Serena returns to action, Fognini faces Tsonga in night session
Serena Williams will face qualifier Rebecca Peterson in her first match since Miami when she takes to Court Centrale at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia on Monday.
Williams will be hoping to extend her five-match winning streak at the Italian Open when she takes on the Swede who she defeated in three sets in their only previous encounter at Miami this year. The American is a four-time champion at the Foro Italico but hasn’t played here since lifting the trophy in 2016.
Also in action on Monday is Venus Williams, the 1999 winner, who faces the tricky Belgian Elise Mertens in her opening round match on Grandstand. Should both Williams sisters prevail they will face each other in the second round.
Victoria Azarenka, the 2013 runner-up who has received a wildcard into the tournament this year, is bidding for her first victory here since 2015 and faces a tough opponent in China’s Zhang Shuai. The pair will face off on Grandstand Court following the conclusion of Venus’ match against Mertens.
Rising stars Borna Coric, the No. 13 seed, and Felix Auger-Aliassime kick off the day’s action on Court Centrale with the Croatian looking to record his first victory over the 18-year-old Canadian. Auger-Aliassime triumphed in their only previous meeting on the hard courts at Miami earlier this year.
Monday’s night session will see Fabio Fognini take on Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in what could be an epic first round encounter. The two veterans have played five times before with the Frenchman leading the head-to-head 4-1 but it’s Fognini, the Monte Carlo champion, who is the in-form player this season while Tsonga is still returning to his best following a lengthy battle with a knee injury.
The fans will be hoping Roland Garros semi-finalist Marco Cecchinato and world No. 202 Jasmine Paolini can get their Italian Open campaigns off to winning starts. No. 16 seed Cecchinato takes on NextGen contender Alex De Minaur in the third match on Court Centrale while wildcard Paolini will meet Sofia Kenin in the second night match.
Other notable names playing on the first day include two-time Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza, 2016 runner-up Madison Keys and the flamboyant Frenchman Gael Monfils.