pegula at the 2021 Italian Open.
Jessica Pegula’s rise to the top has been slow and steady. She has continued to improve and build upon her consistent results last year. During the hardcourt season this year, she reached the quarterfinals at the Australian Open and the semifinals in Miami.
Pegula commenced her clay season at the Charleston Open, where she was upset in the third round by Coco Vandeweghe. At the Madrid Open, the American reached the final, her first WTA 1000 final in singles. She saved a match point against Camila Giorgi in the first round, then defeated Kaia Kanepi, Bianca Andreescu, Sara Sorribes Tormo and Jil Teichmann to reach the final.
Pegula will take on Ons Jabeur for the Madrid Open title. The American was a quarterfinalist at the Italian Open last year and considering her recent form, she has a good chance at clinching the title.
#2) Ons Jabeur
Ons Jabeur at the 2022 Madrid Open.
Ons Jabeur’s rise to the top has been inspiring on many levels. Her success has made her the flagbearer for Arab and African tennis. After a great 2021 season that saw her win her maiden title and reach the top 10, she has continued to do well this year too.
Jabeur started her clay season with a runner-up finish at the Charleston Open, losing to Belinda Bencic in a tough three-set match. She made it to the quarterfinals at the Stuttgart Open, but lost to Paula Badosa in three sets.
At the Madrid Open, Jabeur started off with wins over Jasmine Paolini and Varvara Gracheva in the initial rounds. In a rematch of her Charleston final, she turned the tables on Bencic to defeat her in three sets in the third round. The Tunisian scored straight sets wins over Simona Halep and Ekaterina Alexandrova to reach the biggest final of her career so far.
Jabeur’s record in finals isn’t very good, having lost four of them while winning just one. However, she has been playing some great tennis and could be on the winning side this time.
Jabeur has competed at the Italian Open just once before, losing in the first round of the 2020 edition. This time around, she enters the tournament as a contender for the title.
#1) Iga Swiatek
Iga Swiatek at the 2021 Italian Open.
Iga Swiatek has been in the form of her life and seems unstoppable. She has scooped up four titles in a row since February, winning the Qatar Open, the Indian Wells Open, the Miami Open and the Stuttgart Open.
Swiatek withdrew from the Madrid Open in order to recover from a right shoulder injury. Last year, she won the Italian Open by defeating former World No. 1 Karolina Pliskova 6-0, 6-0 in the final.
Swiatek seems primed to defend her title successfully and it’s hard to see anyone getting in the way of her lifting yet another trophy.