WTA Italian Open draw: Iga Swiatek handed tough path as Elena Rybakina clash lurks

World No 1 Iga Swiatek will have to do things the hard way if she is to successfully defend her Italian Open crown as her path to glory will be tricky.

The top seed – fresh from finishing runner-up to Aryna Sabalenka in the Madrid Open final on Saturday – has a bye into the second round, but she could face former world No 11 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the second round.

Pavlyuchenkova has slipped to No 46 in the WTA Rankings as she has struggled with injury, but she entered the WTA 1000 tournament using her protected ranking and will open her campaign against Sara Errani with the winner taking on Swiatek.

World No 16 Liudmila Samsonova is a potential fourth round opponent should Swiatek make it that far while world No 6 Elena Rybakina is likely to be the big hurdle in the quarter-final.

Rybakina faces Italian Jasmine Paolini or Xinyu Wang in her opener, but the reigning Wimbledon champion also has some dangerous players in her quarter as she could potentially face ninth seed Maria Sakkari or 24th seed Bianca Andreescu in the fourth round.

Should the form book hold, then Swiatek and Rybakina will meet for a third time this year with the former winning at the Australian Open and Indian Wells.

Last year’s runner-up Ons Jabeur is the projected semi-finalist, but the fourth seed is also facing a difficult draw as she could face Paula Badosa in the second round with the Spaniard taking on a qualifier in her opener.

World No 22 Ekaterina Alexandrova could be a fourth-round opponent with eighth seed Daria Kasatkina projected to reach the quarter-final. Kasatkina, though, will likely face Barbora Krejcikova in the fourth round.

The bottom half of the draw is headlined by Sabalenka and the Australian Open and Madrid Open champion will face either Sofia Kenin or Cristina Bucsa in the second round.

Sabalenka could face 14th seed Victoria Azarenka in the fourth round, although the likes of Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys are also in the section.

If the Belarusian does reach the quarter-final, then WTA Finals champion Caroline Garcia is her projected opponent with Jessica Pegula likely to be a semi-final rival.

Third seed Pegula will face a qualifier in round two with 31st seed Irina-Camelia Begu a potential third round opponent with 13th seed Karolina Pliskova likely to be up after that.

Should the American reach the quarter-final then she could face her doubles partner Coco Gauff for a place in the semi-final. Sixth seed Gauff, who will face either Yulia Putinseva or a qualifier first up, is projected to meet Veronika Kudermetova in the fourth round.


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