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Svitolina returns to defend title

This content was published 3 years ago. It may refer to a past edition of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.

Elina Svitolina faces a tough start to the defence of her Internazionali BNL d’Italia title as she faces either wildcard Victoria Azarenka, who reached the final here in 2013, or Zhang Shuai in her opening round match. The No. 5 seed, who has been struggling with a knee injury of late, has been drawn in a quarter which also features No. 4 seed Karolina Pliskova, No. 11 seed Caroline Wozniacki and No. 13 seed Madison Keys, the 2016 runner-up.

Italian wildcard Elisabetta Cocciaretto, who was on hand to help with the draw on Court Pietrangeli on Friday night alongside Pliskova, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Lorenzo Sonego, could face Madrid finalist Kiki Bertens in the second round if she can find a way past a qualifier in her opening match.

Cocciaretto and Bertens are in the top quarter of the draw along with top seed Naomi Osaka, who will begin her quest for a first title at the Foro Italico against either Aliaksandra Sasnovich or Dominika Cibulkova, and No. 9 seed Aryna Sabalenka.

Two-time Rome finalist Simona Halep, who will play the winner of the all-Czech encounter between Marketa Vondrousova and Barbora Strycova, stars in a bumper second quarter of the draw which also boasts Serena and Venus Williams and No. 7 seed Sloane Stephens.

It could be an all-Williams second round encounter should the two sisters overcome their first round opponents. No. 10 seed Serena, a three-time titlist in Rome, will face a qualifier in her first match on the WTA Tour since Miami while wildcard Venus has been drawn against Belgium’s Elise Mertens.

No. 2 seed Petra Kvitova starts her campaign in Rome against either Lesia Tsurenko or Yulia Putintseva and could meet the in-form Belinda Bencic, who reached the semi-finals at Madrid, in the third round. The Swiss player would first need to find a way past the No. 12 seed Anastasija Sevastova and then potentially France’s Caroline Garcia.

Also in this section of the draw are the 2014 finalist Sara Errani and Ashleigh Barty, who won the doubles title here last year with Demi Schuurs. If the Italian can see off Viktoria Kuzmova she will set up a second round match against Miami champion Barty while countrywoman Jasmine Paolini will hope to impress her home crowd when she plays the American youngster Sofia Kenin in the first round in Svitolina’s section of the draw.

Former Roland Garros champions Jelena Ostapenko and Garbine Muguruza also feature in the draw and will face Mihaela Buzarnescu and Zheng Saisai respectively in their first round matches.

The women’s main draw matches start on Monday.

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