World number seven and defending Roland Garros champion Garbine Muguruza has been struggling to find her top form after triumphing on the courts of Paris last year, reaching just a mere two semifinals in WTA events from then on. With her form being a huge concern recently, Muguruza has to find back her Grand Slam winning mentality and best tennis before the second Grand Slam of the year begins two weeks later, with the Internazionali BNL D’Italia being the last chance she could have some match practice before defending her title.
However, she faces a very tough opponent in her opening match in Rome as the talented youngster Jelena Ostapenko awaits for her in the second round. Ostapenko had some great results this year and could pose a huge challenge to the former world number two. Her explosive game definitely is hard to go against when it is her day, and Muguruza will find it difficult to win this opening round.
Jelena Ostapenko had a fair season thus far, reaching a total of four quarterfinals this year. Despite failing to defend her finalist points in Doha in February and thus falling out of the Top 70 of the rankings from being ranked No.34, Ostapenko managed to clinch six Top 50 victories within the first five months. Achieving mixed results on hard courts, Ostapenko excelled on clay as she managed to rise 16 spots since the start of the clay court season. The youngster impressively reached the final in Charleston, defeating Caroline Wozniacki and Mirjana Lucic-Baroni along the way, but lost to Daria Kasatkina in the final.
Continuing her good run, Ostapenko successfully qualified for the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix before running out of steam against Coco Vandeweghe in the first round of the main draw, losing two consecutive tiebreak sets. However, she bounced from the loss back the best way possible as she stormed to the semifinals in Prague, defeating Lesia Tsurenko, Caroline Wozniacki for the second straight time and Ana Konjuh to record her first ever red clay court tournament semifinal appearance. Here in Rome, Ostapenko defeated two quality opponents in the qualifying rounds, and the 2016 French Open quarterfinalist Shelby Rogers in the first round yesterday.
Being the defending champion in Paris and reaching the semifinals here in Rome last year, Garbine Muguruza has many points to defend over the whole clay court season and would definitely be feeling a massive amount of pressure. After a very disappointing end to last year, Muguruza seemed to have found her best tennis this year as she reached at least the quarterfinals in her first two tournaments. Some inconsistent performances saw Muguruza achieve some mixed results, claiming just eight Top 50 victories this year.
This year’s clay court season was a just further disappointment for the Spaniard as she started the European clay court swing with a shock loss to qualifier Anett Kontaveit at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in three sets. Moving on to her home tournament in the Mutua Madrid Open last week, Muguruza faced a tough opener once more as she was drawn to face former Roland Garros semifinalist and Top 10 player Timea Bacsinszky in the first round. There, she disappointingly fell in straight sets as she looked out-of-sorts, winning just a mere four games in the process. In her last tournament before defending her title at Roland Garros, Muguruza looks to earn some match play and momentum entering into Paris.
Jelena Ostapenko has managed to rattle off some excellent victories on clay this year and has come to Rome, where she has already won three matches, off a semifinal appearance in Prague, giving her the necessary time to adapt to the courts and match practice needed. With the momentum running in her, Ostapenko looks to create a huge upset in this blockbuster second round clash. Meanwhile, Muguruza would have all the pressure on her considering she is also defending semifinal points here in Rome and is the third seed here.
Ostapenko’s game can be destructive when it is firing on all cylinders, and would definitely be able to overpower Muguruza at any point in time. However, consistency has always been a huge problem for the young Latvian and she can start hitting a string of unforced errors after missing a single shot. To beat Muguruza, Ostapenko must ensure that she is playing at her utmost best level, hitting her powerful groundstrokes and aiming them for the lines, leaving Muguruza scrambling around the court.
Muguruza has a game which suits all different surfaces, which was proved when she reached the final at Wimbledon, winning Roland Garros and excelling on hard courts. Her powerful groundstrokes are too inconsistent to predict, but her strong and precise serves would be able to win her some free service points. Muguruza has to ensure that it is her day, or else she would start to misfire and everything could go wrong for the Spaniard. Otherwise. it would be difficult to see Muguruza triumph against such a tricky and powerful opponent.